Considering our divisive political climate, perhaps it isn’t an exaggeration to suggest American women haven’t been as universally unified by and outspoken about their civil rights since the Seneca Falls Convention more than 150 years ago. Of course, that first official meeting ultimately led to women’s suffrage in 1919. Nearly 100 years later, a woman became a major party presidential candidate for the first time in U.S. history.
Despite that milestone, women are becoming subjugated to more and more discriminatory legislation on both the state and federal levels, with lawmakers—overwhelmingly male—regulating everything from abortion and birth control to equal pay and maternity leave. Given these sex-based battles, more women than ever are proudly proclaiming themselves feminists, evolving the word past its Merriam-Webster definition and challenging its limits. This year alone, the reenergized movement has encompassed January’s Women’s March and this month’s A Day Without A Woman. The women’s rights movement has picked up so much momentum, in fact, that the state of Nevada recently symbolically ratified the decades-old Equal Rights Amendment, which guarantees equal rights between men and women. More states are expected to follow suit, making the ERA’s reemergence quite possible.
Since its founding in 1953, Playboy has been at the forefront of championing—and protecting—civil liberties and equal protection under the law, whether related to race, gender or sexuality. In his 2012 op-ed “Sexual Freedom,” Playboy founder Hugh M. Hefner summarized the root of some of these battles, writing, “Today, in every instance of sexual rights falling under attack, you’ll find legislation forced into place by people who practice discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Moralists say that if sex doesn’t beget children, it’s a sin. Your sex life, your privacy rights and the rights of men and women everywhere are casualties of this belief…No one should have to subjugate their religious freedom, and no one should have their personal freedoms infringed.”
That’s why for 63 years, Playboy has offered feminists from all walks of life a platform to share their viewpoints, struggles and belief systems. Whether it be our Playboy Interviews with Scarlett Johansson, Erica Jong, Betty Friedan, Cher, Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg and Joyce Carol Oates, essays by Margaret Atwood, Chelsea Handler and Erin Gloria Ryan or contributions by Cindy Sherman and Jane Pratt, the pages of Playboy have—and always will be—a place for dialogue about social equality. To celebrate the end of a historic Women’s History Month, we thought we’d hold such a dialogue internally by asking some of the women who bring Playboy to life everyday what, in 2017, the word feminism means to them—and how they factor that into the work they do everyday.
ANNA DEL GAIZO
Senior Associate Editor
What feminism means to me: Feminism is egalitarianism in its purest image. It’s reveling in your femininity and embracing your masculinity. It’s relishing being a woman while unequivocally appreciating men. It’s autonomy without anger or excuses. It announces that sexy and smart aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s sleeping around because you want to without hearing the word slut. It’s wearing as much makeup and little clothing as I feel like without being told I’m asking for it. It’s indulging in your most feminine inclinations, free of self-doubt. It’s knowing you are a mind, body, and personality in equal measure—and so is everyone else.
Why I work for Playboy: Playboy has been a stalwart symbol of sexual liberation, freedom of expression in all forms, and unapologetic exuberance since inception. The Playmate has existed as a lusciously complex contradiction: Accessible yet unattainable, touchable yet intangible, so real you can almost taste her yet elevated enough to maintain that, despite her beckoning expression, you probably never will. With Playboy as her tool for self-articulation, she has ultimate agency over her body and herself. There is nothing more feminist than executing your agency over yourself, hypersexualized or not, without giving a second thought to what anyone else might think. I work for Playboy because I champion women, people and the pursuit of pleasure, in all of its incarnations.
Executive Editor, Digital
What feminism means to me: Feminism is the belief, to me, that social and political structures have been intrinsically developed to burden and restrict anyone who displays traditionally feminine traits. This means anyone who appears in a boardroom as a female or walks into a night club as a female: It’s acknowledging that my inherent woman-ish qualities have been traditionally treated as a negative, but they are a source of my strength. A true feminist, for me, also realizes that the same forces affect nearly all people, and that it is important to use our words and actions to support all of those who don’t have a seat at the proverbial table. That’s feminism.
Why I work for Playboy: Aside from the cultural history and emphasis on free speech and expression, there is a really simple reason I believe in this brand: Because sex is worth discussing. Playboy hasn’t been perfect—but in 63 years, who has? Most impressively, it has always striven to do better, to consider larger issues and push boundaries. Confronting the status quo is my editorial modus operandi, and it is so important to continue to ask ourselves, if a woman (or a man) is enjoying sexuality, why do we not consider them intelligent? Why are we afraid of ownership of desire? Why is it so hard for us to put sex and politics in the same place, even though those are the things that make us most passionate and engaged?
