NBC’s “Playboy” Show: Empowering Women? Not!

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”  Gloria Steinem

When my eldest son began his freshman year at a liberal arts college, he proudly donned a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: “This is what a feminist looks like.” 

He wore this shirt on family vacations, including a trip to Japan, where the shirt, and his wild blonde curly hair drew stares on the crowded subways.

That shirt, and another slogan popular when I attended college, “A Woman’s Place is in the House… and the Senate” serve as mild reminders of the women’s movement, and the many who championed equality for women in the workplace, in healthcare, and in politics. 

And it’s true: since the 1970’s, women have shattered the “glass ceiling,” the phrase coined in the mid-1980’s associated with barriers to workplace advancement.  Women hold cabinet positions, run for President, manage large corporations, serve as Supreme Court justices, and more.

Yet with all the advancement and opportunities, blatant sexism continues.  A young woman, beginning her surgical residency, visiting us this summer, described how some of the male surgeons in the operating room make lewd jokes about her anatomy.  I’m sure her experience isn’t unique.

What worries me is how unaware most young people are of the history of how we got here  and how much is taken for granted.

I grew up before Title IX, the 1972 federal legislation that requires schools and universities to provide equal athletic opportunities for men and women.  My high school offered four sports for girls: field hockey, basketball, softball, and tennis; the boys had more than double those options.  Now school sports range from archery to wrestling, open to men and women.

When I interviewed for reporting jobs in the early 1980’s, I was asked my age and when I planned to start a family.

I didn’t wear pants to high school until my sophomore year; a fact that amazed my daughter and my students.

My early television memories include watching Father Knows Best where the daughters learned the importance of letting boys win.  “…younger daughter Kathy was counseled …to deliberately lose a ball game. Teenage daughter Betty found happiness when she agreed to stop competing with a male student for a junior executive job at the local department store and settled for the more gender- appropriate task of modeling bridal dresses.” (Collins, p. 14.)

Which brings me to NBC’s new series launching September 19. “The Playboy Club,” a 1960s-era soap opera set in Chicago that tells the story of a woman, known as a “bunny,” who becomes involved with a powerful male lawyer that helps her evade looming legal troubles. (nbc.com)

The producer, Chad Hodge, has been quoted saying the show “will be empowering because it will illustrate “how (women) can use the club to be anyone they want.” (WSJ, 8/27/11)

Empowered dressed as a sexy rabbit?  Showing women as objects designed to entertain men?

Gloria Steinem,  (feminist.com)

an icon of the women’s movement,  worked as a Playboy Bunny at the New York Playboy Club for a magazine reporting assignment. Her subsequent exposé, “I Was a Playboy Bunny” (1963)  is included in her book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.    The article lead to the company’s changing many of its policies.

Already the show has spawned controversy and calls for boycotts from both sides of the political spectrum.

Feminists, including Steinem, predict it will be demeaning to women.  “It normalizes a passive dominant idea of gender. So it normalizes prostitution and male dominance… I just know that over the years, women have called me and told me horror stories of what they experienced at the Playboy Club and Playboy Mansion, “ she said. (christianpost.com, 8/11/11)

Morality in Media and Pink Cross, are among those protesting the portrayal of women as indecent and the plot pornographic.

I’m with Steinem.  Forbes’ Meghan Casserly put it well: “I’m angry. Am I taking this all way too far or is there something just a little weird about women objectifying themselves (and other women) in the name of empowerment?” (8/11/11)

Gail Collins’ When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present has become my graduation gift to middle and high school students.

Girls need to know the glass ceiling doesn’t refer to a skylight.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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16 Responses to NBC’s “Playboy” Show: Empowering Women? Not!

  1. Wendy Lapham says:

    I loved Gail Collins’ book, even though it was long and took me months to get through. It was an incredible history lesson, and also a reminder of how much we take for granted, and ironically, how successful the women’s movement was…because, as you say, Lisa, our daughters really don’t even think about the path that has been paved for them (and for us). It’s a great thing that they can take their almost unlimited opportunities for granted, but history is important, and there are still millions of women in the world that lack basic rights.

    Like

  2. Judy Washington says:

    Thank-you for so eloquently expressing the outrage I have been feeling with the present climate for women. I feel that if we continue on this course with TV shows like this and those that provide graphically accounts of all the violent acts against women, we are going backwards. This is expressed in the present debates we are having: morning after pill is not an abortion pill, birth control should be free, etc. I laughed when I saw your son’s shirt. My son was watching the Republican Debate. I heard a candidate I will not name call the “Morning After” pill and “Abortion” and when I said that was wrong he laughed. He said you know that and I know that but it is obvious that they still choose to provide wrong information to pander to their base.
    Well, thanks for giving a forum to vent. Great post as ususal and so timely.

