To Feminists, the death of Hugh Hefner last week was good riddance.
For six decades, Hefner exploited women and made a fortune out his Playboy Mansion and the media empire he built. He publicly, led a lecherous life, bedding 1,000 women some a quarter his age, thanks greatly to Viagra. He made pornography a globally commercial empire. And for using women that way, Feminists never forgave him.
Gloria Steinem, one of the more admirable feminists from the 1960s went undercover seeking a job at the mansion as a bunny (a waitress at the Playboy Clubs) and reported activities inside the Playboy mansion. Women had to dress in a certain way, however punitive to satiate the amorous desires of men who came to the club. And since the piece was written, Hefner was always at war with women and particularly feminists.
When Hefner happened on the scene, America was a prudish and sexually repressed country. At the time, the crackdown on Communism and free speech by Joseph McCathy was at its pick. But Hefner, in a large way changed all this, by ‘freeing’ women and using his publication to publish some of the famous writers and intellectuals from around America and the world. Alex Hailey, Malcolm X’s biographer, Nadine Gordimer, one of the most outspoken critics of apartheid, to Norman Mailer were given a platform to write their stories.
If you took away the seedy pictures of naked women, the Playboy Magazine was not actually that bad. But it was known more for the pornography, than any other editorial weight it may have carried, especially to women.
As the feminist wax furious about the celebration of Hefner as having freed the female body, made sex glamorous, opened up space for free-speech, championed abortion rights, I think sometimes they should chill and take a second look.
Gloria Steinem, who first called out Hefner in 1963
Over the years, what we call exploitation of the female body, or sex, has been re-examined. Before I delve into this, I need to mention that as a conservative Adventist, I don’t approve the lifestyle Hefner led, nor how he used women. In fact, I have constantly disappointed some of my older male friends who often ask to hook them up with younger women for quick sex. I have never been a pimp in life.
But on Hefner, hip-hop, and how women are used in the media, I have taken time to ask, if the Feminism Prism is should be the only rationale of judging the Hugh Hefners of this world. I mean, more than 50 per cent of white women voted for Trump, despite his condescending and misogynist views of women. It makes it difficult to establish what women want. I have met educated and exposed women who claimed that they like their men rough, with some thug appeal, and they don’t mind being treated like dirt from time to time and that scares me.
Most women are usually pushed t certain career paths, such as prostitution because of poverty. I do have a number of relatives who took that path, some getting hooked on it, and some bumping into a man who married them and rescued them from the dreadful life. But barring the poor, I meet more and more women ready to use their bodies however they want to use them. Socialites like Huddah Monroe and Verah Sidika have milked the endless desire of men for nudes to make a career and money out of it. Some may view it as empowerment, as there is nothing to be ashamed of the female body. Some say, they make it easy for women to ghettoized always. To be viewed of nothing more than sex objects.
It is complicated. I have a relation whose sole job is to recruit young college girls to attend high end parties, from where rich men, mostly middle-aged politicians pick them for sex and some quick change and flashy electronics. Do we blame naivete, or the crass materialism that defines our age?
What of those women, who use to use what nature endowed them with, to be gold diggers. It is a conscious choice. Ken Saro Wiwa, in one of the best pieces by any African writer, a Short Story, titled African Kills Her Sun, the main character meets a beautiful prostitute in St Pauli Hamburg. After sex, the character asks the woman why she was a prostitute. She replied that some girls choose to be secretaries in offices, others to be nurses. She had chosen prostitution as a career. It made the character as himself if why he had chosen the path he had taken after school. He skipped the shipping job, and took a job as a clerk at the Ministry of Defense, where he came face to face with the open looting of the country, prompting him to become an armed, robber. Read the rest of the story.
Point is, there are people who make various life choices and it is elitist, sometimes shallow to decide that your view is the only way.
There are women who derive meaning dancing in hip-hop videos. They are not there because they are poor, forced, or stupid. I have met many intelligent women who listen and dance to Jamaican ragga, something that I deem as the worst music and I grew to respect choices.
There will always be Hugh Hefners. There will always be Kim Kardashians, there will always be Amber Roses. What is you deem as disempowering and exploitation, some people can turn it around to be empowering, it is always a point a view.
Some scholars have observed that women make more from pornography and pornography is a female forte than it is a man’s forte. There is credence to the argument.
Writing in the Sunday Nation in the aughts, Ugandan Journalist and scholar said, if men can make money using their bodies, like in boxing, then women have a right to use their bodies however they deem it feet.
What I will suggest is that we make it possible for women to have more choices so that pornography and prostitution is never their first choice.