Some see the ironic images of the newest Pac-12 series as blown out cliché; a feeder for the lowest common denominator. The Playboy who had once challenged the status quo can now be seen as catering to the social media generation, marketing by way of pop culture comforts. Offense aside, there’s no doubt that Miley Cyrus is channeled in this photo’s winking and tongue-wagging. Those on this side of the fence see it as a move away from the appreciation of beauty and towards something that treats women like toys.
But, is that really a fair assessment? A collection of assumptions based on specific and inflated senses of taste and culture? It reminds me of the naysayers when rap became popular enough to be noticed, shouting “That’s not music!” What does it matter if it wasn’t. This frequently manifested platform of this debate seems to habitually miss the point.
Let’s put it this way. It’s safe to assume that Playboy intended to portray these women as attractive. To out myself, I don’t get that from any of the shots. At all. So what? Some people are into feet, wearing Richard Nixon masks or whatever — it’s just not my thing. Does it make sense to address culture non-objectively if you want a usable result? I’d personally have to pop a blood vessel to understand how to see the photos as non-offensive, but that’s a vessel worth popping. It’s difficult to come to a fair, infallible conclusion that can be extended to the rest of the world, country, or even neighborhood.
There’s a reason why many feminist groups support the choice to do Playboy. Empowerment comes from claiming sovereignty over yourself. There’s no rule that says it has to be smart, attractive, politically correct or come in a certain package. It’s about having or exercising the freedom and right to do it; the rest is just texture.
by Tom Baker