    Like

  3. Lisa,

    The South Orange Library recently read the Gail Collins book and my oh my what a discussion. We had a dozen women ranging in age for the 20s to the 90s(!) and what an eye opening experience that was. The youngins just don’t “Get IT” Maybe having reaped the benefits of our struggles they chose to ignore the past but past is prologue and what they think is ancient history is going to arise once again if we are not diligent. As an aside, I contacted Gail to join our discussion and while funny and friendly in her emails, she ultimately had to decline. 😦

    Like

  4. Leah says:

    I was planning to comment that you should read Gail Collins book. But you have! I just finished it a few weeks ago and loved it. I also read the pre-curser to that book. It is SO critical that young women know what we went through and how different things were, not even that long ago. I love that you give it as a graduation gift. I think I’ll do the same.

    Like

  5. northernnarratives says:

    I look forward to reading the book. I stopped watching TV years ago, It was just too stupid for me 🙂

    Like

  6. womenarefullhumanbeingsnotbunnies&objectstobeusedformen! says:

    Here are great reasons The Playboy Club should be boycotted!

    Walter Cronkite wrote in his great review on the back of Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions, ” For those of us who have long admired Gloria Steinem’s reportorial and writing skills,there has been a concern that that this side of her persona had taken a back seat to her activism as a feminist..” “Now we have proof that nothing has been lost,for she has combined her talents and her advocacy here in what surely must be the definitive philosophical and historical work about this movement that,belatedly,has transformed our society.”

    And it’s Playboy,Hugh Hefner,pornography in general,and the whole very sexist,gender divided,gender stereotyped,woman-hating(for no rational reasons and men are mindbogglingly born and nurtured by women) male dominated society that is the real nut job!( I wrote this in response to a woman-hater on the LA Times Blog that said Gloria has always been a nut job,in his response to Gloria saying this Playboy Club show should be boycotted) And Gloria was always beautiful inside and out and brilliant! I wrote to Gloria when I was 22 and she typed a wonderful letter back to me that her assistant told me she typed herself,and she signed it,with frienship Gloria Steinem.

    She wrote in her 1963 article when she went under cover as a Playboy Bunny as a journalist,that there were a few customers ,a very few,either men or women ,she said she counted ten,who looked at the Playboy Bunnies not as objects but smiled and nodded as if we might be humanbeings.See More You are *SO Ignorant*! Gloria Steinem was *Never* a “nut job in any way! Read a good accurate autobiography about her,and especially her own brilliant,sensible,caring important articles like in her excellent best selling book that orginally came out in 1983,Outrageous Acts And Every Day REbellions which is a collection of all of her excellent artcles mostly in Ms. Magazine from the late 1960’s to 1983.

    Alan Alda says in his review on the back of this book, “This very personal book speaks simple truths that are a much needed nourishment.” “Her book is like the woman herself:inteligent,concerned,articulate,precise,and never without a sense of humor and balance.” ” It will probably make it crystal clear to you why you are a feminist- even if you wren’t one before you read it.”

    And when she was interviewed by David Hartman on Good… Morning America in 1984 and he asked her how did she feel when she was working as a Playboy bunny,and she said like a piece of meat on a hook.David asked her about The Playboy Foundation and she said it’s all based on male insecurity,and she said it teaches men that you have to sexually dominate a woman and be superior to women in order to be a real man.When David Hartman asked her what is the message Playboy Magazine says about women,she said it says men are people and women are objects.

    If you read her excellent book,OutRageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,she says in her 1983 introduction section,”Eventually,dawning feminism made me understand that reporting about the phony glamour and exploitative employment policies of the Playboy Club was a useful and symbolic thing to do.” “But at the time,I had no protection against the sex jokes and changed attitudes that the Bunny article brought with it;and my heart sank whenever I was introduced as a former Playboy Bunny or found my employee photgraph published with little explanation in Playboy(“Even 20 years later,both these events continue.The latter is Playboy’s long-running revenge.”) “Though I always identified emotionally with other women,including the Bunnies I worked with,I had been educated to believe that my only chance for seriousness lay in proving my difference from them.”

    And in her 1983 post script to her orginal 1963 article,I Was A Playboy Bunny,she says,”Realizing that all women are bunnies.Since feminism I’ve finally stopped regretting that I wrote this article.” Gloria also wrote in her orginal 1963 article,I Was A Playboy Bunny,that there were a very few men and women,she said she counted ten,who smiled and nodded at the Bunnies as if they were not objects but might be humanbeings.

    She also said that Playboy continued publishing her employee photograph as a Bunny amid ever more pornographic photos of other Bunnies.She said the 1983 version insists in a caption that her article boosted Bunny recruiting.
    Rhea from the sadly former Women’s Alliance Against Pornography Education Project in Cambridge,back in January 1993 sent me many cartoons from Playboy and Penthouse of women being sexually harassed,used and sexually servicing their male bosses in the work place and they are horrible!

    I asked her what are these cartoons from,she said they are from Playboy and Penthouse. I said what are the men doing to women in the cartoons,are they raping them.She said yeah,they are all different things,you will have to see for yourself and then she said,they’re pretty bad.

