The sexification of underage girls continues to make news. Earlier this year, we had Abercrombie Kids selling padded bra bikinis for 8-year-olds. More recently, one of the diminutive divas of the so-called reality show “Toddlers and Tiaras” was dressed to thrill as the hooker with a heart from Pretty Woman.

The adorable little prostitute in question was just 3 years old.

Both stories gained the parties involved (a major retailer and an ambitious stage mother) tons of publicity. While many of the news reports expressed outrage, the media soaked the stories for all they were worth. Whether you’re looking to sell bathing suits, advertising dollars, or your own daughter, clearly there is money to be made.

So are any of us really surprised that the company that tarted up America’s girls next door would want in on the act? Playboy has just licensed its famous bunny head to Diva, an Australia-based chain of jewelry and accessory stores that targets tweens and teens.

A little background: The bunny logo was designed in 1953 by Arthur Paul, a freelance graphic designer who was tapped by Hugh Hefner to be Playboy magazine’s first art director. Today it is one of the world’s most recognized trademarks. According to Playboy’s website, the rabbit was chosen “to depict the lighter side of life, the rabbit being, to many people, the ‘playboy’ of the animal world.” By embracing the bunny, men are embracing their right to live like Hugh Hefner: smoking jacket, L.A. mansion, beautiful blondes. Ah yes, the so-called lighter side of life.

For men maybe. But the way the bunny logo is used on female models and cocktail waitresses doesn’t feel so light. Whether as a piece of jewelry, silk-screened on a tee, or tattooed on a breast, the bunny seems to communicate that the woman in question has received at best an admiring nod and at worst a brand like a piece of livestock. Her body is so bodacious that it would be a crime to keep it under wraps. The ultimate seal of approval? Playboy itself is staking a claim.

People may think I’m overreacting. After all, Playboy is still fairly tame compared to Penthouse and other adult publications. I actually think that’s part of what bothers me. By combining the wholesome with the salacious, the wide-eyed girl in braids whose school uniform — oops! — happens to be unbuttoned down to there, Playboy seems to condone lusting after neighbors and nieces. I have the same issue with Hooters. (Are you a restaurant or a titty bar? Make up your mind!) I’m all right with pornography and adult entertainment when it’s promoted as such — and when it involves consenting adults and only consenting adults. It’s the blurring of the lines that worries me.

And, to my mind, selling Playboy-themed jewelry at a store that caters to the junior high and high school set is some serious line-blurring.

So, a girl my daughter’s age buys a necklace (or worse, one of the little bow ties that harken back to the heyday of the Playboy Club) at Diva. What is she saying? “When I grow up I want to take my clothes off for money”? Or, “Look at my breasts now”? Our little girls are growing up too fast as it is! And I for one do not want men leering at my child in the same way that they ogle Miss November.

Finally, I have to add that sexualization aside, a brand that objectifies women has no place in a shop that is dictating what’s hot and what’s not to impressionable young girls. Playboy playmates are held up as desirable based on what’s on their chests, not what’s in their heads. If you have any doubts, check out an old episode of “The Girls Next Door.” Hef’s three girlfriends (why settle for one, after all, when you’re celebrating the lighter side of life?) are busty and blonde, but they aren’t exactly a brain trust.

I know that girls want to look pretty and even feel sexy, but please: Let’s help them set their sights a little higher.

 

 

 

 

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  • Dr. Pat October 6, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Grown up women who worked hard to be respected for their competence, talents and intelligence in that world where the PlayBoy Club was a part of the life in the 60’s and 70’s do understand the pervasive influence of the marketing of this brand. We do not need to play this tacky movie over again. In fact, the recent attempt to rejuvinate the brand with a television series failed and closed after three episodes!

    Mothers and grandmothers, older friends of young girls and young women need to be advised that tits fall and bunny tails are only for a young woman in a certain part of her life. We need to promote a vision for girls and women where it is sexy to be smart and seductive to be a great conversationalist. Sexy is not just dipping your bunny tail into the face of the man who just ordered a drink. Boycott this crap. Besides PlayBoy was a public company that fell apart and bought on the cheap, once again, private. Let’s make it go bankrupt.

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