More than a few women essayists (including The Guardian‘s Suzanne Moore, Chicago Tribune‘s Mary Schmich, The Independent‘s Julie Bindel, Fox News’ Penny Young Nance, The Atlantic‘s Sophie Gilbert) have argued, not inaccurately, that the late Hugh Hefner was not a true supporter of women, that he was basically a rich, high-end pimp, and that the sexual revolution he and Playboy promoted totally favored male libidos, etc. Which I won’t argue.
But you can’t say Hef wasn’t a culturally progressive mover and shaker in the ’50s and ’60s. In a self-absorbed, narcissistic way, agreed, and yes, his brand was eclipsed or certainly dated by the women’s movement starting in the early ’70s. But in the era of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, he definitely moved the needle forward. From Jean Anouilh‘s Becket: “I’m afraid we can only do, absurdly, what it has been given to us to do.” Hef had his cultural moment, his chapter of honorable influence, and he managed it as best he could.