September has been a difficult month in terms of losses to feminism. First we saw the death of Kate Millett, the radical second-wave author of Sexual Politics. Now it’s been the turn of Hugh Hefner, the Playboy publisher who once described himself as “a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism”.
Obviously it would be difficult to say which of the two fought the hardest for women. Would it be Millett, who sought to liberate us from the bounds of patriarchy, or Hefner, who sought to free us from body hair, inner lives and clothes? An impossible call to make. Still, if it came down to the question of whose brand of feminism has won the day, there’s an easy answer to that.
Hefner feminism is all around us. It’s the feminism of pre-teen girls seeking designer vaginas; of men who rent out vaginas and wombs; of women who diet, shave, starve and never say no. We’re not free from oppression, but oppression is no longer stigmatised. Isn’t that enough?