No one ever talks about what Hugh Hefner did for women’s rights and Feminism in the same way that we do not talk about what Hitler did for the Vegetarian cause or how he continues to post humously raise awareness of testicular cancer. (Hitler, in case you have never been on a train with chanting football fans before, only had one ball.)
Instead we choose to focus on celebrities bad points. Like Karen carpenters anorexia not her amazing voice but her emaciated body, what a waste. Or Michael Jackson’s transformation from a musically gifted and good looking black man who can dance like no other to a confused and old withered white man with a questionably creepy penchant for young boys.
Aside: we all have a theory of why MJ turned white. I believe it was help his relationship with the police in light of his child abuse charges.
I digress; let’s take easily the most famous woman on the planet right now. Kim Kardashian. She won’t be remembered for her critically acclaimed sex tape, despite the ‘ravishing’ mise en scene and the ‘gripping’ cinematography and her Wonderbra winning best supporting role. No, Instead we will remember Kim for being the crying face girl from E! Reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Shame. Or worse the woman that named her child in the direction her breasts went after she had it.
Let me ask you this question: Why as a society do we focus on celebrities’ negative traits? Is it to make us feel better about our own lives in comparison? I was feeling particularly depressed the other day because I still don’t know what LKA Twigs was and I hadn’t been id’ed for booze for a few months. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. So I read the cover of Closer magazine and instantly felt better about myself. It’s true schadenfreude works. So and so has lots of cellulite on her legs. Phew. I’m not the only one who has more cottage cheese on her legs than in my fridge. So and so is getting her third divorce. Phew. I mean I often dream of my wedding. I want it all. No expense spared (by Daddy)- dress, venue, flowers, cake and the best divorce attorney money can by. But getting divorced three times? Puh-lease! So tacky. All getting divorced three times tells me is that you didn’t get enough settlement in the first one. Come on girl! You should only need to get divorced once and then you can just get on with your life.
Feminism has come a long way. Gone are the days when women marry for money now we divorce for money. Now that’s progress. Who do we have to thank for this female empowerment and independence? Why, rich men like Hugh Hefner!
Women talk about weddings and marriages a great deal. I think it’s healthy. For hundreds of years women have used marriage as an exchange of empowerment and independence. They know that to marry means to get the power taken from one man, her father, and passed onto another man, her husband. Now we are lucky enough to step into that transaction of power and take it for ourselves in the form of alimony. That’s why women talk so much about weddings. It technically passes the Bechdel Test because when I get together with my girlfriends and we talk about our dream weddings, we’re not talking about a man. I mean unless you count Jean Paul Gautier. But I don’t think gay men count. If you’ve just joined us on that sentence that isn’t as homophobic as it sounds.
There I go again, let’s get back on topic. Typical woman, the moment a wedding is mentioned we just go ga- ga. We can’t help it, it’s in our DNA. The only way to stop women talking about weddings I find is to simply throw a baby at them. It’s true it really works. I’ve tried it at several Baby showers when I’ve grown bored of wedding talk. (Shower being the operative word, what Gloria Estefan should have sung about women’s true fantasy,’ It’s Raining Babies!’) Be careful though it can backfire. There is a danger that the conversation can go from bad to worse; it could get them talking about mortgages. In which case you’re fucked. You might as well just get good and drunk. Mortgage Talk is my pet hate of party conversation. I literally do not give a fuck about your mortgage. Mortgages are like dreams or the intricate details of what happened at your day at work; save it for your partner’s ears only. No one else cares. And even then Bottom line talking about mortgages is dull as fuck. There’s a reason why the word starts with ‘mort’ the French for ‘death’.
Anyway, talking about death and houses. Back to Feminism’s unsung hero, Hugh Hefner! (Well he’s famous for his Playboy mansion and he’s almost dead). The reason I stated controversially that Hugh Hefner actually did a lot of good for the Feminist movement is because I have recently finished watching Amazon Prime’s dramatized documentary on him. Now even though I know that Hugh Hefner almost certainly pre-approved the edit and so very much paints himself in a positive light I still couldn’t deny the facts. By ‘couldn’t deny’, I mean I looked up the positive and pioneering things he did for Feminism and Intersectionality on Wikipedia and guess what unless somehow the guy that writes all the Wikipedia pages, (I think it’s Julian Assange, he’s the Wikipedia guy right?) has a hidden pro Hef agenda, it’s all true! Thinking about it old Jules could do with a few Playboys being leaked in to relieve him after a hard day’s work laying low in a political loop hole but as he’s escaping a rape charge, recreational Porn reading material might be deemed inappropriate.
Hugh Hefner and his Playboy enterprises did just that. No, I don’t mean illegally smuggled in contraband to the equadorian embassy. I mean, In 1953 he offered men sexual relief with his first copy of Playboy magazine featuring none other than Marylyn Monroe topless and bum out on the front cover. This had never been done before and was an instant hit because men are really dumb. They’re either an arse man or a tit man and Hugh delighted his readers with a great deal of both. A bit like when Theresa May went to visit Donald Trump earlier this year. An arse and a tit. What’s not to like.
