In a very lucid entry on the exploitation of women’s sexuality by PETA and other vegan/animal rights organizations, Corey Winn discusses how “choice” is used to deflect criticism.
I’m going to make a radical claim, well, actually it’s pretty widely accepted in the social sciences: There is no “choice.” This isn’t about the individual. This is about systems of oppression and social structures that shape our behavior and limit what choices are available to us based on our social identity. If you are a young, thin, white woman advocating for Nonhuman Animals in a pornified, hyper-sexualized society, one choice stands out loud and clear: Get naked. It’s supposed to be empowering, and we think maybe it helps animals.
First, I’m not really sure why one has to feel sexually empowered when one is advocating against the torture and death of Nonhuman Animals. Why our movement is keen on making violence a turn on is a little disturbing. It probably speaks something to our tendency to juxtapose women with violence. The sexualization of violence against women and other feminized social groups like Nonhuman Animals is evidence to the rape culture we inhabit.
Aside that, however, “choice” is often thrown around as a means of deflecting critical thought at systems of oppression. If it’s all about your individual choice, only you are responsible, only you are to blame. Anyone who has a problem with that must be judging you as a person. So often our advocacy is framed as personal choice, an individual expression. If you aren’t vegan, that’s your “choice.” If you want to have sex with vegetables and have it filmed by PETA, that’s your “choice.” This is a co-optation of anti-oppression social activism in a neo-liberal structure of exploitation.