Monday, 2 October 2017

HEFNER VS FEMINISM: SAMIRA AHMED (AND ME) IN THE GUARDIAN ON PLAYBOY

Samira Ahmed has written a piece on Hugh Hefner for the Guardian, on the place of Playboy and Hugh Hefner in the culture wars of the 1970s. You can link to it here. I'm quoted in it a few times. As I had just written on him for TLS and talked about him on BBC Radio 4 Last Word (see previous posts) we wound up discussing part of his place in our respective cultural developments--mostly at the point where, as I mention in the TLS, Hef had ceased to a 'revolutionary' and more a marketer widening out from the middle-brow middle-class which was his original target with Playboy.  As you might glean from the quotes, the discussion was spirited and fun: where it should have taken place was on BBC Radio 4 Front Row, but sadly Hef didn't schedule his death conveniently enough.

The first black playmate actually arrived in the pages of the magazine, via the Chicago Playboy club, in 1965: a better way of looking at the racial mix of playmates might be to consider how close they adhered to the template that Hef had established. I always assumed Hef thought of himself as a classic liberal as far as race relations went, but that didn't change what were his fetishes regarding the girl next door. I loved Samira's take on the London Playboy Club, and her parents' visits their on business (it was the only place in London to get a decent steak, she told me they said). As I said, we should've had this talk on the radio!

I thought Samira's take on IVF, that women use it because they are forced to wait for men's immaturity to pass, was a bit harsh. I would have guessed that a bigger factor was women's desire to get ahead on the business ladder while they are young, knowing that motherhood is most often a set-back on the corporate ladder. This is, of course, the ethos of a male-dominated world, and it raises a basic dilemma about feminism, and indeed other liberation philosophies: do you work to change society's mores, to open up opportunities for all, or do you reach out to grab your fair share of what society offers, within the existing mores. Samira mentioned Gloria Steinem and Debby Harry as former Bunnies with different attitudes; you might look at say Erica Jong's Fear Of Flying and the 'zipless fuck' as a way of simply appropriating the Playboy philosophy for women.

And the Guardian, being the Guardian, spelled hippie 'hippy' in the copy, meaning that even though it was my quite, when I saw 'hippy chicks' in print my first thought was confusion over what being broad-beamed had to do with anything. But they have made the same 'correction' to my copy when I've written for them too!

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