humanising animals = dehumanising humans?

BCM310
blog 3

One of the biggest trends in todays society is ‘veganism’. With the rising concerns and awareness in regards to the treatment of animals, consumerism and wellbeing, going vegetarian and vegan has become an increasingly popular concept.  Along with this there is now seemingly contagious need to know where and how we get our food especially meat.

Organisations often find it difficult in encouraging a change in lifestyle, while few can go through with hunting and butchering their own meat, they often distance themselves from the reality of slaughter houses and the fact that it IS being done by someone.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is one of the largest animal rights organisations in the world, and is known for their work in educating the public on animal cruelty.

Their website provides countless articles and information regarding issues such as animal testing, animals used for clothing and of course animal slaughter. Although PETA does aim to educate people on these issues they at times use other means to attract attention in hope of bringing about change.

Although going outside the box when marketing is often encouraged, a company like PETA that is pro animal rights and fair treatment often forgets to apply the same demands to people, more specifically women. Surprisingly PETA has a long history of selling their beliefs through the hyper-sexualization of women.

The organization has constantly used women as a selling point of their ideals. In a time where people, especially women are so obsessed with the way they look and achieving ‘perfection’ while striving for equality, we must ask ‘is PETA taking two steps back?’

As PETA’s aim in using people in their ads is to give animals human characteristics to the fullest extent by placing ourselves in their position, it often loses focus by the sheer shock the ads themselves provide.

“Using a woman’s body to show that animals are made of flesh and blood and bones, just like you, is a very serious point that we are trying to put out, so that people can think of animals as sentient human beings, not just pieces of meat on supermarket shelves. The results we are getting for the animals is part of our main aim, which is to alleviate their suffering.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/28/peta-women-meat

Though humanising animals has been done countless times especially in media, PETA seems unable to do so without the sacrifice of others, and in the process dehumanise women, reverting them back to being objects or ‘a piece of meat’.

Their campaigns have shown women in various negative dispositions, depicting them as objects of sex and unrealistic ideals. Even going as far as to show them as objects of abuse, willing abuse non-the-less. The “Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom Out of Me.” campaign showed a young women stripped of most of her clothes, in a neck brace her face contorted in an image image of pain, performing domestic chores for her boyfriend. This is all due to her boyfriend going vegan and as a result having heightened stamina.

The women in the ad received none of the benefits from the health impacts implied as the campaign itself is directed at men, funnily enough most of these ads seem to be directed at men and even boast that they are a “great health message…

Unfortunately the style of these ads does nothing but suggest that the only way for them to get attention is through the exploitation of women. For a company who preaches the wellbeing of animals so much its almost as if they don’t truly believe in what that seek to accomplish. Personally these ads do little to convince me to make any for of lifestyle change if anything they deter me from doing so. This in return leads to wonder if what they are doing is actually alienating those whom they wish to convert do to their actions and choice in promotion.

Suffering and Ignorance

The job of the media is to keep us informed and educated about what is happening in the world around us. Larger scale tabloids, news enterprises and magazines tend to at times over exaggerate, promote and exploit the suffering of others for personal gain in the form of views. This in return makes it difficult for us as viewers to distinguish whether an image has been edited, cropped or skewed in anyway that may suggest there is more to the story that what we are presented.

Suffering has become a normality today through the constant reminders on social media and television as they have been immortalized through photographs. Poverty porn for one is constantly seen everywhere.

vulture-child.jpgPhoto by Kevin Carter during the ’94 Somalia famine

In ‘How to write about Africa‘ Binyavanga Wainaina not so subtly writes a satire piece on the art of writing about poverty, that surprisingly fits every journal article on the topic I have ever read.

you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good. She must never say anything about herself in the dialogue except to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. 

Although showing suffering so that we are aware of external issues in the world is extremely important, most articles do little in explaining the situation in full. Poverty is a result of individual and systemic problems. Roenigk suggests that poverty involves personal circumstances along with social, economic and issues in their justice systems (2014). Unfortunately, poverty porn defines the suffering as lacking material resources and while donations may help they do nothing in targeting the main cause.

Marketing and communication teams for charities and NGOs are constantly using images of poverty porn accompanied by small snippets of background stories, containing hardship and suffering (often of a small child). This is done order to promote the cause and raise awareness of issues such as famine. Although the reason may be just, we must ask ourselves is exploiting another’s suffering really the right way to go about it?

Charities often experiments with different elements and ways to paint an image, in a way the evokes a strong emotional response from its audience. In order to enhance the importance of their campaign, celebrity endorsements are event used. Using emotive tactics such as these arouses empathy in viewers and gains pity from the audience, increasing their acceptance and willingness to donate as they otherwise feel guilty for not acting. Matheson miller stated “A lot of times in our charity, we have tended to treat poor people like objects — objects of our charity, objects of our pity, objects of our compassion,” ( Horan, 2016) and this unfortunately, is not too far from the truth.

source

One example of showing suffering that provoked activism and changes was during the height of the refugee crisis.