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography put their own captions under the cartoons under a Penthouse cartoon of a man saying to his boss,who is holding a photocopy of just a woman’s huge breasts with no head,”This is my Christmas bonus? A xerox photo of your secretary’…s t**s?” THe Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote that Porn reduces women to the make-up of her body parts.

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote that Men are threatened by the concept of women’s equality under a Penthouse cartoon of a woman sitting on top of a phallic type nuclear warhead sucking on it with her legs open grasped around the tip of it,and The Penthouse caption has a man in a uniform talking to another man,saying,”Miss Oppenhawn,the newest member of our staff is a nuclear warhead specialist.”

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote that Porn teaches men that the only way of succeeding is by prostituting herself thereby removing the threat of equality.They wrote this under a Penthouse cartoon of a woman journalist with her hand in a man’s pants, and the Penthouse caption said,”Here I am again folks,out scooping those male journalists by interviewing an otherwise unapproachable diplomat.I suppose you’re all wondering how I do it.”Another from Playboy has a female employee with an upset humiliated expression on her face standing in front of her male boss’s desk with papers in her hand that she’s leaning on his desk, and the male boss says to her,”I had the most asmusing dream last night.Miss Grant-I dreamed you performed an unnatural sex act upon me.”

    Another Penthouse cartoon shows a woman standing outside of her boss’s office with the word President on the door and she’s talking to another woman,her co-worker and she has a huge candy cain stuck in her backside,and she says to her co-worker,”I guess you can’t expect much of a Chrstmas Bonus this year.”The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote under this,Pornography elicits contempt for women.

    A cartoon from Playboy had a male boss with an angry expression on his face barricading a woman employee on her desk with both of his arms around her,and she’s leaning away from him with a screaming upset expression on her face.The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography included this cartoon under their heading,Pornography elicits contempt for women.

    Another Playboy cartoon has a woman military officer looking upset and humiliated standing with two male military officers while one of them cuts her uniform off into pieces and she’s nude.There are other women military officers standing further in the backround on the side.The Playboy caption says,”Usually we just cut off the buttons.”

    Another from Penthouse has a male news caster sitting at a news desk reporting the news with a woman with big breasts in a low cut top sitting next to him.Penthouse’s caption has the male news caster saying, “Chet Carey here bringing you the news along with Miss Clover to provide relief by displaying her t*ts.”Another Penthouse cartoon has male doctors operating on a patient,while only a woman’s lower part of her body and legs are shown under one of the male doctors clothes,and their caption has him saying,”More suction”.

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote under these that Woman’s only attributes are in her sexuality.Another cartoon from Penthouse has a nude big busted woman in bed with her male boss,and he’s smoking his after sex cigarette and she says,”Incidentally,I’m sorry I turned you in at the office for sexual harassment!”

    Another from Playboy has a male boss sitting behind a desk with a sign up behind him that says,Last-Minute Suggestions and his female employee is walking away holding a folder in her hand with an upset expression on her face,and the she says,”*Please* Mr.Fergusen! You can keep those last minute suggestions to yourself!.”

    Psychiatrist Linnea Smith sent me two huge folders of important research and information on the harms of pornography(she thanked me for my important efforts educating people on the harms of porn,and she said it’s especially difficult because the public is desensitized,and the media is reluctant to criticize other media,especially sexually explicit media) back when I wrote her and told her about my experience as a big busted beautiful 13 year old girl being molested by teen boys who used Playboy and how they even made references to the women in it and how one of the boys shoved a pornographic magazine into my face and said,here’s a picture of a girl fingering herself.

    Included in the research Dr.Smith sent me was other Playboy cartoons of women being sexually harassed on the job by their male bosses.Dr.Smith wrote on top of this photocopied page which has these cartoons on both sides, Job Harassment Sexual Harassment In The Workplace Has Been For Years A Popular Them For Cartoons In *Playboy* Magazine.One of these cartoons is of an overweight male boss with his femalke employee with an upset expression on her face trying to push him away and the caption has him saying,”Ms Beasly why are you resisting I voted for the ERA.”(the Equal Rights Amendment that was never passed).Another has a male boss in his office saying to his female employee,You want equality? Next time we’ll do it on your desk.”

    Playboy also promoted child sex abuse, including ,gang rapes of women and children,incest, and sexual murders of women and children as normal and as jokes in thousands of cartoons,articles and even some pictures for over 30 years! Check out psychiatrist Linnea Smith’s excellent site talkintrash she has a section,Another Look At Centerfolds where she has *tons* of strong excellent research studies on harms of pornography!

    Playboy also promoted child sex abuse, including ,gang rapes of women and children,incest, and sexual murders of women and children as normal and as jokes in thousands of cartoons,articles and even some pictures for over 30 years!

    Like

  7. womenarefullhumanbeingsnotbunnies&objectstobeusedformen! says:

    Linnea Smith

    By Patricia Barrera

    Linnea Smith is your average woman of the 90s. She has a satisfying family life, rewarding career in mental health and interests that include traveling with her husband, spending time with her daughters, babying her dogs and reading pornography. Yes…reading pornography–and using her professional skills and expanding international network to fight it. Like most of us, she never really thought about pornography as a critical social issue until a 1985 media conference where she learned about past and present research on pornographic materials. And what she learned shocked and angered her.

