Do you think Hugh Heffner is a feminist?

Well, he does and considers Playboy to be a feminist magazine as well! All is documented in the book Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy, which I’d actually heard of for ages before I  read it. I was mistaken in thinking it was one of those books written by a woman about how awful women are. Thankfully, it’s not that – more a considered commentary on the rise of raunch in our culture and how we are perhaps buying into something which isn’t about empowerment at all.

It’s a pretty easy book to read, its tone casual and conversational – not an easy task with such a nuanced subject but Levy tackles the different issues in a simplistic way and from that point of view I would really recommend it to people who perhaps are a bit put off or intimidated by reading ‘feminist literature’. For all the world when you’re reading the book you can imagine Levy sitting with you and your friends discussing these issues over a bottle of wine.

The book is, like The Equality Illusion and Reclaiming the F word, useful to campaigners in that it breaks down a complex topic into insightful observations and intriguing questions which can be posed when having the next heated debate about why those hunky dory ads were so wrong.

Personally, I find the topic of sexualisation, porn and gender equality a difficult one to discuss with detractors as it’s so complex one can often become tongue tied trying to explain it in a simple way because to win arguments you have to present your argument in a simpler, more appealing way than the other person. One of the things this book does, and the other two I mention, is provide you with a space to explore language of your own in discussing it. The book also poses a lot of questions which aren’t necessarily answered but are there for you, the reader, to dwell on and digest.

If you’ve read in-depth on the topic of sex in the media and portrayal of women, I don’t think you’ll find anything new in the book but for people who perhaps want to dip their toes into the topic, it is definitely worth a read. As the author is American, most of the book is based around the American culture but I would venture to say it’s not a million miles away from the Irish experience.

I think probably my favourite discussion in the book and definitely one that needs more discussion here at home is the idea that young women use sex more to gain status rather than as  a way to express or satisfy their own desires and wants. This is something I go on about a lot – the idea that women actually want sex and the same desires that a man has because we’re all human and we all have the most base of human wants. Yet our society tells us that somehow it’s easier for women to keep our legs closed than a guy to keep his zip closed. Something I find quite bizarre.

Anyway back to the book – worth a read but given its basis on anecdotal stories and subjective opinions, perhaps not one for academic research.

I’ve promised my copy to a friend but after that if someone wants to borrow it, just email into and we’ll sort something out!



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2 Responses to Do you think Hugh Heffner is a feminist?

  1. Pingback: Hugh Heffner – a feminist? « The Pretty Serpent

  2. Lorna says:

    I have read Female Chauvinist Pigs and thought it was a truly fantastic read. I had to read it for a class i took while on Erasmus in Boston and I subsequently wrote a paper on the content of the book and breakdown of Levi’s arguments. I was also lucky enough to hear her speak on the book itself when she paid a visit to my university and I found her to be a great speaker with highly intelligent and well thought out ideas. As the above article says, Levi’s great strength is in putting a very complex feminist issue into an easy to digest format and thus making feminist ideas more accessible and understandable. Her examples of raunch culture such as the making of “Girls Gone Wild” and the Playboy Bunny industry really strip away the supposed “its all just a bit of fun” attitutude that goes with them and exposes the real dangers and damaging consequences that such behaviors can have on women and especially young girls in realising their own sexuality and sexual desires. Important stuff!

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