'Playboy' CEO Christie Hefner: Smut Peddler, Activist, Hero To Women?

The idea that Playboy Enterprises, a multimillion dollar company built on T&A, is run by socially-conscious feminist is enough to make Dworkians' and first-year women's studies students' heads explode. But it's true: Christie Hefner, Hugh Hefner's 54-year-old daughter, CEO of Playboy, and Forbes magazine's 80th most "powerful woman", is a card-carrying feminist. In Good magazine's profile of her (via HuffPo), Hefner says:

To say you're not a feminist is virtually the same thing as saying you're a racist.

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The philanthropist and political activist has certainly been doing her part for the cause (she co-founded EMILY's List, a grassroots political network dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women), but with the acquisition of Club Jenna (the massively successful empire created by porn star Jenna Jameson), Playboy is now the one of the largest producers of hardcore porno, and some question whether or not Hefner is doing more harm than good for women.

Christie doesn't see it that way, brushing off such detractors as part of a "puritanical, antisexual, antimale" wing of feminism. Playboy has always been a progressive company when it comes to sexuality, but it's definitely stepped it up in the 35 years since Hefner became president, says Good:

The company filed an amicus brief in Roe v. Wade, was the only corporate sponsor of Masters and Johnson's groundbreaking sexuality research, and has come out strongly in favor of gay marriage. Both the company and the Playboy Foundation provide large-scale support for civil liberties, sexual health, reproductive freedom, gay rights, and women's rights.

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Christie's dad still handles the editorial content of the magazine, while she handles the business aspect of the company. In addition to the foray in producing hardcore porn, Christie is responsible for making the Playboy logo mainstream-friendly by licensing the brand for clothes and accessories. Playboy stores are opening worldwide, and when the London branch opened at the beginning of October, she told WWD:

We did close to $1 billion [in sales] around the world last year in just our consumer products, and most of that was products sold to and worn by women. There's clearly, then, an embracing of the brand, particularly by fashion-conscious young women who see it as being fun and sexy, but also as being accessible, sophisticated and representing quality.

And while Hefner is dedicated to getting Democratic women elected, she's actually a supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama.

XXX CEO [HuffPo]
Portraits [Good Magazine]

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DISCUSSION

Christie has been beating back this double-edged sword for years. She went into the "family" business...a business (and lifestyle) that ultimately broke up her mother and father (in truth, though, Hef should never have married - duh!) and one that basically peddles female flesh for cash.

I'm torn here. I've met her. She's tough, smart, progressive, politicall and socially active. So, I want to support my home girl for rising to the top of the very definition of male-dominated business. I saw my dad's stash of Playboys when I was growing up in the '70s. I have yet to lipo my hips, augment my boobs, or shave bare my va-ja-jay so I say that Playboy hasn't influenced me any more or less than Barbie, Josie & the Pussycats, or my Easy Bake Oven.

Plus, well, they DID give us Bridget, Holly & Kendra... Are my subscriptions to Ms. and Bust going to be revoked for that???