    As a psychiatrist, feminist, and woman, she was well aware of the personal and societal consequences of battery, rape, and child sexual abuse. The results of the studies delivered at that fateful conference were an indictment to the connection of pornographic materials, both directly and indirectly, with these violent sex crimes. For Smith, pornography became an issue of public health and human rights that needed to be addressed.

    As every critical thinker should, Smith went straight to the source to see for herself what was going on. She turned to Playboy, the nation’s first pornography magazine to earn mainstream acceptance and support. By 1984 Playboy had 4.2 million subscribers, and was selling 1.9 million magazines at newsstands (Miller, 1984).

    The results of her extensive investigation of the magazine (from the 1960s on) are presented in three brochures. “It’s Not Child’s Play” is a disturbing brochure that outlines the specific ways in which Playboy sexualizes small children and presents them as sexual targets for adult males in their magazine. The collection of cartoons and pictorials is damning, and made even more so when juxtaposed against pathetic statements made by Playboy representatives denying they ever used children in their publication. Smith very well could have called the brochure “Playboy Exposed”.

    Right alongside their claims that “Playboy never has, never will” publish such offensive imagery (Playboy, December, 1985), Smith placed pictures the magazine did indeed publish- of children in sexual encounters with adults and references to girl children as ‘Playmate’ material. In December of 1978, for example, Playboy published a picture of a five year old girl with the caption “my first topless picture,” and in March of that same year published a cartoon in which Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz is pointing out the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man to a police officer as having just raped her on the yellow brick road.

    Smith did not limit her investigation to the use of children in Playboy. She found jokes about sexual harassment, abuse, manipulation, dehumanization and avoidance of intimacy by men toward their partners and callousness toward women in general, and the promotion of sexual conquest over women instead of sexual intimacy with a woman.

    In another powerful and well documented brochure, “As Sex Education, Men’s Magazines are Foul PLAY, BOYS!,” Smith once again had Playboy do the talking for her. The brochure featured Playboy cartoons that dehumanized women like the one in which a man was shown holding a pornography magazine over his girlfriend’s face and body as they are having sex (Playboy, August, 1974), and another featuring a taxidermist calling a man to come and pick up his wife, who had been stuffed (Playboy, April, 1995). Was she hunted down and killed, too?

    Smith’s brochures include extensive documentation and commentary by recognized scholars and researchers addressing the impact of pornography on our society. There are chilling statistics, like the finding that 100% of all high school aged males in one survey reported having read or looked at pornography, with the average age of viewing the first issue being 11 years old (Bryant, testimony to the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography Hearings, 1985).

    In another study she lists, three per cent of the women in a random sample and 8.5 per cent in a survey of college undergraduate women reported being physically coerced into sex by someone inspired by pornography. Ten per cent of the nonstudent and 24 per cent of the student respondents answered yes to the question of whether they had ever been upset by someone trying to get them to do something out of a pornographic book, movie, or magazine (cited by Anderson in Lederer and Delgado, eds., 1995).

    Also included is a study conducted by Mary Koss on 6,000 college students in which she found that men reporting behavior meeting legal definitions of rape were significantly more likely to be frequent readers of pornography magazines than those men who did not report engaging in such behavior (Koss and Dinero, 1989).

    Smith is one of few people to expand her analysis of pornographic magazines to include the presence of drugs and alcohol, especially important today considering the almost epidemic level of drug and alcohol use by adults and teenagers in this country, Smith agrees that drugs and alcohol are contributing factors to high risk and coercive sex, and that the relationship between them within pornographic materials is an overlooked, and greatly needed, area of research.

    As Smith explains ” . . . No [other] reputable publication brought positive drug information within easy reach of juvenile (or adult) consumers. Since 1970, Playboy has been glamorizing intoxication as a mind-expanding, sexually-enhancing experience. It is difficult to conclude these magazines have not played a major role in popularizing ‘recreational’ drug consumption and the myth of its being fun, risk-free, and even sexy. What greater reinforcement for drug taking behavior than to eroticize it?”

    In “Drug Coverage in Playboy Magazine,” a brochure she developed for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), Smith compiled a plethora of cartoons that favorably paired sex with drugs and alcohol. Cartoons, articles and columns advise readers on how to use drugs for sexual enhancement. References to negative effects were usually humorously presented and so, easily dismissed.

    Playboy’s depiction of underage users of drugs and alcohol even included their own version of the Official Boy Scout Handbook in (Playboy, August, 1984). Their suggestions for Scout Merit Badges included “Water Safety” for the scout who ordered his Johnnie Walker whiskey straight up, and “Free-Basing” for the scout who smoked cocaine. A similar feature in 1979 stated that “Today, ‘boyhood fun’ means cruising and scoring; overnight adventures’ involve Ripple and car stripping; and ‘survival skills include cocaine testing, bust evasion and cutting into gas lines” (Playboy, December, 1979).

