Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Trouble with Bunnies

In its time-honoured tradition of printing press releases verbatim and claiming they are news, the Telegraph reports the planned comeback early next year of London’s Playboy Club.

The original London version opened in 1966, catching the Zeitgeist of Swinging London – Groovy, Baby! – but closed down after its gaming licences were revoked, to the manifest approval of the feminist lobby.

Hoewever, like the planetary engineers of Magrathea, it seems Hugh Hefner’s British operation had merely retreated into suspended animation, awaiting the development of a new civilization with abundant cash and a desire for tasteless ostentation.

And now, it seems, the time is right; Hefner is quoted as looking forward to returning to London and “again sharing the notions that are celebrated in the magazine, the concept of good food and drink, pretty girls, and exciting entertainment.''

Any record of what the ‘pretty girls’ might feel about being stuck between the food and the entertainment as an amenity? Since Hefner’s minions have announced that ‘Playboy Bunny hostesses, croupiers and cocktail servers will be part of the new set-up’, they must expect to have some on the payroll.

At last, all becomes clear. The controversial Playboy Bunny pencil-cases and bags carried by little girls in primary school and the Playboy-branded pink tracksuits worn by their older sisters were all part of a softening-up campaign; the ultimate in sly recruitment.

As the press release – sorry, news report – says, the return of the club has been trailed for at least a decade – long enough to brainwash a new generation of girls into believing that career fulfillment can consist of fawning on rich businessmen while wearing pink satin ears and a leotard.

If successive governments had ever really been serious about improving the role of women, that’s where they should have been looking. Changing from the top down just won’t work – you can have all the all-female shortlists and pro-women policies you like but it is unlikely to have much impact on the celebrity-fuelled day-to-day culture of the playground.

In 1960, the same year Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy club, John Wyndham described in 'Trouble With Lichen' the difficulties facing teachers of bright girls:
'You not only teach and attempt to educate a child; you conduct a kind of jungle warfare on her behalf  - and the better-looking the child, the more slender are her chances of survival, for the partisans of ignorance enfilade your route in greater numbers 
The touts for dead-end jobs slink along beside you...the miasma of the picture-papers taints the air, the sticky webs of early marriage are spun close by the track, hen-witted mothers dart suddenly out of the bushes...'
Fifty years on, it seems all those hazards are still out there, compounded by the insidious drip-feed of Facebook and the mass media. A generation of feminists overturned the real inequalities years ago and there's nowhere left to go but backwards.

If our schools are still turning out aspiring Bunny girls, then there’s something very wrong indeed.


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