Show me your udders!

Why buy the cow when you can drink breast milk for free? PETA's weird ad likens women to dairy cows.

Published February 17, 2006 3:00PM (EST)

Ordinarily I don't have much beef with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but its recent "Milk Gone Wild" ad, which I saw thanks to a link on I Blame the Patriarchy, is really chafing my hide. The ad features young women dancing in a bar and lifting their shirts for the camera "Girls Gone Wild" style ... to reveal their comely, swollen udders. There's much shrieking, giggling and jiggling, and then, as the dudes around them holler approvingly, the gals start spraying milk onto the floor and into the mouths of fellow bar patrons.

Wondering what on earth that might be about? Me too. But instead of clarifying, the ad just gets more confusing. After the PETA logo appears over the topless torso of a tan, gyrating blond woman, the words "Meet Your Milk" flash across the screen, and the camera takes viewers to a dairy farm. An Alec Baldwin-sounding voice-over says, "Even though they give milk for the same reason that humans do -- for their babies -- on today's dairy farms mother cows are treated as nothing more than milk machines."

Ten points for guessing what we're supposed to learn from this juxtaposition, because I'm lost. Women should thank their lucky stars that they're not exploited for their milk, like cows are? But then, why open with the "Girls Gone Wild" riff, which reminds us that women's mammaries are plenty objectified, just in different ways? Or is the point that women and cows are alike in that they're both exploited, and are in solidarity? Does PETA think we'll somehow empathize better with livestock if the animals are compared to topless women? Or is it just flashing ta-tas to get our attention?

The rest of the commercial is pretty pious, featuring genuinely disturbing footage of lame cows limping onto trucks and being unable to walk, and voice-overs detailing the mistreatment cows receive by the dairy, meat and veal industries. It's sad to watch, and it's useful to be reminded of the nasty effects of corporate farming.

So, PETA, thanks for the memo. I just wish you'd stuck to the muckraking.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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