    Once Smith contacted the NCAA about her serious concerns, media attention and public scrutiny increased. Playboy denied any wrongdoing, claiming they were only reflecting a “major cultural phenomena”, but they did scale back the more obvious pro-drug and alcohol features in the magazine. damage control campaign resulted in a politically correct editorial statement on the magazine’s position on drug abuse in the May 1987 issue as well as a few anti-drug articles. To counter Smith’s NCAA attempts, the magazine also courted collegiate sports information offices with a mass mailing of a hastily compiled slick, glossy booklet “The Dangers of Drugs”, explaining their “real” position against substance abuse. However the magazine still includes covert messages glamorizing substance abuse and pairing sexualized alcohol consumption with easier prey. According to Smith, “we succeeded in exposing yet another dimension of the destructive nature of pornography, and, at the very least, cost Playboy some time and money.”

    It may also cost Playboy the niche they are trying to carve out for themselves in organized sports. Playboy’s strategy for commercial success has been to include respected and well- known public figures in their magazine, an old tactic for aspiring to legitimacy. That way the magazine may be looked at as more of a credible news journal than just a porno rag. Readers too, can feel better about their consumption of pornographic pictures of women when they are “wrapped” in articles about current social issues. It made business sense to Playboy to seek out an alliance with athletes who, in some countries, are accorded hero status.

    So they came up with an annual pre-season award for college level athletes and coaches, the Playboy All-America Award. The nominated players and coaches receive an all-expenses paid trip to a luxury resort for a weekend party, photo session and public relations blitz.

    The team selection process is unorthodox at best. It is not a panel of sports officials but rather Photography Director Gary Cole, doubling as sports editor when needed, (Playboy, March, 1996, p.117) who chooses players and coaches for the award. The prerequisite is not athletic ability but rather who agrees to be photographed for the magazine. Again, a common tactic for legitimacy. Playboy rejects players unwilling to have their pictures associated with the magazine- -its content and underlying messages–and keeps making “awards” until the sufficient number of players and coaches agree to the photo sessions. The event hit some legal snafus as well. Complaints were officially lodged with the NCAA which included the presence of professional agents at the photo sessions. This charge, like the others, was also denied by the magazine in a letter to the NCAA.

    Go to Part II

    Like

  8. Cindi says:

    Linnea Smith

    By Patricia Barrera

    Linnea Smith is your average woman of the 90s. She has a satisfying family life, rewarding career in mental health and interests that include traveling with her husband, spending time with her daughters, babying her dogs and reading pornography. Yes…reading pornography–and using her professional skills and expanding international network to fight it. Like most of us, she never really thought about pornography as a critical social issue until a 1985 media conference where she learned about past and present research on pornographic materials. And what she learned shocked and angered her.

    As a psychiatrist, feminist, and woman, she was well aware of the personal and societal consequences of battery, rape, and child sexual abuse. The results of the studies delivered at that fateful conference were an indictment to the connection of pornographic materials, both directly and indirectly, with these violent sex crimes. For Smith, pornography became an issue of public health and human rights that needed to be addressed.

    As every critical thinker should, Smith went straight to the source to see for herself what was going on. She turned to Playboy, the nation’s first pornography magazine to earn mainstream acceptance and support. By 1984 Playboy had 4.2 million subscribers, and was selling 1.9 million magazines at newsstands (Miller, 1984).

    The results of her extensive investigation of the magazine (from the 1960s on) are presented in three brochures. “It’s Not Child’s Play” is a disturbing brochure that outlines the specific ways in which Playboy sexualizes small children and presents them as sexual targets for adult males in their magazine. The collection of cartoons and pictorials is damning, and made even more so when juxtaposed against pathetic statements made by Playboy representatives denying they ever used children in their publication. Smith very well could have called the brochure “Playboy Exposed”.

    Right alongside their claims that “Playboy never has, never will” publish such offensive imagery (Playboy, December, 1985), Smith placed pictures the magazine did indeed publish- of children in sexual encounters with adults and references to girl children as ‘Playmate’ material. In December of 1978, for example, Playboy published a picture of a five year old girl with the caption “my first topless picture,” and in March of that same year published a cartoon in which Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz is pointing out the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man to a police officer as having just raped her on the yellow brick road.

    Smith did not limit her investigation to the use of children in Playboy. She found jokes about sexual harassment, abuse, manipulation, dehumanization and avoidance of intimacy by men toward their partners and callousness toward women in general, and the promotion of sexual conquest over women instead of sexual intimacy with a woman.

    In another powerful and well documented brochure, “As Sex Education, Men’s Magazines are Foul PLAY, BOYS!,” Smith once again had Playboy do the talking for her. The brochure featured Playboy cartoons that dehumanized women like the one in which a man was shown holding a pornography magazine over his girlfriend’s face and body as they are having sex (Playboy, August, 1974), and another featuring a taxidermist calling a man to come and pick up his wife, who had been stuffed (Playboy, April, 1995). Was she hunted down and killed, too?

