Seal’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. People out on the ice catching seals with harpoons, keeping the traditions alive; yet others out getting some for their pelts as well. I was enjoying a feed, in fact, when I learned of the death of Farley Mowat, famous not just for his extensive writing on Canada’s outdoors but for his opposition to the seal hunt as well.
His death reminded me of the latest spate of celebrities coming and preaching to the east coast about their value systems that exclude killing seals for pelts. It reminded me, yet again, of how people in this province in particular respond to those outsiders. I wrote a column back in December, but it was a little too close to the holidays to make publication. However, I think it’s still pertinent today.
Once upon a time…
Barely a week before Christmas, on a blustery St John’s day, two Hollywood philanthropists swirled into town. Accompanied by the PETA vice president, Dan Mathews, they had a million dollar offer to the Canadian Sealers’ Association to give up their hunt.
Never before in the sealing debate have I been so disgusted by such a public display of disrespect, violent imagery, and outright lies being used to disenfranchise people of their rights.
I’m not talking about PETA.
I’m talking about the disgusting display of outright misogyny in the follow-up on social media and in the comment sections of the various Newfoundland news outlets. Before you start getting the idea that I’m defending PETA, I’m not.
PETA has used images of doe-eyed baby seals to perpetuate a myth (and raise funds) that hasn’t had any real basis in fact since 1987. Mathews himself oversaw a campaign calling my very own people a bunch of Neanderthals, reinforced by Olympic ads co-opting Aboriginal images as ‘savage’.
Ouate de Phoque?
(That’s French for seal fur, FYI)
I’ve heard it said that when an opportunity for debate turns into mudslinging and insults it says more about the person slinging than the slingee. There were three characters involved in this latest PETA media circus:
1) Vice-President of PETA (Dan Mathews) who has slung enough of his own muck around. A MAN who, by virtue of his very position, should be the target of the ‘pro-sealing’ counter-attack.
2) A Simpsons MAN (Sam Simon), who is the one that actually put up the million dollars which is supposed to be a lot of money for Newfoundland (it’s a lot of money anywhere, jackasses, but it does go further there).
3) A WOMAN who has starred in shows that many people in this province appreciated, I’m sure, before her pro-PETA views on sealing turned people’s guts.
But from the media commentary you’d think that only one person showed up with the cheque. And much of that commentary had absolutely nothing to do with her position as a PETA director, or as a human being.
They didn’t attack the men.
And they certainly haven’t attacked previous anti-sealing men in the same way they attacked her (think Paul McCartney, Bryan Adams, or the late Farley Mowat). One tweet, from a young woman no less, summed it all up:
“Pamela Anderson, you slut! Get out of Newfoundland before we beat you to death with seal pelts…and take you (sic) dirty million bucks with you!! WE DON”T WANT YOU HERE!!!!!!”
Here’s a compilation of some of the other noteworthy intelligent commentary our province produced. Warning: bit of offensive language ahead.
“Dougie says the term “boob-job” has nothing to do with Pam Anderson’s chest implants…” – @snookolman
“@telegramjames @markcritch the fake and false things about @pameladanderson don’t end with cheques. ;)”
“there’s over 7.3 million harp seals. @pameladanderson “don’t know what to say about that, not what I’m aware of” #youdumbplasticcumbucket”
“@sinjohns Pam is getting it. #youknowwhatimean” – when I responded that “I think I do” on Twitter I received a “;)” back
“Hey Pam, here’s a thought. Take your million and donate it to…sexually transmitted disease prevention education. Good self-promotion.” – Gerry Byrne, Newfoundland MP for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. He later deleted this and the associated apology from Twitter, perhaps hoping no one would notice.
“I hear Pam Anderson is back home provin dere’s a reason she made a livin off her looks n not her brains #pamanderson #yyt #sealhunt”
“too much ## and too little brains=”Pamela Anderson lends name to million-dollar offer to end seal hunt bit.ly/JEcB8o @globelife”
“Hey @markcritch, does your offer to @pamelaDAnderson to stop ‘acting’ include future starring roles with Tommy Lee?” – Don Bradshaw (NTV)
“A million dollars is a lot of money in Newfoundland.” “Lay off the hair dye Pam! Ridiculous.”
“@pameladanderson needs 2 go back to her #sextrade life of fake breasts & let #NL go back 2 their #sealhunt.Living off the land #food #PETA”
“Raa! Pam b’y, you’re saying you won’t eat seal meat, but you had Tommy Lee’s…you know…In your [email protected] #badgull #hadto”
Yet another commentator posted an image of Tommy Lee and Pamela D with a quote from Deadeye Dicks’ song New Age Girl: “She don’t eat meat … but she sure likes the bone”. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Here, another image by Newfoundland’s very own funny guy. Boob. Hyuk hyuk hyuk.
One in every 10 or so CBC comments were about the stolen ‘home video’ with her ex-husband. Vulgar, demeaning comments that should have no place on CBC let alone in a public debate. Why did readers and moderators allow this?
So let’s say all the commentary is factual somehow. Let’s say she did make money off her looks, and let’s say she’s not going to be a Mensa member any time soon.
What does it have to do with the issue?
Basically what we’re saying is that if you’re a man and have a point of view that’s stupid, misleading, or just generally disliked: society will pass judgement on the points being made. If you’re a woman on the other hand, society will condone whatever off-the-wall, violent, demeaning imagery people feel fit to sling.
Anything is game. Any time. As Margaret Wente says, “Celebrities are only airheads if they’re on the other side. If they’re on yours, they’re prophets.”
How many times have we heard about successful women who happen to be attractive? All the “She only got there because…” stories perpetuating these attitudes have horrific spin-off effects on society. For instance: “She got raped because she was dressed provocatively.” Demeaning women because of womanly attributes is intentionally dehumanizing and makes violence easier to inflict. Take my cover image (not actually mine by the way: I’m using it to illustrate a point). Yeehaw! Look – It’s Pam’s head on a seal! CLUB IT! Hyuk.
Let’s try to raise the level of public discourse, shall we? Not just because I’m tired of being painted with the kind of brush that this sort of discourse imposes on our province, but more importantly because it’s the right thing to do. When you see this kind of violence (yes: vilifying, bimbo-izing commentary is violence, and it legitimizes more violence) then don’t remain silent: say something.
And bring the discussion back to what it should be about: an ill-informed attempt by PETA to mislead national and international opinion about our right to hunt. I support seal hunting, and I support PETA’s right to protest it.
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