Transphobia and PETA

In 1992, PETA launched the transphobic "Fur is a Drag" element of its fur campaign. This anti-trans element was added to the PETA campaign just months after it launched the "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" campaign.

In a way, these two elements both represent different sides of the same coin. While the "naked" component of the campaign relies on stereotypes of the White ideal of feminine beauty, the "drag" component relies of stereotypes of trans female/trans feminine people as inherently unattractive. Hence PETA's use of drag queens to mock Star Jones, Anna Wintour, and Joan Rivers for wearing fur. That is, the subtext of PETA campaign is to suggest that Jones, Wintour, and Rivers are ridiculous and ugly for wearing fur by connecting with viewers' transphobic belief that trans feminine expression is ridiculous and ugly.

The PETA webpage promoting activist participation in this element of its campaign combines an anti-trans caricature with a sexist, racist caricature in its title "Draggin' 'Ladies' Prove That There's Nothing Glamorous About Fur," which is a play on the anti-Asian-based epithet "dragon lady." The webpage reads:

Want to help educate people about the cruelty of the fur industry? Put on some pumps and show the world what a fashion faux pas fur really is! Whether you've got a flair for the flamboyant or you're just an up-for-anything activist, staging a "Fur Is a Drag" protest is a terrific way to show people just how ridiculous fur really looks. You can enter a contingent of cross-dressers in a local parade or stage a drag of a demonstration outside a fur retailer. We have everything that you'll need to make your event a raving success. You just need to supply a time, a location—and a few daring drag queens! And remember, a few hours in heels is nothing compared to what animals killed for fur go through, right, guys?

Clearly PETA believes that trans people are "ridiculous." While feminists have long been speaking out against sexism in PETA's use of naked women in its campaigns, the silence regarding its devaluing of trans female/trans feminine people is deafening. This might be related to the virulent transphobia by some feminists (e.g., Carol J. Adams and other Feminists for Animals Rights) who criticize PETA's traditional sexism.

Much like it uses transphobia, PETA started exploiting anti-homeless hate in 1998 by giving fur coats covered in red paint to homeless women. PETA believes that both trans people and homeless people are disgusting and that if people see crossdressers or homeless people wearing fur then they'll think fur is disgusting by association.

Re: Transphobia and PETA

A double whammy for PETA. As Julia Serano would point out, this is trans misogyny, not just transphobia--only drag queens are "ridiculous," not drag kings.

I think it is not just PETA to blame here. Plenty of cisgender gay men are happy to do drag while treating trans people like shit and pretending that gender identity and expression are not queer issues.

Re: Transphobia and PETA

Another reason to despise PETA. Ugh.

Ohhhhh, I love your blog so much. Sometimes I don't really have anything to say in response to a post except a "right on!" sort of comment--& how many times could one really leave that before it sounds fake/annoying?--but I am so glad that you are blogging & taking a look at these things.

I admit some of the more theory-heavy stuff kind of goes over my head (possibly exacerbated by late-night fatigue when reading blogs) sometimes, but I love love love that you're providing a place for people to be confronted w/these ideas & think about them.

*cough* Ever think of writing a book? Seriously...

Re: Transphobia and PETA

Right on!

I just found this page linked from the Queer Vegans group on Facebook. Interesting collection of article titles--I look forward to reading more here when time permits.

PETA is a black hole taking resources from what should go towards promoting AR, but instead are invested in counterproductive campaigns which alienate, offend, give negative messages, etc. The need to expose this as in the excellent analysis of the above article is a further drain on limited resources.

Re: Transphobia and PETA

Great analysis! I agree with the problematics of this demonstration. It's amazing how "naturalized" transphobia is among those who claim to be for ending systemic oppression and violence.

Re: Transphobia and PETA

Wow. I was thinking about applying to work there as an intern for PETA for the summer, but I can't work for something like that. I learned about women's rights, black civil rights, gay rights, and transgender rights long before I ever even thought about animal rights, and I'm just not going to chunk the rest out the window even though I feel more strongly about animal rights than anything else in this country.

What confuses me about what you said is that there are women and gay men leading and yet they are the ones using these tactics. That just doesn't make any sense, especially for the gay men who I would expect to be more socially aware due to their status of oppression in this world.