Hefner should not be idolized for his minor activism and objectification of women

Photo courtesy of Flickr  Hugh Hefner’s wax figure lounging in his Playboy mansion at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Las Vegas, arguably did more for feminism than the man himself. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Hugh Hefner’s wax figure lounging in his Playboy mansion at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Las Vegas, arguably did more for feminism than the man himself. 

BY CHLOE JENSEN ’20

After the death of Playboy Enterprises owner and founder, Hugh Hefner this past week, many people said he should be acknowledged for his advocacy of the early feminist and LGBTQ rights movement. However, despite his early efforts to normalize LGBTQ people and the feminist movement, his support was built on the premise of profit rather than the movements themselves. Hugh Hefner is absolutely not the LGBTQ supporter or feminist icon that we need, and his exploitation and objectification of women makes that clear. 

Although Hefner was an early proponent of gay rights, his stance was spotty at best and manipulative at worst. Hefner’s support of women and LGBTQ people came when it benefited him, using the 1970s feminist movement focused on sexual liberation and the early gay rights movement to sell magazines. 

In other words, Hefner was a supporter of the early feminist movement and LGBTQ rights movement, but that was all under the guise of this multi-million dollar company that was inherently anti-women. It is very convenient for this industry to claim that they are pro-sex and pro-women when that gave them an excuse to increase their sales. 

In many ways, associating women’s liberation with overtly sexual and degrading imagery and LGBTQ rights with the implication of sexual promiscuity only continues to promote negative stereotypes of our respective communities. Connecting the LGBTQ movement with pornography reinforces a harmful stereotype that has stayed with the community for years: that our love is somehow more perverse than heterosexual love. In the fight for sexual liberation, the feminist movement has also been inappropriately associated with sexual deviancy. 

Both of these communities need strong, unified supporters: people who will continue to uplift the positive aspects of the communities instead of dangerous, decades-old stereotypes. We need women and LGBTQ people, and those of other marginalized identities — not a straight white man trying to make a profit. 

It is much easier to claim that a publication that relies on the objectification of women and their bodies is pro-women with “feminist intentions” than it is to consider the fact that this industry is built entirely on the wants and needs of men. Noticeably, no one ever praises the women who pose for these shoots as feminist icons who dare to live their sex-lives shame free; they are the ones who are taunted and shamed for the rest of their careers. 

Many people idolize or excuse the actions of white men in positions of power. Rather than seek out spokespersons who are women or actual LGBTQ people, especially those of other marginalized identities, people often place men like Hefner on an undeserved pedestal. A lot of this rhetoric follows the “at least he did something” guidelines, and rewards powerful white men for doing the bare minimum, while ignoring the damage they cause along the way. 

 

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