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Humans are continually connected and divided by labels, systems, and hierarchies that determine how much power and status is available to each individual person. These hierarchies often aid in upholding the heteropatriarchal structure of society, which holds male dominated heterosexuality as the default and most powerful position. Because our society is structured to pander to heterosexual men, the exploitation of woman is often used to advertise and sell products. The exploitation of women also mirrors the exploitation of the environment, and this parallel serves as the basis of Ecofeminism. This paper aims to utilize ecofeminism to critique the use and brutalization of women in PETA advertisements. A brief explanation of ecofeminism is provided, as is a survey of the current conversations happening about both ecofeminism and PETA itself. A review of the past criticism of advertisements is also given to explain the stakes of exploiting and brutalizing women. The paper culminates in a close-reading of several of PETA’s video and print ads. PETA often focuses their message on heterosexual men by promising sexual benefits as a reward for a vegan lifestyle. The promise of sexual prowess is coupled with violence, and thus PETA deliberately panders not only to male heterosexuality but also to violent and dominant masculinity. This paper argues that in using women in this way, not only is PETA damaging its capability to inspire change, but the organization’s message becomes one that calls for the end of animal cruelty at the expense of women.

Publication Date

Spring 5-4-2016




PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Gender, Heteropatriarchy, Sexuality, Heterosexuality, Male Dominance, Advertisements, Gender Theory, Ecofeminism, Shiva, Meis, Goffman, Lindner, Morton, Harari, Pope Francis, Jean Kilbourne

The Upholding of Heteropatriarchy: An Ecofeminist Critique of PETA Advertisements



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