"...normalizes a passive dominant idea of gender. So it normalizes prostitution and male dominance."
When I read this my first thought was, maybe Ms. Steinem should actually watch the show before she condemns it. After all, as far as we know the show accurately depicts the sexism of a pre-feminism society. Steinem respects Mad Men for doing exactly that. So why is she so quick to assume that's not going to be the case her
NBC and the producers of the show have been predictably enthusiastic about it. NBC Entertainment Chairman, Robert Greenblatt says:
"I don't think it will be like Mad Men. I think it is a really fun soap."
When I read this I thought, okay, maybe it won't represent the sexism of the time accurately but is that really so horrible? After all, there have always been women who firmly reject Steinem's definition of feminism. Some women willingly choose, even covet, the opportunity to live the Playboy Bunny lifestyle. We saw it in The Girls Next Store. We tolerate the playboy like groupies that are a permanent fixture in Entourage. We rewarded Showtime's Secret Diary Of A Call Girl with impressive ratings. So this is another male-fantasy show that might have enough silly soapy goodness to attract women. Fine. It's just not something I can get myself too riled up about.
And then I read Playboy Club's producer Chad Hodge's remarks about his new show:
"The show is all about empowerment and who these women can be, and how they can use the club to be anyone they want."
When I read that I thought, Chad, sweetie? Don't make me go all Gloria Steinem on your ass. See I have no problem with NBC creating a show about women who enjoy being Playboy bunnies. Despite Steniem's well renowned and revolutionary expose that she wrote after going undercover as a real Playboy Club Bunny in 1963 I do believe that some women were happy with their professional bunny status. But the idea that women could use the Playboy Club to be "anything they want," hints at a limited and somewhat misogynistic imagination. Could you use the Playboy club to help launch an acting, singing or modeling career? Undoubtedly. In fact you could still do that today. But could a woman use it to launch her career as a politician? A lawyer? A nuclear physicist? I'm gonna go with no. And no matter what your end goal is, being ogled by strangers and objectified at your workplace is not empowering and never has been. Women who use Playboy to get their musical careers off to a strong start see it as a necessary evil or if not an evil at least an uncomfortable but strategic career move. Keep in mind, were not talking about women who were actually on the cover of Playboy. We're talking about women who were all wearing the exact same outfit, each presented as just one of many sexy women that were there to cater to the men at the Playboy Club. You can make a fun soap out of that by showing us that these women are individuals with their own unique ambitions and ideas about ambition, love and sex. But you can't make the club a tool of empowerment.
But again, I haven't seen the show and I'm not willing to rule out the possibility that Hodge was simply being inartful in his description of the show. So I'm going to hold off judgement. Ironically the controversy Steinem helped create has virtually insured that I will watch at least one or two episodes if for no other reason than that I want to have an informed opinion about it.
I'm just crossing my fingers that by the end of the premier I'm smiling not cringing.
Bestselling Author of:
The Sophie Katz Murder Mystery Series,
SO MUCH FOR MY HAPPY ENDING