Should Hugh Hefner really be idolised?

Gabija Gataveckaite

When news first broke that Hugh Hefner had passed away last week, for a brief shining moment the world was awash with awe and praise. People took to Twitter to recollect some of his finer moments; the success, the startlingly beautiful women, the silk pyjamas. It wasn’t long before the harsh reality of Playboy was unveiled: the awful treatment of Hefner’s many girlfriends coupled with the ridiculous rules of the Playmates that lived in the Playboy Mansion. Hefner’s success was vast, but his exploitation of women is no secret. Which begs the question: should we admire men who use thousands of women to pave a path to success?

In today’s society, I believe this sort of admiration has no place. It can be argued that all incredibly successful people, both men and women, use and exploit all resources possible, sometimes even other individuals, to climb to the top. Hefner didn’t stop there. He built a magazine on a very clear basis that women are sexual objects, with large breasts and mile-long legs, corseted at the waist and hair bleached blonde.

He had hundreds of girlfriends; Playmates, who lived in the Playboy Mansion, as well as Bunnies, who served as waitresses at the many Playboy clubs worldwide. In 1963, journalist Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Bunny and wrote of long hours spent on very high heels and very low wages. Similarly, the Playmates, the girls who lived in the Playboy Mansion as Hefner’s personal girlfriends, were expected to engage in ‘sexual favours’, follow a curfew and never have male visitors.

The Playboy magazine wasn’t just a ‘dirty mag’, it evolved way past that. Clubs opened globally, the Mansion was built and Playboy became a household name in the 50s. Playboy was the brand that jump-started the sexual revolution. Although this movement has its benefits, it was based on degrading women and seeing them as sex goddesses.

Those who brand Hefner as a ‘legend’ or ‘icon’ may say that he deserves our admiration because of his campaigns for contraception, abortion and the sexual revolution. Purely based on those facts, I agree, as those are all necessary elements of a contemporary world. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Hefner was a hedonist – he believed in dominating life in pleasures. Abortion and contraception are the mere ingredients that helped him live this hedonistic life as care-free as possible.

I believe in giving credit where credit is due: Hefner was a gifted businessman. However, I don’t believe in idolising men who took advantage and exploited many others – particularly vulnerable, young women – for his own gain. Without his millions and mansions, Hefner would just be any other 92-year-old, lusting after young beautiful women – how creepy is that?

When a celebrity dies, it’s important to remember their true legacy. Yes, Hefner was an employer as well as a businessman. He launched the careers of many and brought on the badly-needed sexual revolution across the globe. However, he built his empire on the notion of a woman’s sole purpose being to satisfy men and to look beautiful; the idea that to exploit women for sexual purposes was the right thing to do.

Gabija Gataveckaite

Image Credit AMP