Playboy: the symbol of modern liberated women

When did it become acceptable and fashionable for women and particularly young women to purchase and own bed sheets & car seat covers and wear underwear & clothes all adorned with Hefner’s playboy bunny logo?

Many mainstream retailers including the homewears store ‘Adairs’ and even the ubiquitous store ‘Bras n Things’ are stocking Playboy merchandise. Is this the new generation of empowered, sexually liberated women reclaiming a once oppressive icon? Yeah right. My arse.

Enjoy the following quote, brought to my attention by my outraged house-mate. It is an excerpt from an interview with Oriana Fallaci (1967), in which Hugh Hefner explains why he chose the ‘bunny’ as the icon of Playboy:

 

“The rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning, and I chose it because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping – sexy. First it smells you, then it escapes, then it comes back, and you feel like caressing it, playing with it. A girl resembles a bunny. Joyful, joking. Consider the kind of girl that we made popular: the Playmate of the Month. She is never sophisticated, a girl you cannot really have. She is a young, healthy, simple girl – the girl next door…we are not interested in the mysterious, difficult woman, the femme fatale, who wears elegant underwear, with lace, and she is sad, and somehow mentally filthy. The Playboy girl has no lace, no underwear, she is naked, well-washed with soap and water, and she is happy.”

 

My outrage keeps returning to and being reignited by the perverse associations between:

Bunny > fresh > shy and sexy > never sophisticated’ > simple > healthy > well washed with soap (i.e. pure) > happy > desirable.

And how these above associative ideas are contrasted with the following:

Women who are not simple > not fresh > sophisticated > mysterious > elegant > difficult > mentally filthy > unsexy > sad > undesirable.

 

Really and truly …..

 

6 Comments

Filed under Current social issues

6 responses to “Playboy: the symbol of modern liberated women

  1. Clinton Szady

    At first I purchased Playboy for the articles, then I subscribed for the pictures. Now, I don’t think I’m all bad. So my question is: is there a difference between women who associate with, or in some way invest in the symbol? I think there is. This is simply coming from my own association with the Playboy movement. For instance, if I see a woman with the icon tattooed to her skin, I get the feeling she is that fresh, simple, healthy, happy and desirable woman that I want nothing to do with. But with regard to the woman who simply purchases the underwear, maybe her statement is a little different to the one with the tattoo. I don’t know. Conversely, if the opposite qualities to the Playboy symbol are something the other sex should be more open to, then I feel that in an ideal world, men who are right into pornography should be a smash with women. Aren’t these all the qualities they engender: not simple, not fresh, mysterious, difficult, somehow mentally filthy, unsexy, sad, and undesirable? I think so. I guess my point is that all genders have biases and hang-ups that people within them commonly cling to. I feel they blind us to the real issue at hand, which is not only seeing, but interacting with people for who they really are, and not what they look like.

    Mr. C.

  2. 1. “I buy it for the articles” is a popular expression playing on less than thoughtful ways men rationalise purchasing Playboy magazines?

    2. According to the basic notion of supply and demand, your subscription to Playboy contributes to the socio-moral and financial investment in, and thus incentive for, the Playboy corporation and Hugh Hefner’s ideas about women (made clear in the excerpt above). In short, your subscription legitimises, reproduces and popularises Playboy’s (i.e. Hefner’s) representation of women and sexual relationships.

    3. ” if I see a woman with the icon tattooed to her skin, I get the feeling she is that fresh, simple, healthy, happy and desirable woman that I want nothing to do with.” With all due respect this just re-articulates the same stereotypes about women that Hefner does above (just with a different opinion on those stereotypes)

    4. “the real issue at hand, which is not only seeing, but interacting with people for who they really are, and not what they look like.” Mr. C. are you not the one who subscribes to Playboy?

    I should clarify that I’m not completely ‘anti-pornography’. That is a completely different conversation.

