Monday, 27 June 2011
Saturday, 11 June 2011
The Playboy Club opened in London last weekend. I won't lie, I'm a bit gutted I didn't get to go - I think my long-standing dedication to Girls of The Playboy Mansion should've granted me at least one overpriced cocktail in The Cottontail Lounge before they threw me out on my long, furry ear. Anyway, as I understand it, there was a flurry of feminists outside, gathered in protest. I'll admit that I've never really delved into what feminism means to me before, much preferring the general, shruggy manifesto of "I think I'm empowered, therefore I am empowered." I've never read The Second Sex, or The Feminine Mystique, and just thought of Germaine Greer as quite a cool old lady who I ran into once in the toilets at Victoria station. Not the best place to grill someone on the ins and outs of feminist theory. But having considered it a lot recently, I think my singular belief in personal empowerment can only go so far. After all, I'm only one individual - I still have to reside in a wider society that may have a differing reality to my personal one.
I work in an industry dominated by women, I've never gone up against a man in an interview, I would even go so far as to say my sex is crucial to the work I do. Sexism in the workplace just isn't an issue for me; the glass ceiling that may effect my friends is not really something a girl in fashion ponders. Having said that, who's at the very top of the game? Philip Green, Charles Townsend; even Natalie Massenet now has to answer to the suited Messrs. of Richemont. Coincidence? Inequality? Out and out gender discrimination? I have no idea anymore. And if this all seems a pretty basic argument, it's because I'm still getting to grips with the rudiments of my beliefs, after having been a fan of Playboy for so long.
I love Hef, only seeing him as a sanitised, cuddly Uncle figure that isn't really having sex with untold blondes night after night…is he? Regardless of what I think of that and his pioneering of society from prim and starchy to sexualised and free, his civil rights activism deserves the utmost respect. After watching the above documentary, I realised there's a stark, almost jarring, duality to Hef, just like there's a duality to most people and just like there's a duality to what Playboy has meant for society. He's charming, intelligent, captivating, perverted (yes, a little - some might say a lot), and as old-fashioned as he is forward-thinking. He fought for racial equality, freedom of speech, pro-choice and the anti-war movement. He published blacklisted writers, pieces challenging homophobia, opened the doors of his nightclubs to both black and white patrons - unthinkable in those days. He created an iconic, revolutionary brand, without which the world would never be the same.
It's hard to tally all this with the chauvinist monster he's painted as. He began Playboy in the 50s when times were very different - is it realistic to expect him to pack up and go home when he's still heading up a successful brand? Or to change his ideology at 85? Perhaps the damage is done anyway. Like The Boy asked me last night, can a man go to a club like that, then flick a switch the next day and see women as complete equals in the office? Certainly not all men. So does the Playboy club just make things worse for how seriously women are taken in general? *Wave of massively late realisation*. Yes. Yes it does. Hef paved the way for women to express their sexuality but objectified them in the same breath. He opened the floodgates for sexual female empowerment but couldn't stop, or even predict, the tidalwave of change it brought about. And just as contradictory as he seems, as am I. I like the fact that women can dress a certain way and get a reaction from men. I like that I have the choice between dressing as a bunny, or in a burka; that I can serve drinks dressed in a corset, or serve a summons dressed in a suit. I have no idea where this places me on the '4th wave of feminism' spectrum, (no doubt somewhere at the bottom along with my old pals, hair extensions and pouting), but it can never be a bad thing that I'm now considering where I stand. And if I go out tonight wearing a crotch-skimming skirt, at least I'll be thinking about what my choice to wear it actually means; for me, and for society.