Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gloria Steinem vs. Playboy (by Suzie)

HBO will debut the documentary
"Gloria: In Her Own Words" at 9 p.m. EDT Monday. I expect archival footage and great quotes, such as this one in the Vancouver Sun:
The hierarchical response has two poles. The very worst men are into sadomasochism, and the very best men are into nostalgia.
Two new shows nostalgic for the sexy fun of the early '60s are "The Playboy Club," which starts Sept. 19 on
NBC, followed by "Pan Am" Sept. 25 on ABC. Barbara and Shannon Kelley write in the Huff Post:
What these two new series have in common is the insistence by their producers that when you eliminate the girdles, the cleavage and the bunny dips, the shows are really about women's empowerment.
I have some hope for "Pan Am." I can see the empowering aspect of flying around the world, but I also recall the harassment and other forms of discrimination that flight attendants have faced. (Here's a timeline, in case you don't know.)

Steinem notes that AMC's acclaimed "Mad Men," also set in the '60s, portrays women with some realism, making it a "net positive." Not so "The Playboy Club," which Matt Roush of TV Guide describes as "a muddled and murky mix of misogyny, music and Chicago mob intrigue ..."

As a journalist in 1963, Steinem went undercover in New York City's Playboy Club and exposed conditions for the waitresses, called Bunnies. She said they were harassed; they had to have pelvic exams and be tested for syphilis; and they didn't always get the wages they had been promised. Steinem told Reuters:
Clearly "The Playboy Club" is not going to be accurate. It was the tackiest place on earth. It was not glamorous at all.
It normalizes a passive/dominant idea of gender. So it normalizes prostitution and male dominance ... I just know that over the years, women have called me and told me horror stories of what they experienced at the Playboy Club and at the Playboy Mansion.
(Btw, print media have reported this quote without the slash mark between passive and dominant. What were they thinking?)

Women who worked at the Playboy Club in Dallas in the '70s and '80s had a reunion last year, and a writer for the Dallas Morning News reveled in the nostalgia. He describes the club's mystique. In the late '70s, if I recall correctly, I went with a friend whose father had a membership. We thought it was all so ridiculous that we danced the equivalent of Monty Python's silly walks. I also enjoyed beating the would-be playboys at electronic trivia games. But I don't expect the TV show to feature that kind of fun.