    • Clinton Szady

      Yes, I do realise buying Playboy for the articles is a transparent rationale for purchasing the magazine. And yet, many interesting thinkers have written for it. What’s more, is that I don’t subscribe to Playboy, I was joking. But if I did, it would be for the pictures. All in all I’ve probably invested $25 in Playboy, and can safely say I have invested more money in Greenpeace and Amnesty International than I have in Hugh Heffner. This does not make me a humanitarian. With regard to ideas of simplicity, health, happiness, and desirability, these are qualities I look for in a woman, not to mention elegance and sophistication. I do not apologise for this. These are positive terms. When I see the bunny tattooed to a woman’s skin, however, I do not immediately associate these qualities with her, but instead, perceive her as an unashamed sex object. Neither the ideals I look for in women or the biases I associate with the logo are a fair definition for this woman I have merely glanced at. And here lies my point. Representations, whether expressed through icons or photography, are not an adequate description of the reality they seek to capture, but are an over emphasis on some of the qualities these objects possess. A person who invests in Playboy is not arbitrarily defined by this action. That would be unjust, and an unfair representation of that person. My problem with your comment is that you seem to believe Heffner is telling the truth. Is he really trying to represent health, simplicity, and happiness? Or is he merely bastardising these terms, and through representation, profiting from the sale of sex objects? What’s really going on? Lets not take Heffner’s word for it, and in doing so, sully the ideals he pretends to stand for.

  3. topazbean

    ” if the opposite qualities to the Playboy symbol are something the other sex should be more open to, then I feel that in an ideal world, men who are right into pornography should be a smash with women. Aren’t these all the qualities they engender: not simple, not fresh, mysterious, difficult, somehow mentally filthy, unsexy, sad, and undesirable?”

    I think you’re confusing psychology with choice. Buying and watching pornography is a choice with political connotations to anyone who cares about gender roles. Consequently a feminist like myself would be less attracted to someone who regularly buys the sort of pornography that is widely available, because of what it says about their attitude to women, not because it suggests sadness or mystery.

    However, a real world person who makes consumer choices is very different from the “mentally filthy” woman that Hefner describes, which is merely the embodiment of an idea – serious women with complex internal lives. The point is not that he may be less attracted to them because of the way they live their lives, but that the very fact of them having lives outside of your own fantasy of them makes them less attractive.

    The sad thing is Hefner’s assumption that a simple and uncomplicated woman is all that people can find interesting, but if you dig deeper this assumption trickles through the whole of society. As an actress I am constantly frustrated by the fact that the great Shakespearian psychological roles are all male – something in drama that has continued right into Tony Soprano and Don Draper, and the fact that in so many sitcoms (the less good ones, anyway) the women have little to do except play love interest. These stereotypes about women do not only limit men’s perceptions of them, but even robs women of their ability to express themselves in a complete way.

  4. For me wearing the bunny is more like a message, if you do wear it consciously that is. The message to me is: your oppression is over, I am over your oppression. I wear the bunny because I am now free to play with your images, your symbols. I don’t care – at all – about what you may think of me as a female, as a woman, as a girl, as a bunny, because all that matters is what I think of myself. You are not in a position to tell me anything anymore, those times are over. I am taking your baby – the bunny – and I wear it to tell you I can be a bunny as my t-shirt says, or anything else, because I decide to use your symbol the way I want. Because from now on I do just what I feel like, inside and outside the Mansion, whether I am in a bunny mood or in an anti-bunny mood. That’s all what my bunny tee-shirt, or iphone cover, or bra would say. What I think is more disappointing is how the Bunny, taken completely out of its geo / histo context has been completely revamped / re-appropriated by women here in (Southeast) Asia, who are completely not aware in 99% of the cases of what it did mean. So by wearing the bunny they are saying: I am cool, I am fashionable, I love pink, this is cute, life is sweet, and that’s all there is to care for… And then that’s indeed re-opening the door to the big bad wolf running free in the Mansion…

  5. Amanda

    Have you read Ariel Levy’s book? You need to. At the moment I am writing a research paper on the origins of Raunch culture (a term coined by Levy).

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