    Smith’s brochures include extensive documentation and commentary by recognized scholars and researchers addressing the impact of pornography on our society. There are chilling statistics, like the finding that 100% of all high school aged males in one survey reported having read or looked at pornography, with the average age of viewing the first issue being 11 years old (Bryant, testimony to the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography Hearings, 1985).

    In another study she lists, three per cent of the women in a random sample and 8.5 per cent in a survey of college undergraduate women reported being physically coerced into sex by someone inspired by pornography. Ten per cent of the nonstudent and 24 per cent of the student respondents answered yes to the question of whether they had ever been upset by someone trying to get them to do something out of a pornographic book, movie, or magazine (cited by Anderson in Lederer and Delgado, eds., 1995).

    Also included is a study conducted by Mary Koss on 6,000 college students in which she found that men reporting behavior meeting legal definitions of rape were significantly more likely to be frequent readers of pornography magazines than those men who did not report engaging in such behavior (Koss and Dinero, 1989).

    Smith is one of few people to expand her analysis of pornographic magazines to include the presence of drugs and alcohol, especially important today considering the almost epidemic level of drug and alcohol use by adults and teenagers in this country, Smith agrees that drugs and alcohol are contributing factors to high risk and coercive sex, and that the relationship between them within pornographic materials is an overlooked, and greatly needed, area of research.

    As Smith explains ” . . . No [other] reputable publication brought positive drug information within easy reach of juvenile (or adult) consumers. Since 1970, Playboy has been glamorizing intoxication as a mind-expanding, sexually-enhancing experience. It is difficult to conclude these magazines have not played a major role in popularizing ‘recreational’ drug consumption and the myth of its being fun, risk-free, and even sexy. What greater reinforcement for drug taking behavior than to eroticize it?”

    In “Drug Coverage in Playboy Magazine,” a brochure she developed for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), Smith compiled a plethora of cartoons that favorably paired sex with drugs and alcohol. Cartoons, articles and columns advise readers on how to use drugs for sexual enhancement. References to negative effects were usually humorously presented and so, easily dismissed.

    Playboy’s depiction of underage users of drugs and alcohol even included their own version of the Official Boy Scout Handbook in (Playboy, August, 1984). Their suggestions for Scout Merit Badges included “Water Safety” for the scout who ordered his Johnnie Walker whiskey straight up, and “Free-Basing” for the scout who smoked cocaine. A similar feature in 1979 stated that “Today, ‘boyhood fun’ means cruising and scoring; overnight adventures’ involve Ripple and car stripping; and ‘survival skills include cocaine testing, bust evasion and cutting into gas lines” (Playboy, December, 1979).

    Once Smith contacted the NCAA about her serious concerns, media attention and public scrutiny increased. Playboy denied any wrongdoing, claiming they were only reflecting a “major cultural phenomena”, but they did scale back the more obvious pro-drug and alcohol features in the magazine. damage control campaign resulted in a politically correct editorial statement on the magazine’s position on drug abuse in the May 1987 issue as well as a few anti-drug articles. To counter Smith’s NCAA attempts, the magazine also courted collegiate sports information offices with a mass mailing of a hastily compiled slick, glossy booklet “The Dangers of Drugs”, explaining their “real” position against substance abuse. However the magazine still includes covert messages glamorizing substance abuse and pairing sexualized alcohol consumption with easier prey. According to Smith, “we succeeded in exposing yet another dimension of the destructive nature of pornography, and, at the very least, cost Playboy some time and money.”

    It may also cost Playboy the niche they are trying to carve out for themselves in organized sports. Playboy’s strategy for commercial success has been to include respected and well- known public figures in their magazine, an old tactic for aspiring to legitimacy. That way the magazine may be looked at as more of a credible news journal than just a porno rag. Readers too, can feel better about their consumption of pornographic pictures of women when they are “wrapped” in articles about current social issues. It made business sense to Playboy to seek out an alliance with athletes who, in some countries, are accorded hero status.

    So they came up with an annual pre-season award for college level athletes and coaches, the Playboy All-America Award. The nominated players and coaches receive an all-expenses paid trip to a luxury resort for a weekend party, photo session and public relations blitz.

    The team selection process is unorthodox at best. It is not a panel of sports officials but rather Photography Director Gary Cole, doubling as sports editor when needed, (Playboy, March, 1996, p.117) who chooses players and coaches for the award. The prerequisite is not athletic ability but rather who agrees to be photographed for the magazine. Again, a common tactic for legitimacy. Playboy rejects players unwilling to have their pictures associated with the magazine- -its content and underlying messages–and keeps making “awards” until the sufficient number of players and coaches agree to the photo sessions. The event hit some legal snafus as well. Complaints were officially lodged with the NCAA which included the presence of professional agents at the photo sessions. This charge, like the others, was also denied by the magazine in a letter to the NCAA.