Also, real talk: The snacks here are pretty great.
Playmate Promotions Specialist
What feminism means to me: A belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals—regardless of gender. With this belief I am motivated to speak out for the rights of all—especially those who do not have a feminist platform.
Why I work for Playboy: I believe Playboy’s philosophy provides all nationalities and genders a strong platform for peaceful and loving environments and scholastic growth. Employee opinions matter; therefore, sharing opinions allows a tremendous amount of personal and professional progress.
What feminism means to me: Freedom. Equality. The space to BE.
Why I work for Playboy: I work for a company where I can show up as my authentic self. I get to be as bold, brilliant, black and beautiful as I want to be. I feel comfortable voicing my opinions, and I work directly with three dynamic & compassionate women. (One of them is my boss.)
What feminism means to me: Feminism means loving and supporting women, regardless of how they choose to represent themselves and the choices they make for themselves. Feminists lift women up, make them strong, give them purpose and remind them of their talent—irrespective of their make or model. So yes, that means that feminists can also be men.
Why I work for Playboy: Playboy is a blend of people from all walks of life and I’m grateful that this is a place where I can call my coworkers “friends.” We spend as much time working hard as we do having fun and don’t really see a boundary between work and play. There’s always an open space for creative brainstorming, and we’re always inclusive of new ideas and how to push the envelope just a little bit further each time. That’s why I work at Playboy; this company continues to challenge me and excite me even after four years of being here.
What feminism means to me: Most of my life, whether it was during college, while playing sports or trying to navigate my career in media, I’ve dealt with various degrees of gender inequality and blatant sexism. To me, the word feminism means not becoming complacent and always standing up for myself, and other women, in an effort to ensure we are treated with respect and paid fairly for our work. It also means the freedom of choice to be who we want to be. We are allowed to be moms, journalists, chemists, teachers, construction workers and all of the above. We’re allowed to become and embody whoever the hell we want to be, even if men are the only ones doing it.
Why I work for Playboy: I deeply value freedom of choice and expression, and that is why I work at Playboy. For me, it’s a brand that has not just been on the right side of history concerning social and political issues, but has also been on the firing line. And it’s amazing to be on an editorial team at a men’s magazine like Playboy that comprises so many women.
Human Resources Assistant
What feminism means to me: FE feeling M myself I in the N nude I is S so M magical.
Why I work for Playboy: When I was a little girl, Playboy, to me, embodied beautiful women who are classy, allowed to have fun while working and most importantly, they were nude. Nudity has always made me feel free while at the same time giving me a sense of being present with myself. It is the truest form of self-love.
Social Media Manager
What feminism means to me: To me, it’s about equality, listening and being responsive to all types of perspectives that are underrepresented. It’s about having the choice to be authentically you.
Why I work for Playboy: I work at Playboy because I’m constantly challenged to develop innovative strategies. So make sure you tap that @playboy follow button!
Digital Photo Editor
What feminism means to me: For me, feminism is about rethinking systems that aren’t working. It’s about deconstructing oppressive norms, re-working legislature that supports and perpetuates oppression, and amplifying the voice of anyone who feels marginalized.
It certainly isn’t just about women versus men, though the gender binary is one of the constructs that needs a serious overhaul. Feminism is concerned with gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class, ability and the intersections thereof, recognizing that our experiences vary greatly and are dictated by where we stand in any of those arenas.
Why I work for Playboy: I work for Playboy because of the incredible women I get to work with and learn from.
What feminism means to me: Feminism, to me, encompasses the freedom to choose the life I want to live and how I want to live it, without societal constraints or judgment based on my gender. It’s the liberty and latitude to exude traditionally feminine qualities of compassion and grace while also killing it in the workplace with determination, intelligence and purpose. But most important, feminism is about fighting for equal pay, compensation and recognition of equitable contributions from women based on merit, as opposed to antiquated social mores.
Why I work for Playboy: Playboy personifies an activist, revolutionary and opulent lifestyle while unapologetically celebrating the uninhibited sexuality and sensuality of womanhood. It’s the first place I’ve worked where I can begin the day exercising social responsibility by meeting with members of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund to discuss tactics to protect the disenfranchised under a new White House administration, and then usher in dawn with a voyeuristic look into the nightlife of millennials. Playboy is liberation from the constraints of gender, race and age. That’s why I’m here.