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In my dreams I was a Playboy Bunny. I was never really, actually, a playboy bunny. But, I wanted to be one. I loved their beauty and charm. I loved the fact that they were revered. I loved the fact that they were making their mark in the world. I was 12 years old. That will be important, in a moment.
That I ever considered being a Playboy Bunny should be shocking to a good many people. People who know I am a big supporter of women's rights and I abhor seeing women objectified in the media, anywhere. People who know me as that person must be shaking their heads in disbelief.
But, consider this - I was 12 when I first glanced at a Playboy Bunny magazine. I don't know where I saw it. At home, likely. I loved the beautiful pictures and though I was a bit embarrassed by the nudity, I couldn't help be struck by how comfortable the women seemed, posing as they did. I need to also admit I had a full-blown sense of low self-esteem, having been taught I was... well, we'll say 'useless' ... and move on. As any human being wishes, I wished to be important and to matter, to someone. I felt that becoming a bunny would provide that. And didn't so many other girls, of the day!
I was told my friends that I was beautiful. I was developing at the time and I soon had all the accouterments needed to be a Playboy Bunny, all I had to do was wait for my 18th birthday.
Understand that I knew nothing about sexual objectiveness or even thought about how the magazine, and Hugh Hefner, promoted women as sexual objects. I only knew that beauty mattered, it was important, and it included being the kind of woman portrayed in the magazine. In fact, I was a big fan of Marilyn Monroe. I still am. She, of all the women I know who posed in Playboy, was most taken advantage of, I believe. And still, we have to admit, Hugh Hefner was actually giving something back to these women, which was far more than other men, in the film and media industry, were doing for the women they objectified. Though I never pursued the idea of becoming a bunny, stronger, more confident young women did, and I think it helped a good many. Not all, but a good many.
image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/97453745@N02/9291893283/in/photolist-MssNU9-z4jeMA-7evgt7-YxaKqq-fa6o9B-f8BMK6-fbvtdq-owsPeo-of2YYp
Hugh Hefner's passing brought out a good many feelings, on all sides. Let me say I grew out of the stage described above and came to despise the man, over time. I didn't have the personality for becoming a Playboy Bunny, and that thought drifted off like so many other dreams, when I was barely 18. As my life went on, I became and am an advocate for women. I came to believe men like Hugh Hefner were not only holding the women's movement for equality back, they were actively stomping on it, in an effort to keep us in the bedroom. And, I took the women who posed in his magazine to task, also. I couldn't help but wonder, in dismay and anger, WHY? Why would they allow themselves to be treated like... dolls, playthings, toys, whatever. Why?
I don't know why. I certainly never had a chance to ask any of them why.
And now, today, in 2017, I don't think it matters. I have come full circle a bit. No, I don't want to be in Playboy and I'm glad I didn't take that road, to objectify myself by posing nude. But, let's not mince words or ideas here - given the chance, many women my age want to pose in the altogether (and do!) or with a towel over strategic parts, to prove...they aren't old. They did it without shame. To prove their femininity. And, isn't that part of being a woman? Displaying your femininity? It makes me think Hugh Hefner did us a favor. He took nudity from the back room to the board room, so to speak. He said, women are beautiful from the top of their head to the tips of their toes, and I am going to celebrate that. He did what men of centuries ago did, and he did it without apology. (read on for my comments on Gloria Steinem's scathing article about all of this)
Over on friend and PR "visionary" Jeremy Pepper's Facebook page, a conversation about Hugh Hefner and his passing caught my eye. I found it quite interesting. After all, I have come to terms with the women in the magazine, and their choice to pose as they did. I watched over time as women began to understand the purpose the magazine (not to exploit them, but to celebrate them), and I believe the idea and the result of posing so gave them confidence. It's just nudity, folks. Yes, air-brushed and photo-shopped, but beauty all the same. Once you posed for Playboy, your beauty was guaranteed.
Here are comments from folks in the conversation, that I found intriguing and worth sharing.
First, let's look at Jeremy's opening comment,
"The passing of Hef is the passing of an era.
Seeing a lot of hate and snark on his death, but he did change views on sexuality, pushed journalism forward and gave voice to many writers and journalists.
Yes, people did read the interviews, stories and articles - and they got huge names for the interviews."
Yes, the articles were outstanding. As was the fiction. That is a fact, not merely opinion.
Rachel Luxemburg, the only women I will quote, wrote:
"The objectification happens when those women's images go into print and are seen by the readers. It's a process of communicating to men that the important thing about women is their sexual attractiveness. That their bodies are there for a man's enjoyment and anything else about them is less important.
I don't think Hef was an evil man but his legacy is deeply colored by how much he objectified women. That was not just harmless fun; it affected the worldview of millions in ways harmful to women."
This is true, on the surface. Hugh's way of celebrating beauty and women was to put them in images that were unattainable by the average woman and it made average women lament their unattractiveness, while the bunnies showed men what a 'good' woman should look like, I suppose. I do know that I read once that men don't actually expect their wives to be Playboy Bunny-ish. It's all wrapped up in how men and women see and feel sex differently.
The objectification of women is far worse in other areas of the world, than in magazines like Playboy. And, truth is, if you had a good father, a good mother, a good family, you didn't grow up feeling objectified by wandering the beach in a string bikini.
I will say that over time I felt sorry for the women who posed, especially those who felt they needed to enhance their bust size artificially. And, if we want to talk objectification, let's go there...but not today.
From Blair Goldberg, in the same conversation on Facebook: (9-30-2017 - website not available but coming soon!)
"It could be contended that Hef contributed to women's liberation and objectification in equal measure. It's harder to imagine now, but allowing a woman to pose nude in the mainstream without earth shattering shame in the 1950's was more than a little groundbreaking."
As I began writing this post, trying to share some of my feelings and also understand the feelings of others, who were making sense, not just spewing hatred or gushing (as some celebrities on TV have done), I came across this comment from Andy Wibbels. Andy and I go WAAAYYyyy back. He included my editorial calendar idea for bloggers in his book, Blog Wild, many years ago.
Here's what Andy wrote that I felt was and is so important to the conversation:
"RIP, Hugh Hefner. Growing up, Playboy was on our living room coffee table next to Southern Living, Omni, and National Geographic. I think mom and dad figured the more we were allowed to read about sex and sexuality, the better decisions we would make as we got older. Hefner's genius was creating and encoding an aspirational lifestyle into a consumer brand. He was a square from Nebraska who wanted to be someone different and created his new persona and wanted to bring millions of men with him. Entrenched sexism notwithstanding, his devotion to the First Amendment and the pursuit of sexual freedom across the spectrum is admirable."
You know, of course, why I am closing the conversation with Andy's comment. It says, "...his devotion to the First Amendment and the pursuit of sexual freedom across the spectrum..." He uses the word admirable and I am happy to share it. I don't know that I think Hugh's pursuit of sexual freedom was admirable, but I do agree the magazine tried to show us how to be less inhibited and certainly more accepting, of our own sexuality.
And yet, no expose or blog post about Playboy and Hugh would be complete without mentioning Gloria Steinem and her infiltration of the Playboy bunny clubs. It's well worth a read. It exposes the underbelly of what Hugh was building and proves that women were merely objects. It proves... that women were treated in the Playboy clubs pretty much how they were treated everywhere else. The catcalls and low pay and "he treats you nice whether you sleep with him or not" mentality abounds, even today. I will not say Hugh Hefner is responsible. He is not. He contributed, but... so did mothers all over the country when they taught their daughters that their virginity was for sale.
That's a wrap, folks. Rude or insulting comments will not be published. Polite, sane discourse only.