On September 2015 Aylan Kurdi, a 3 year old boy was found washed up on the shores of Turkey. Faced down, limp, and unmoving, a result of a life threatening journey he and his family took to find refuge from the Syrian war. The images of this boy spread like wild fire across all platforms including social media. That day all newspapers spread his story some showing his face while others refused to, wether this was for the safety of the viewers or for respect to the boy and his family. This in itself greatly affects the impact the image will have on its audience.

Personally, I remember seeing this image of the small boy, his face still partially visible. A victim to the decisions of the government to close their gates to the asylum seekers, and I was filled with dread. A disturbing and uncomfortable feeling washed over me, and yet I was unable to look away, because in doing so would only fill me with more guilt and anger. Guilt because it would be as if I was denying the reality and severity of their situation and anger that anyone be so heartless as to refuse them safety. As hard as it was to see these images and read these stories it was an important turn of events. His story, brought understanding and created a shift in the way people were talking about the crisis, triggering change.

No matter the culture a dead child is seen as tragic and preventable and often results in us creating connection to the situation through children we know. Unfortunately medias main priority is often the wellbeing of viewers. Channel Ten for example refused to publish the image to protect us from it, but how much protection does ignorance buy us?

In the end  we must decide, do we ignore the suffering of others in order to protect ourselves and remain ignorant to the world we live in? Or do we stay informed facing the issues head on, in hope or creating change?

 

 

Horan, A 2016, Against Poverty Porn: Why Our Approach To Foreign Aid Is Outdated, Paternalistic And Misguided, Junkee, 23rd March 2016, accessed 24th March 2016, <http://junkee.com/against-poverty-porn-why-our-approach-to-foreign-aid-is-outdated-paternalistic-and-misguided/75081>

Roenigk, E 2014, 5 Reasons ‘Poverty Porn’ Empowers The Wrong Person, HUFFPOST IMPACT, weblog, 16 april, viewed 23 march 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emily-roenigk/poverty-charity-media_b_5155627.html>

Sontag, S 2003, Regarding the Pain of Others, Chapter 3, Hamish Hamilton, London, England, pp. 36-52

You have 150 likes

week 2 BCM310

Showing-off has never been easier, and ironically, more celebrated”

As social media is becoming increasingly more predominant in our society and lives, at some point we tend to lose ourselves in our online persona. The selfie phenomena has taken off like no other trend has before, and how could it not with stars like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Justin Bieber setting the standards for our selfie ‘game’.

When I think of how I personally interact with platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, I feel that I have in a way deluded myself into thinking I do not care how others perceive me, that I am not uploading photos for approval or as proof that I am in fact having fun, although that isn’t true at all.

Although I do not post often, when I do I ensure I am happy with the way I look or I am doing something of interest, and once uploaded I tend to unconsciously check to see if anyone has liked or commented as if waiting for approval…for what I do not know.

In a world that is so globally connected we are constantly being monitored and are in return constantly monitoring others. The selfie trend doesn’t just end at self portraits but has evolved into numerous categories such as:

  • The bathroom selfie
  • Gym selfie
  • #nofilter
  • #ootd (outfit of the day)
  • #duckface
  • beach selfie

People today tend to use these to document their lives to the world in order to gain status among others. Our identity is formed through our social interactions, as we use the opinions of our peers and the rest of the world, as a ‘mirror’ to reflecting our self-worth and status.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 9.31.07 PM

Essena O’Neil a young Instagram famous (#instafamous) teen recently outed the influence and persuasive power photo based social media channels such as Instagram possesses and the impact they have on our lives through her personal experience of Instagram. Malcore (2015) goes on to say that ‘Selfies may seem innocent in moderation, but overindulgence may lead to social media narcissism and other mental health issues.’ this is supported by O’Niels experience as she without knowing created a life outside her own with most of her photos staged as she dressed up, did her make-up and hair with no intentions of leaving her home so that she could receive some form of validation through her efforts. Through her efforts she eventually became obsessed.

Marwick (2013) states that “Status is a powerful tool that reveals the values and assumptions shared by a group; it shows power dynamics and egalitarian ideals” and this cannot be more true when it comes to self documentation. We spend countless hours getting ready, taking multiple shots, editing, choosing filters and cropping before attaching the appropriate tags to ensure we get the attention we worked for.Status is no longer only achieved through wealth, intelligence, or position but through online fame – becoming a sub-celebrity.

We rely so heavily upon others when seeking approval in the form of likes and followers that there is now a market in ‘buying’ them. With apps like Get likes for Instagram and hashtags dedicated to swapping likes for likes (#L4L) or follows for follows (#F4F) we can now fake the approval of others.

instalikes_

O’Neil had said that “Craving attention validated through social media I believe shows a gap in real life connections” and in some ways it’s true. For all the people you follow on Instagram and twitter how much do we truly know about them?  How much of our lives is staged for the purpose of gaining likes? Is this the blatant proof of cultural or generational narcissism?

Malcore, P 2015, Selfie Obsession: The Rise of Social Media Narcissism, Rawhide,weblog post, 29 December, viewed 13th March 2016, <http://www.rawhide.org/blog/wellness/selfie-obsession-the-rise-of-social-media-narcissism/>.

MARWICK, A. E.. (2013). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Yale University Press.