    Go to Part II

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  9. Cindi says:

    More great reasons The Playboy Club show should be boycotted

    Walter Cronkite wrote in his great review on the back of Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions, ” For those of us who have long admired Gloria Steinem’s reportorial and writing skills,there has been a concern that that this side of her persona had taken a back seat to her activism as a feminist..” “Now we have proof that nothing has been lost,for she has combined her talents and her advocacy here in what surely must be the definitive philosophical and historical work about this movement that,belatedly,has transformed our society.”

    And it’s Playboy,Hugh Hefner,pornography in general,and the whole very sexist,gender divided,gender stereotyped,woman-hating(for no rational reasons and men are mindbogglingly born and nurtured by women) male dominated society that is the real nut job!( I wrote this in response to a woman-hater on the LA Times Blog that said Gloria has always been a nut job,in his response to Gloria saying this Playboy Club show should be boycotted) And Gloria was always beautiful inside and out and brilliant! I wrote to Gloria when I was 22 and she typed a wonderful letter back to me that her assistant told me she typed herself,and she signed it,with frienship Gloria Steinem.

    She wrote in her 1963 article when she went under cover as a Playboy Bunny as a journalist,that there were a few customers ,a very few,either men or women ,she said she counted ten,who looked at the Playboy Bunnies not as objects but smiled and nodded as if we might be humanbeings.See More You are *SO Ignorant*! Gloria Steinem was *Never* a “nut job in any way! Read a good accurate autobiography about her,and especially her own brilliant,sensible,caring important articles like in her excellent best selling book that orginally came out in 1983,Outrageous Acts And Every Day REbellions which is a collection of all of her excellent artcles mostly in Ms. Magazine from the late 1960’s to 1983.

    Alan Alda says in his review on the back of this book, “This very personal book speaks simple truths that are a much needed nourishment.” “Her book is like the woman herself:inteligent,concerned,articulate,precise,and never without a sense of humor and balance.” ” It will probably make it crystal clear to you why you are a feminist- even if you wren’t one before you read it.”

    And when she was interviewed by David Hartman on Good… Morning America in 1984 and he asked her how did she feel when she was working as a Playboy bunny,and she said like a piece of meat on a hook.David asked her about The Playboy Foundation and she said it’s all based on male insecurity,and she said it teaches men that you have to sexually dominate a woman and be superior to women in order to be a real man.When David Hartman asked her what is the message Playboy Magazine says about women,she said it says men are people and women are objects.

    If you read her excellent book,OutRageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,she says in her 1983 introduction section,”Eventually,dawning feminism made me understand that reporting about the phony glamour and exploitative employment policies of the Playboy Club was a useful and symbolic thing to do.” “But at the time,I had no protection against the sex jokes and changed attitudes that the Bunny article brought with it;and my heart sank whenever I was introduced as a former Playboy Bunny or found my employee photgraph published with little explanation in Playboy(“Even 20 years later,both these events continue.The latter is Playboy’s long-running revenge.”) “Though I always identified emotionally with other women,including the Bunnies I worked with,I had been educated to believe that my only chance for seriousness lay in proving my difference from them.”

    And in her 1983 post script to her orginal 1963 article,I Was A Playboy Bunny,she says,”Realizing that all women are bunnies.Since feminism I’ve finally stopped regretting that I wrote this article.” Gloria also wrote in her orginal 1963 article,I Was A Playboy Bunny,that there were a very few men and women,she said she counted ten,who smiled and nodded at the Bunnies as if they were not objects but might be humanbeings.

    She also said that Playboy continued publishing her employee photograph as a Bunny amid ever more pornographic photos of other Bunnies.She said the 1983 version insists in a caption that her article boosted Bunny recruiting.
    Rhea from the sadly former Women’s Alliance Against Pornography Education Project in Cambridge,back in January 1993 sent me many cartoons from Playboy and Penthouse of women being sexually harassed,used and sexually servicing their male bosses in the work place and they are horrible!

    I asked her what are these cartoons from,she said they are from Playboy and Penthouse. I said what are the men doing to women in the cartoons,are they raping them.She said yeah,they are all different things,you will have to see for yourself and then she said,they’re pretty bad.

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography put their own captions under the cartoons under a Penthouse cartoon of a man saying to his boss,who is holding a photocopy of just a woman’s huge breasts with no head,”This is my Christmas bonus? A xerox photo of your secretary’…s t**s?” THe Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote that Porn reduces women to the make-up of her body parts.

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote that Men are threatened by the concept of women’s equality under a Penthouse cartoon of a woman sitting on top of a phallic type nuclear warhead sucking on it with her legs open grasped around the tip of it,and The Penthouse caption has a man in a uniform talking to another man,saying,”Miss Oppenhawn,the newest member of our staff is a nuclear warhead specialist.”

