More Assvertising

[Content Note: Rape culture; misogyny; gender essentialism; dehumanization.]

It's garbage adverts day at Shakesville! Wheeeeeee!

Shaker Joey emailed me about some remarkable PSAs about spaying and neutering pets. They are part of a campaign launched by the Best Friends Animal Society, which I regret to report has apparently decided to give the Animal Rights Group That Shall Not Be Named a run for its money in using gross, dehumanizing, misogynistic imagery to raise awareness on behalf of non-human animals.

The campaign is called Fix at Four, designed to encourage people to fix their dogs and cats by the age of four months to reduce the number of "surprise" (unwanted) litters of kittens and puppies. This is an important campaign! And Best Friends is capable of running a serious, adorable, and memorable ad as part of it that is not contemptible. Here is one!

Tinkly music. Images of adorable kittens and puppies. A male voiceover says: "This is your new kitten. Or your new puppy. Every day, 70,000 puppies and kittens just like them are born in the US. Cute, right? Well, what's not cute is that half of all litters are accidents. And when a kitten has a litter of oopsies, and a puppy has a litter of uh-ohs, pretty soon you have thousands and thousands of OMGs. And that leads to millions of pets being killed in shelters every year. But if 80% of pet owners say they believe in spaying and neutering, then what gives? Well, it turns out those sweet little fuzzballs can get pregnant sooner than you think. A lot sooner. But here's the good news: You can stop the accident before it happens. You just have to remember one number. Four. As in four months. When you bring home Maggie or Ruby, or Puddle or Clyde, get them fixed at four months—it can be old enough to get pregnant, and it's definitely young enough to make a difference. Prevent more. Fix at month four."
I'm sharing that ad first in order to put into context what follows, and to underline that there is every reason to expect more from Best Friends.

I'm not sure if the following ads are currently being run anywhere on television, but Shaker Joey saw them at Hulu, so there is at least one major internet placement at the moment.

While the Dawson's Creek theme plays, a white tween girl and a white tween boy sit on the front porch of a suburban home, holding hands and shyly preparing to kiss for what looks like the first time. Suddenly, the porch light comes on, surprising the tweens. The boy hops over the porch railing and runs away. White middle-aged different-sex parents come out onto the porch. Dad, hands on hips, says, "I was afraid of that." Mom says, "Well, I guess it's time to get you fixed. The camera angle changes, and the tween girl is now a kitten. A female voiceover says: "Your pets will start fooling around sooner than you think." The male cat is shown running across the lawn, and Dad says, "Go on—get outta here!" Voiceover: "Accidental litters lead to millions killed in shelters each year. Help prevent more. Fix at month four."
Wacky piano music. A white man takes his white tween daughter for a stroll along a suburban street. They pass a fenced-in yard with a "Beware of Dog" sign behind which a white tween boy is jumping up and down trying to get a look at the daughter. Dad pulls her closer. At the next house, another white tween boy is using a corded edger to do yardwork. He spots the daughter and runs for her, but jerks back when the cord length runs outs. Daughter looks at him interestedly and Dad drags her along, saying, "Come on—let's go." At the next house, another white tween boy jumps at his screen door and then the living room window as they pass. At the next house, another white tween boys runs to the fence at the edge of his yard and says, "Hi! What's your name? Do you live around here? You're pretty! Where you guys going? Where you going? Where you going?!" Daughter smiles at him and Dad drags her away, then sighs. "I guess it's about time to get you fixed, sweetie," he says. The camera pans down and the tween girl is now a puppy. Dad scratches her head. The camera pulls back and the last boy is now a barking dog. A female voiceover says: "Your pets will start getting noticed sooner than you think. Accidental litters lead to millions killed in shelters each year. Help prevent more. Fix at month four."
There are a lot of problems with these PSAs, and I will leave you to parse them all in comments. I just want to make three quick observations:

1. The "dad needs to police daughter's sexuality" shtick is a rape culture trope that subverts female sexual agency. Conflating it with pet guardians' actual responsibility for controlling their pets' reproduction to curb overpopulation is problematic on myriad levels, but is especially disgusting given the current war on agency in which this nation is embroiled, which has seen tween girls increasingly denied comprehensive sex education, access to contraception, access to abortion, and access to reproductive healthcare.

2. The "teenage boys are dogs in heat with no control of their sexual impulses" is also a rape culture trope. Conflating human young (straight) men, who need to seek and respect consent, with dogs, is not merely insulting to young men; it's dangerous for young women.

3. Note that in both adverts, it is the female animal who needs fixing. I'm sure that's just a coincidence and not yet another nod to rape culture narratives that suggest women are uniquely responsible for preventing unwanted sexual advances and pregnancy. Ahem.

teaspoon icon If you would like to contact the Best Friends Animal Society and ask them to please stop running advertisements that uphold rape culture, especially considering that many, many women involved with animal rescue are survivors of sexual violence, you can find contact information here, or leave a message on their Facebook page here, or tweet at them here.

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