Pamela Anderson's political activism is no flash in the pan

Guardian Web |

Following protests that have taken place in France over the past few weeks and riots that saw hundreds arrested in Paris, the gilets jaunes or yellow vests movement has found a vocal, and to some, surprising supporter in the form of Pamela Anderson.

Earlier this week the Canadian-American actor and activist, who now lives in France, attempted to explain the aim of the movement in a series of tweets and in a blogpost on her website.

Her intervention sparked online appreciation and fury in equals parts as her cogently argued post delved into the complex social issues behind the violence and the rising social movement that is rocking French politics.

But Anderson’s foray into the political issue of the day shouldn’t come as a surprise. For years now she’s been well known for her activism, stretching back to the 90s when she began her work with Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Among her more notable campaigns for the animal rights group were a 2003 “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign, a protest against Kentucky Fried Chicken and an attempt to stop seal hunting.

“Activism is sexy,” she said once.

The French protests first began as a response to President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed fuel tax increase, something he has said would help the country’s green initiatives. But they have since encompassed everything from the minimum wage and taxesto demands for the dissolution of parliament and Macron’s resignation.

“I despise violence… but what is the violence of all these people and burned luxurious cars, compared to the structural violence of the French – and global – elites?” Anderson tweeted on Monday.

The photos of the destruction in Paris made for captivating viewing, she said, but it was important to examine what the motivation behind the protests were.

“[It] came from the rising tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor, between the politics represented by Macron and the 99% who are fed up with inequality, not only in France, all over the world,” she added.

On her Pamela Anderson Foundation site she further elaborated the following day.

The yellow vest movement, she wrote, “is a revolt that has been simmering in France for years. A revolt by ordinary people against the current political system which – as in many other western countries – colludes with the elite and despises its own citizens.”

Despite what critics of the movement have said, she wrote, the average person in France is not opposed to environmental initiatives, they simply don’t think the burden of paying for it should fall on them while the wealthy are given tax breaks.

“When some protesters destroy cars and burn shops, they symbolically attack private property that is the basis of capitalism. When they attack police officers, they symbolically reject and challenge repressive state forces – forces that primarily protect the capital.”

Some on Twitter were quick to highlight the righteousness of Anderson’s framing of the political situation.

Pamela Anderson has an infinitely more substantive take on what's happening in France than the Wall Street Journal— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff)

Pamela Anderson has a Henry Miller quote in her bio and tweeted the best essay on class conflict I've read all year. pic.twitter.com/b9AqmLivjS — Churlish (@Cryptoterra)

Elsewhere many others shared her tweets with a knowing wink at the apparent incongruousness of Anderson, who rose to fame as a Playboy model and Baywatch star, laying out a cogent response to the structural violence of capitalism.

But in fact Anderson has often taken on global events far from the normal purview of a workaday television actor.

In 2013 she travelled to Haiti to distribute aid after the devastating earthquake and has continued to raise funds for relief.

On occasion Anderson’s work has seen her join forces with some questionable allies. Seal hunting is one cause she shares in common with Vladimir Putin, which has lead to rumors of a romantic entanglement with the Russian leader, something she has denied. Anderson has spoken at the Kremlin numerous times about environmental issues, shehas said.

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is another controversial figure with whom Anderson has formed a friendship. She has been visiting Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two years.

Anderson “doesn’t believe there’s a link between Julian and Russia”, she told the Daily Beast and is adamant Assange “represents everything America does when it comes to true information and freedom of speech”.

The US intelligence community’s findings that Assange worked with Russia to leak Democrats’ emails do not bother her, she told 60 Minutes in Australia.

True to her promise, Anderson has not, despite her ascendant status as a hero to the left this week, always remained politically correct. Comments she made on that program about the #MeToo movement and feminism were criticized heavily as damaging to women’s rights.

“I’m a feminist but I think third wave feminism can go too far,” she said on 60 Minutes. “I think it paralyzes men. I think this #MeToo movement is a bit too much for me. I’m sorry I’ll probably get killed for saying that. My mother taught me don’t go to a hotel with a stranger and if someone answers the door in a bathrobe and it’s supposed to be a business meeting maybe I should go with someone else. I think that some things are just common sense.”

Regardless of one’s politics it’s hard not to appreciate the authenticity of Anderson’s views. Whereas some celebrities blandly dabble in issues, often to their own benefit, she seems to be putting her money where her mouth is.

Just don’t tell her you’re surprised to see her getting involved in politics.

“Motherfucker, I’ve been doing this since I fucking came to L.A.,” she told W magazine last year in response to just such a question.

“I’m an activist, and I’m not doing it for myself,” she said. “I’m doing it for animals and people who are vulnerable and can’t speak for themselves. It was never my intention to get any credit for any of it, and people are just noticing.”

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