Feminist writer and Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem is calling for a preemptive boycott of the upcoming NBC drama The Playboy Club – and we think it is unnecessary and a little pointless.
Steinem worked undercover as an official Bunny at the New York City gentlemen’s club in 1963 in order to write a major exposé of the scene. “It normalizes a passive dominant idea of gender. So it normalizes prostitution and male dominance,” she told Reuters. “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.” Before her exposé called attention to the practice, Bunnies had to submit to medical exams to see if they had STDs.
NBC executives have called the show, set at the original Playboy Club in Chicago in the 1960s, a “really fun drama,” and the show’s own producer says it’s “all about empowering these women to be whatever they want to be.”
It makes me cringe when I hear men claim that women tiptoeing around in skimpy costumes serving cocktails to lecherous bros is “empowering.” But I can’t say that Steinem’s call to boycott the show makes much more sense, or is likely to be effective. If The Playboy Club is any good, it will presumably have to appeal to both men and women and include at least a small dose of realism. If it’s terrible, it will disappear quickly, and Steinem’s boycott will only give it more attention. An NBC affiliate in Utah is already refusing to air the show on socially conservative grounds, which probably means the show has enough juice to make everyone unhappy — which often means big ratings.
Meanwhile, if we’re going to start waging campaigns against misogynist TV shows about women with “club” in the title, let’s give The Playboy Club a break and turn our attention to The Bad Girls’ Club.
Photo: NBC’s The Playboy Club