Playboy served to the sexual needs of men, awakening them to sex, making it a celebration not a shameful taboo. Every issue featured titillating images of scantily clad women and portrayed sex as a completely natural and fun thing to do. Something that we could be open and honest about and not feel ashamed by. Not exclusively done for procreation but for recreation! As his empire grew and the magazine entered the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s the name Hugh Hefner became synonymous with not only sex but womanising too. Playboy started to become more than just a magazine it became a lifestyle that every man wanted a piece of. So much so that he started opening Playboy nightclubs and it was there that the Playboy Bunny waitress was born. A controversial topic for the Feminist movement.
Many Feminists quite rightly had a problem with Hugh choosing to dress his waitresses up as bunnies. Dressing women up as animals to serve men was blatant objectification of the female form, degrading and dehumanising us. Bunny rabbit tail and bunny rabbit ears…. fuck that the only rabbit accessory I believe a woman needs is battery operated.
Women dressed up as bunnies seemed somewhat ironic too; after all it was plain to see that it was the men that were behaving like animals.
We can see that this feeling of inequality and objectification was felt by the Women’s Movement in 1974. Now, some men think that the Women’s Movement are full of crap but I think you’re confusing that with a bowel movement.
So much so that Dick Cavett invited two representatives of the Women’s Movement onto his talkshow to confront Hugh, Jezzer Kyle style. Except without the DNA or lie detector test because, well that hadn’t been invented yet.
For the first time ever Hugh wasn’t doing the screwing, he was being screwed. The world watched as Susan Brownmiller of the Women’s Liberation Movement put on her metaphorical dildo and started fucking Hefner up, good and proper! Brownmiller famously proclaimed whilst seated next to him on the show that:
‘Hugh Hefner is my enemy!’
And most famously quips:
‘The day that you’re willing to come out here with a cotton tail attached to your own rear end….’
The young Hugh not quite as articulate as he should be given the debate and accusation simply smiles and laughs and quite literally sticks that in his pipe and smokes it. He takes a long drag of his pipe, smiles like a naughty school boy and thinks of something to say. I miss the days when you could smoke inside. Especially when you can use it as a means to give you time to think about what you’re going to say back to a raging feminist. I really wish I had a cigarette or a pipe in hand every time someone put me on the spot. For example when I’m in H&M and the cashier asks me:
‘Are you going out tonight?’ Maybe if I had a cigarette to puff on and look nonchalant I could make up a cool lie like, ‘yeah…. I’m going to a rave in Dalston’ instead of the truth which is ‘I’m going home to watch Take Me Out alone.’
Hugh probably looks back on that moment on the Dick Cavett show and wishes he had been more astute, more articulate, stuck up for himself more and seemed less like a chauvinistic, misogynistic, smug dickhead.
What he should have said was that throughout the sixties he actually very much supported the women’s movement. He championed abortion rights, abortion legalisation and the Pill.
One can look at Hugh Hefner two ways. A red blooded male, who belittles and objectifies women or a defender and champion of women. Perhaps he is a dichotomy of both.
Perhaps we are all a mixture of contradictions. No one is 100 per cent good or 100 per cent bad, well apart from Amanda Holden.
I mean look at Amal Clooney. She’s a humanitarian pioneering for Syrian refugees, recognition of the Armenian genocide, counter terrorism, free speech; her philanthropy work knows no end. BUT she’ll always be the bitch that married George Clooney and took every girls dream of marrying the most eligible bachelor in the world away from us. Unforgivable.
Hugh Hefner objectified women, evoking connotations of reducing them to nothing but a piece of meat whilst at the same time supporting and campaigning a woman’s right to the pill and abortion rights. He also gave a lot of women high profile jobs within his company. I don’t just mean topless models and Mad Men-esque secretarial roles, but Executive and CEO positions within the company.
Some might say that Hugh Hefner’s advocating abortion and the pill are in his own best interests. And I would agree! I’m sure he’s been responsible for a few bunnies in the ovens that he didn’t want to see to fruition. However when you also learn that he was the first person to put black artists like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklyn up in his clubs in the sixties you applaud him for being so revolutionary in a time when blacks and whites did not intergrate. He even most controversially integrated blacks and whites on his tv show ‘Playboys’ Penthouse’ which resulted in most of the southern states threatening to not broadcast the show which posed a big financial threat to his ratings. Hugh didn’t care. He aired the show anyway sticking his fingers up to the racist south. Pretty inspiring, hey? Knowing all this you start to see that Hugh Hefner is very much a progressive, liberal, accepting, forward thinking ahead of his time figure.
He gave Martin Luther King an interview in the magazine. to voice his Civil Rights work (The interview of course, started with Martin saying: ‘I have a wet dream’). Not to mention a whole host of openly gay celebrities, paving the way to making homosexuality accepted in our society. He was also the first publication to openly dispute the Vietnam War and talk candidly about the AIDS Virus.
Feminism, liberalism, intersectionality are all part of the same fight. Hugh Hefner and his magazine in their own way were progressive in this fight.
So there you go. Hugh Hefner: Feminist Icon.
Please read my next selection of controversial essays in this series, all asking pressingly revolutionary and debatable and litigious questions like:
Nigel Farage: Does He Deserve A Nobel Peace Prize?
Why Everyone Secretly Loves Katy Hopkins.
Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas And Still Be Viewed By The Daily Mail As Terrorists?
Are The Kardashians Living Out Their Own Truman Show?
And possibly most controversially of them all:
Are You A Cunt If you say the word cunt?
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