The late Hugh Hefner founded Playboy Magazine in 1953. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Everybody knew of him as the misogynist, male chauvinist pig who took advantage of women to grow his millions. You’ve seen him plastered on billboards in his red velvet robe with women less than half his age wrapped around his arm. He’s the west coast of 1849 America, attracting young women to follow the Oregon Trail to the doorstep of his mansion. Ah, Hugh Hefner, what are you trying to accomplish here?
The founder of Playboy Magazine, it is no secret that he is a womanizer plain and simple, his doing so on such a tremendous scale shifted the tide much more than one may think at first glance. His creation of the magazine started a new wave of media which corrupted how women were portrayed in popular culture. His magazine inspired the sexualization of women in advertisements, movies, video games and other media.
Nonetheless, its impact on American youth and the feminist movement is two-sided. There can be an argument made that these actions were considered liberating and supportive of women, however it is also apparent that those actions were degrading women.
In our society, there is no place for a culture which degrades women. Though there were feminist movements which date back to the 15th century, they were not taken very seriously until the 20th century. One of the easiest and most important things we can do to stop these judgements is by studying them in the classroom.
Nancy Selleck, an English professor at UMass Lowell who has studied and used feminist theory for over 25 years, offers some insight to the issue. I got the opportunity to ask her about the importance of feminism, especially at the college campus level. Professor Selleck expressed the concern with studying topics such as feminism at universities, suggesting how “it is essential that such study represents a full range of social and political perspectives in order to allow students to develop a well-informed understanding of the world and their role in it.”
Magazines like Playboy pollute these perspectives, distorting the validity of topics such as feminism to their audience. Their lack of acknowledgment to these issues regarding women’s equality and promotion of women as objects of sex is a completely inappropriate and destructive ideology. This can become especially dangerous in places like college campuses, where we are seeing more cases of sexual assault and rape every day.
Zach Boudrot, a senior at UMass Lowell studying peace and conflict who has analyzed domestic issues such as these, noted how this increase was no coincidence. He explained how the intellectual market becomes diluted when it depends on partisan sources of media. Likewise, misinformed interpretations of women by media like Playboy can lead to them being treated with a lack of respect by those who let their opinions be influenced by such sources.
Nonetheless, studying feminism on the campus can help students disregard any inaccurate or demeaning views imposed on them, leading to a greater understanding on their surrounding culture and respect to those who are misrepresented in it.