PEOPLE FOR the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are best known for their uppity protests about factory farms and animal testing labs. But last week in Portland, PETA's president got a taste of her own medicine.
As PETA President Ingrid Newkirk prepared to speak at Powell's Books on Tuesday, August 18, a dozen Portland feminists were crouched on the sidewalk a block away, drawing up large protest signs. The loosely knit Portland Feminist Action League organized the "flash protest" via the internet, criticizing PETA for its "sexist and offensive" animal rights campaigns. PETA's protests have featured nude women in cages, and most recently, the organization produced a billboard that pictured a fat woman in a bikini that read, "Save the whales! Lose the blubber. Go vegetarian."
"A lot of us are vegan and vegetarian and actually support what PETA is trying to do," explained protest organizer Erin Fairchild as she finished writing out a sign reading, "PETA can kiss my big fat vegetarian ass!"
"We'd just like them to stop relying on sexism to get their message across," Fairchild added.
The feminists kept quiet during Newkirk's well-attended presentation on the top floor of Powell's, which included a video of cute animals set to music by vegan musician Moby. As a long line formed for Newkirk's autograph, the women took to the front of the room and unveiled their signs.
Newkirk seemed to take little notice of the women and, after less than five minutes, Powell's staff approached the protesters and firmly told them to leave. The protestors filed out without incident, and then formed a gauntlet of feminist slogans on Burnside for people leaving Powell's.
Powell's marketing director, Michal Drannen, says it's Powell's policy to kick out anyone who disrupts an author event. "The floor of our store doesn't become a public pedestal for someone just because they disagree with an author," says Drannen, who adds that the store did not know about the protest in advance.
PETA Campaign Manager Lindsay Rajt defends the ads. "We believe that people should have the choice to use their bodies to make a political statement," says Rajt, who has previously donned a skimpy lettuce bikini for the cause. "What would really be cruel would be to not tell people about the health benefits of going vegetarian." But in response to feminist outcry across the country, Rajt confirmed that this week PETA plans to take down the controversial woman-as-whale ad.