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Hugh Hefner wasn’t a feminist, and we should stop crediting him for being one

by Dana Tsuri-Etzioni, Opinion Editor

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Hugh Hefner was the ultimate advocate for the objectification of women, and with his death ends an era. But is the end of this era, one that includes the Playboy Mansion and Playboy magazine being run by Hefner himself, such a bad thing? Although people deserve to be recognized for their life and accomplishments after their death, what Hefner did during his lifetime was distasteful and not all of it should be celebrated.

In “Down the Rabbit Hole,” by Holly Madison, the former Playmate says Hefner’s demands led to body image issues for the bunnies in the mansion. She said he encouraged women to compete with one another and to live their lives based on pleasing men.

Hefner is being lauded as being an activist for women’s rights and empowerment, but the opposite is true. Hefner was no feminist.

Feminists encourage women to feel powerful in their own skin and to not have to change to please anyone. Hefner may have encouraged women to feel free sexually, but he did so for all the wrong reasons — to gain money and fame from Playboy magazine.

According to the market research firm Wealth-X, Hefner was worth at least $110 million. He made money off of exploiting these women and treating them as objects.

With Hefner’s death came many tributes from “bunnies” and celebrities. Following his death, many took to Twitter to pay tribute to Hefner. Although his life should be celebrated — he was a human being after all — women should think twice about the role he played in society. “Remembering an American icon and a true pop culture trailblazer,” supermodel Cindy Crawford wrote on Twitter about Hefner. Hefner “(made) the world a better place. A freer and sexier place,” shared actress and model Pamela Anderson on Instagram.

Although only the people that knew him personally can claim whether or not he was a good person, judgments can be made about whether he made the world a better place. Yes, he was an American icon — Playboy is a term most Americans would recognize and it’s all because of Hefner. But was what he became iconic for moral? Can he really be credited with making the world a better place when he objectified women and profited off them?

“A feminist is somebody who looks at men and women as equal. I think if you look at Hefner’s magazine and his own relationships with women, the women were objectified,” said San Diego State professor of women’s studies, Dr. Esther Rothblum. “He liked to portray himself as having several girlfriends and being surrounded by women, and that in no way is an equal feminist relationship.”

Not only was Hefner not a feminist, he was damaging to the movement.

“He was harmful for women’s rights,” said Rothblum. “Hefner mainstreamed pornography, and made a lot of things visible in media that weren’t seen before. A lot of that focused on objectifying women.”

If Hefner were truly a feminist like many credit him with being, he would have women of all shapes, sizes and colors depicted on the cover of his magazine. Many of the women portrayed on the cover of Playboy were supermodels and women who are deemed the “ideal” body type by society. The ideal that feminists try to counter.

Many young women don’t view Hefner as being a feminist or a positive influence on women’s rights.

“Hefner clearly viewed women as sexual objects. In his eyes, their jobs were solely to please men, mostly through their looks and sexual appeal,” said psychology sophomore Kiley Borchard.

Women should feel encouraged to be as sexually free as they please. But Hefner utilized women’s sexuality to his advantage and to please other men.

“The intentions Hefner had when he started the magazine don’t seem to align with feminist values,” said biology sophomore Kaeli Leoni.

Hefner’s life should be celebrated. People should pay him tribute. But don’t credit him as being a feminist — he did nothing positive for women’s rights.

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