Don't need to be a feminist to reject Playboy's offer

by Susan Zieger | 3/2/95 6:00am

To the Editor:

Playboy spokeswoman Karen Ring thinks that "the idea of being a feminist" is the right to choose whether or not to pose nude in Playboy. For all the feminists on campus who are grappling with this decision, I would like to offer an analysis of the previous "Back to School" photo essay in the October 1986 issue of Playboy.

The women's interests and ambitions are included in captions that correspond to photographs of them naked, ostensibly to pay tribute to their achievements and goals as well as to their beauty, but with the actual effect of making fun of their endeavors. In some instances even this flimsy ruse is dropped and the women's academic interests are pushed into subordinate clauses or omitted altogether while racier descriptions of their leisure-time preferences are foregrounded.

One such caption reads, "Columbia's Veronica Smith (top left), a native of Montreal, insists that sipping white wine on a bearskin rug is the perfect study break. Although she digs archaeology, her ambition is to market her own bathing suit line."

Some of the captions make no mention of any academic interest at all. The photograph of Ashley Benet, in which one breast and her genitals are exposed, is accompanied by a caption that reads, "At right is Dartmouth's Ashley Benet, a singer from Cleveland who confesses a weakness for hot tubs and whipped cream (hmm, does that mean together or separately?) Her ambition is 'to have a face that would launch a thousand ships.' We think she has a good start."

Thank you, Ashley, for representing the women of Dartmouth, including myself, as sex objects whose only ambitions are to be more influential sex objects.

Certainly posing for Playboy is a woman's choice, and it would be unjust for the College to interfere with it, but before you decide to pose nude for a national magazine, realize that like Benet, you will ridicule not only yourself, but all women at Dartmouth, all Ivy League women and indeed women everywhere who have higher aspirations. You don't need to call yourself a feminist to reject this "choice" outright; you need only be a woman with a minimum of self-respect and respect for your peers. I think it would be wonderful if Playboy were forced to report that no Dartmouth women submitted themselves to this humiliation.