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote that Porn teaches men that the only way of succeeding is by prostituting herself thereby removing the threat of equality.They wrote this under a Penthouse cartoon of a woman journalist with her hand in a man’s pants, and the Penthouse caption said,”Here I am again folks,out scooping those male journalists by interviewing an otherwise unapproachable diplomat.I suppose you’re all wondering how I do it.”Another from Playboy has a female employee with an upset humiliated expression on her face standing in front of her male boss’s desk with papers in her hand that she’s leaning on his desk, and the male boss says to her,”I had the most asmusing dream last night.Miss Grant-I dreamed you performed an unnatural sex act upon me.”

    Another Penthouse cartoon shows a woman standing outside of her boss’s office with the word President on the door and she’s talking to another woman,her co-worker and she has a huge candy cain stuck in her backside,and she says to her co-worker,”I guess you can’t expect much of a Chrstmas Bonus this year.”The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote under this,Pornography elicits contempt for women.

    A cartoon from Playboy had a male boss with an angry expression on his face barricading a woman employee on her desk with both of his arms around her,and she’s leaning away from him with a screaming upset expression on her face.The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography included this cartoon under their heading,Pornography elicits contempt for women.

    Another Playboy cartoon has a woman military officer looking upset and humiliated standing with two male military officers while one of them cuts her uniform off into pieces and she’s nude.There are other women military officers standing further in the backround on the side.The Playboy caption says,”Usually we just cut off the buttons.”

    Another from Penthouse has a male news caster sitting at a news desk reporting the news with a woman with big breasts in a low cut top sitting next to him.Penthouse’s caption has the male news caster saying, “Chet Carey here bringing you the news along with Miss Clover to provide relief by displaying her t*ts.”Another Penthouse cartoon has male doctors operating on a patient,while only a woman’s lower part of her body and legs are shown under one of the male doctors clothes,and their caption has him saying,”More suction”.

    The Women’s Alliance Against Pornography wrote under these that Woman’s only attributes are in her sexuality.Another cartoon from Penthouse has a nude big busted woman in bed with her male boss,and he’s smoking his after sex cigarette and she says,”Incidentally,I’m sorry I turned you in at the office for sexual harassment!”

    Another from Playboy has a male boss sitting behind a desk with a sign up behind him that says,Last-Minute Suggestions and his female employee is walking away holding a folder in her hand with an upset expression on her face,and the she says,”*Please* Mr.Fergusen! You can keep those last minute suggestions to yourself!.”

    Psychiatrist Linnea Smith sent me two huge folders of important research and information on the harms of pornography(she thanked me for my important efforts educating people on the harms of porn,and she said it’s especially difficult because the public is desensitized,and the media is reluctant to criticize other media,especially sexually explicit media) back when I wrote her and told her about my experience as a big busted beautiful 13 year old girl being molested by teen boys who used Playboy and how they even made references to the women in it and how one of the boys shoved a pornographic magazine into my face and said,here’s a picture of a girl fingering herself.

    Included in the research Dr.Smith sent me was other Playboy cartoons of women being sexually harassed on the job by their male bosses.Dr.Smith wrote on top of this photocopied page which has these cartoons on both sides, Job Harassment Sexual Harassment In The Workplace Has Been For Years A Popular Them For Cartoons In *Playboy* Magazine.One of these cartoons is of an overweight male boss with his femalke employee with an upset expression on her face trying to push him away and the caption has him saying,”Ms Beasly why are you resisting I voted for the ERA.”(the Equal Rights Amendment that was never passed).Another has a male boss in his office saying to his female employee,You want equality? Next time we’ll do it on your desk.”

    Playboy also promoted child sex abuse, including ,gang rapes of women and children,incest, and sexual murders of women and children as normal and as jokes in thousands of cartoons,articles and even some pictures for over 30 years! Check out psychiatrist Linnea Smith’s excellent site talkintrash she has a section,Another Look At Centerfolds where she has *tons* of strong excellent research studies on harms of pornography!

    Playboy also promoted child sex abuse, including ,gang rapes of women and children,incest, and sexual murders of women and children as normal and as jokes in thousands of cartoons,articles and even some pictures for over 30 years!

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  10. comingeast says:

    Great post! When I was growing up, women had three basic choices of careers: teachers, nurses, or secretaries. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I’m not a Bachman fan, but she wasn’t given much of a chance in that first Republican debate. The media had determined that there are really only two candidates, Romney and Perry, and they received the biggest portion of time. Plus, look how Clinton was treated when she ran for President.

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    • Thanks for commenting! I think this is so important; this generation has no idea of what women incurred and still do. My mother was discouraged from going to pharmacy school- not a career for a woman in the 1950’s.

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  11. Maggie L R says:

    Thanks for this post. I remember when I was graduating from a small town highschool in 1966, the choices for woman were limited. I was never encouraged to go to University, ( that was for boys and rich girls whose families wanted them to meet a rich young man to marry). I had three choices nurse, secretary or get married and become a mom. It saddens me that too many young girls still think that getting pregnant is thier ticket to freedom. I did get married right away, but found I needed to work and without that precious education, I was limited. There was no freedom.
    We have come a long way and we must never forget or the past will repeat itself.

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