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The Playboy Club: Empowering For Women?

The Playboy Club Cast Says Being a Bunny Was Empowering

NBC's The Playboy Club is debuting this Fall, and the show centers on bunnies at a Playboy Club in '60s Chicago (the city where the first Playboy Club opened in 1960). Taking a cue from Mad Men and its own Playboy Club connection, the show glamorizes the scantily clad bunnies and the male-centered time period they lived in. The cast has been well-prepped on defending the show from critics who hear Playboy and think centerfold, with leading lady Amber Heard saying this at the Summer TCAs:

"Maureen by no means relies on any character, male or female, as you'll see throughout her journey, and it's empowering. This is about choice, ultimately. It was a different generation, there were different opportunities and different expectations for women . . . It's chauvinistic to deny a woman her sexuality. If they are making the choice, then they're not being exploited."

I'm sorry, but while the bunnies at these clubs kept their clothes on, serving groping men while dressed in a sexed-up bunny suit wasn't about female empowerment, and it's definitely a leap to describe it as "chauvinistic" to say otherwise. These women were doing what they had to do to get by; they weren't celebrating their sexuality.

Gloria Steinem recently opened up in Interview magazine about going undercover as a bunny at a Playboy Club in 1963 and the exposé that followed. She said, ". . . I identified with all the women who ended up an underpaid waitress in too-high heels and a costume that was too tight to breathe in. Most were just trying to make a living and had no other way of doing it. I'd made up a background as a secretary, and the woman who interviewed me asked, 'Honey, if you can type, why would you want to work here?'"


Now I haven't seen the show yet, but from the commercials and the cast and creator's descriptions that include words like "fantastic and imaginative," "nostalgia," and "fantasy world," I don't imagine the hard realities of why these women worked in bunny ears will be examined, while the glamorous costumes and classic music will sugarcoat the era.

What do you think? Do shows like The Playboy Club and the upcoming '60s-stewardess-centered drama Pan Am idealize and glamorize women's objectified past? Or is it just harmless nostalgia looking at how far we've come?

Join The Conversation
lizlee89 lizlee89 5 years
Oh, and the truth is that there is still an immense amount of this scenario - either stay home or be objectified - going on in the entertainment and fashion industries. Models, singers, dancers, and actresses are expected to look a certain way and do very sexualized things. Granted, there are plenty of female entertainers who are able to carve niches for themselves that do not require being sexualized, but these industries are obsessed with sex, and women who continue to partake in such blatant objectification aren't much better than the men (and women, unfortunately) - producers, directors, writers, etc. - who require it...
lizlee89 lizlee89 5 years
I, for one, am sick of women who have been so desensitized and brainwashed by the constant objectification of women every avenue of entertainment saying that things like this show "empower women." You can claim that you, as a woman, are making the choice or women at the time were making the choice, yet BOTH THESE CLUBS AND THIS SHOW WERE CREATED BY MEN! It would be one thing if you claim that this show portrays a historical reality in which women were forced to either stay at home or become sex objects, but to say that those women were empowered by being lusted at and mistreated is just naive...
hottopiccasey hottopiccasey 5 years
To Annie- That totally reminds me of how women see Victoria's Secret as empowering. I don't think becoming a man's ideal is empowering at all. I could see how being a Bunny could be seen as liberating because in a way, they were owning their own sexuality and having power over men.
zeze zeze 5 years
Very well-said Annie.
stephley stephley 5 years
:notworthy: Annie
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 5 years
It's cute to look back at the Bunnies with post-feminist glasses and think that it was empowering, but in actuality, Bunnies were treated as things, not people. And it wasn't exactly a job in which Bunnies called the shots. (Imagine losing your job because you gained more than a pound.) I don't understand why people mistake objectification for empowerment. If the only way you can feel power is by taking off your clothes, that's conditional empowerment — which isn't very powerful at all.
bryseana bryseana 5 years
It is a choice. Whether it's empowering depends on the individual's perspective.
ledukdo ledukdo 5 years
To stephley, Of course there is a "huge" difference between a member and an employee. I was commenting from the member perspective, that they could not grope the Bunny's. As previously stated, whatever else happened during Steinhem's tenure (whether it was employees, or members groping, empowering/exploitation of the Bunny's, etc.) before formulating an opinion and writing about it, there should be more than one source for credibility sake.
stephley stephley 5 years
Gloria Steinham wrote that article in 1963 - a decade or more before the mid 70s - a decade that saw serious social upheaval. And there's a huge difference between being a club 'member' and an employee, no matter how hip the club wants to be.
ledukdo ledukdo 5 years
Everytime I read Steinem's comments about "her time" as a Bunny, only leads me to believe she went undercover with one focus... expose only the negative, not a balanced written piece. As to how true it really was in Gloria's time (she was there, I was not), having been a Playboy Club member from the mid-seventies till the Clubs closed, I know first hand there was no grouping or "strip club" antics with the Bunny's. Upon entering the Club, you adhered to the rules. If not, you would be escorted out and your membership would be revoked. In other words, YOU COULD NOT TOUCH THEM. That does not mean, some members did not/could not hook up after hours. As to whether it was empowering or not, one would have to ask other former Bunnies besides Steinem (who did it only for her article) for a clearer perspective. Unfortunately, the writer appears to have already passed judgement based solely on one perspective, and a tainted one at that. You're bias is showing. In investigative and/or research writing/reporting, one needs more than one source in order to produce a credible published work. That is Basic 101 stuff learned as an undergraduate.
sassandahalf sassandahalf 5 years
I'm floored that this generation finds objectification empowering. Several generations of women before them worked SO hard to get us beyond this. They're free to choose to exhibit themselves this way, but they seem do so with NO foresight. It will make them miserable about themselves in the future, and make future generations of women and girls miserable. They need to aim higher than their lady parts. It's pathetic.
stephley stephley 5 years
"Or is it just harmless nostalgia looking at how far we've come?" If it's harmless nostalgia, should we look forward to comedies about segregation and the WWII internment camps. I'd like to see how empowering Heard would find it if she had to deal with good old fashioned casting couches, and regular slaps on the butt from her male co-stars.
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