Back in February it was revealed that major cosmetics companies with brand names you may recognize from your mother, grandmother or Mad Men—Avon, Estee Lauder and Mary Kay (although the latter showed some impetus to reach a compromise that didn't involve animal testing)—were complying with the Chinese government requirement to test on animals in order to distribute their products. After a long and proud history on PETA's "Does Not Test On Animals" list, they were switched to "Does Test" list, and it's totally and completely hideous and easy to understand why you'd stop buying their lipstick.
Lush Cosmetics, a younger brand whose products are 100% vegetarian, 81% vegan, and 70% preservative-free, enlisted a female performance artist named Jaqueline Traides for their Fighting Animal Testing campaign. 24-year-old Traides sat in a shop window of a London Lush store and simulate an animal undergoing cosmetic testing. For 10 hours, she was restrained and ball-gagged, force-feed, injected, shaved and subjected to various other uncomfortable and demoralizing activities. Traides wears a nude body suit and cries. Warning: The beginning is graphic and hard to watch, and it's nature as an in-your-face publicity stunt for the brand is basically unavoidable.
It's not the first time the super-lefty Lush has been in trouble for social activism: certain Israel advocacy groups boycotted the company's decision to promote OneWorld's Freedom for Palestine initiative. In the wake of the understandable backlash of the Traides video, including the serious concern that the campaign would evoke the past traumas of abused women, Lush campaign manager Tamsin Omond (who also works with UK environmental action group Climate Rush) addressed the public in a blog post:
I am very aware and very sad that campaigning groups (and all sorts of other groups, industries etc) have capitalised on titillating images of women – or worse – on images and storylines that encourage the abuse of women. It is a depressingly simple way to cause a stir whilst reinforcing certain power structures. It is a way of generating ‘attention' that both I and Jacqui condemn.
But look, it's sort of Occam's Razor, y'all. If it looks like an American Apparel ad and smells like an American Apparel ad, and a certain sort of man will be masturbating to it later, does its self-awareness negate the fact that it's perpetuating the same sort of titillation? And yes, while that particular debate will only go on and on and on like the central spiral in a little kid's game of MASH, there is one particularly terrifying fact of the matter here, which is that here in the States, we care more about abused animals than we do about abused women. 2.5 times more, to be exact, due to reasons that involve definitions of what "blamelessness" and "free will" mean that are clearly developed by people who are not having the shit slapped out of them by their husbands daily.
This isn't the first time the female body has been used to raise awareness for animal rights; obviously PETA has already latched on to the concept of using pinups conjure sympathy-slash-boners for the plight of animals who land on the plate (although their campaign clearly strikes a different, more Playboy-ish tone: see Peta's Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door Contest 2012). It's an honorable cause, to be sure. But to stop using women as ciphers and metaphors? That would really stir things up.