I watched a show about the history of Playboy last night and found it extremely interesting on a number of fronts.

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During the show, on SBS One (Australia) May 10, 2012, Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy) said he was surprised at the feminist backlash he and Playboy received in the 80’s.  He said that it took him by surprise because he (genuinely) thought he had helped women to take part in the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 60’s, saying that Playboy not just about beautiful women, but that it is an entire lifestyle.  Playboy represented the lifestyle of the rich and famous, a fantasy world that few could actually inhabit, but that so many people were keenly interested in and wanted to be a part of.  In the early Playboy days, the rich and famous flocked to the Playboy hotels and casinos around the world, and the Playboy image and business became extremely successful.  The Playboy image became one of the most recognized brands around the world.

Hefner acknowledged that the ‘playboy bunny’ (stylised bunny suit worn by female Playboy Casino workers) promoted an objectified view of women, but he thought that Playboy gave all women a sort of sexual freedom, an ability to be a part of this (largely male) lifestyle of the rich and famous.  To a degree, this assertion was true, and as one early ‘bunny’ put it, she was proud to be involved with the organization.  Rules were very strict and with an emphasis on ‘classy’, the working environment was reasonably safe for a single woman.  In the 1960’s this appealed to many women’s ideal of what it is to be a woman.  Feminism was just asserting itself and western women were starting to test their independence.  One early ex bunny who was interviewed by the show, said that when she was a bunny in the 60’s, women could not do much financially without the signature of a male.  They couldn’t get a loan or credit card by themselves, as many women did not earn an income so they needed a male ‘guarantor’ to co sign for them.  Yet working in the Playboy Casino’s these women were able to earn incomes that were often higher than the casino managers own wage.  Wages and tips were very good and when combine their wages were often higher than that of their own fathers!  The ability to earn such high incomes in relative safety gave the women a sense of freedom, and the ability to shape their own financial destiny.

“Playboy is an American men’s magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner’s mother.[3] The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with a presence in nearly every medium. Playboy is one of the world’s best known brands.[4] In addition to the flagship magazine in the United States, special nation-specific versions of Playboy are published worldwide.”  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playboy]

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