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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Martin

Beyond the Bunny Suit: Gloria Steinem's Story and the Myth of Consent


Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny, in a telling experience she exposed the awful working conditions. From extremely uncomfortable and tight uniforms, so tight the zipper snagged skin and it was hard for her to breathe, to a physical, internal exam, she revealed the constant threats to the women of being docked demerits and being exposed by secret shoppers of sorts.


While the job promised a big paycheck, the women received far less pay than promised. While FEMISH often talks about femininity and freedom of expression that should be applied, we are very aware of the way the male gaze and how to please it is pushed onto girls and women. Unhealthy beauty standards exist and women have been surrounded by marketing that encourages them to seek outside validation. Magazine articles and media share tips on how to sexually please men, dress for men, and even act FOR men. As if a women's self expression and sexuality revolve around the male perspective. But that's what they want you to think.


It's okay to want to feel sexy. The issue here is consent and regulation. Anyone can consent to being sexualized. Is that what playboy bunny's did? Can we dismiss their experience with the assumption of consent? No. Consenting to being sexualized is NOT consent for disrespect, violence, or harrassment. Anyone should be able to consent to being sexualized while still feeling safe, still have autonomy over what they wear and their choices, while still having boundaries respected. Wearing "revealing" clothes is not consent to being sexualized. And let's not forget, we have a history of making it harder for women to earn money, a fact that is still true today. Playboy bunnies were promised a big paycheck, and it is not uncommon in society for someone to take a job or stay at a job that they don't like, because they need the money.


Society looks at women who dress "immodestly" and devalues them, judges them. Makes assumptions about their motivation, choices, and sexual orientation. Every part of a woman's body has been sexualized: shoulders, belly buttons, backs, legs, in addition to the obvious. And this sexualization has led to systemic regulation: If you want to look professional, cover up your body, if you want respect, cover up your body, if you want to learn in school, cover up your body, if you are a feminist, cover up your body, it is all encouragement to conform to the patriarchal idea that female bodies are inheritently sexual because straight men say so. Society acts as enforcer by imposing these biases, discriminations, and consequences to those who do not follow the social dress code regulations.


What if we lived in a society where anyone could dress how they want, express themselves how they want, and we didn't assume all these decisions were made with men at the center of them?


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