Hugh Heffner. When I hear that name the images that come to mind are less than flattering; silicone, bunny ears and the objectification of women. I learned recently though, through an article online at The Advocate that Hugh was, and apparently still is, a gay rights pioneer.

This was at the point while reading I turned into Scooby Doo and did a double take. The man who has made his living on objectifying women calls himself an activist? You’re joking right?

Hugh Heffner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel is making its debut at the Toronto Film Festival and will highlight the fact that Heffner has always been involved with social change including the women’s movement as well as the queer movement. Playboy, now Playboy Enterprises, was started right after Heffner graduated in 1948 from the University of Illinois. In Heffner’s words “I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1948, and there were the beginnings of racial integration. There were student protests against restaurants and movie theaters that had segregation, and I took part in some of those protests” Apparently this sparked his interest in social change.

As of December of 2008 the total revenue for Playboy 292.2 million dollars. Modeling fees for the women that appear as Playmate of the Month in 2006 were sitting at $25,000 dollars while Playmate of the Year brings in about $140,000 dollars plus a car and motorcycle. So minus modeling fees and taxes, Playboy is still raking in the big bucks and with 2.6 million copies sold each month. There is even The Playboy Foundation, which provides grants to non-profit groups involved in fighting censorship and researching human sexuality.

In 1955 he published a story by Charles Beaumont in the still new publication where heterosexuals were the minority. After receiving letters from his irate readership, he responded "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong, too." During the McCarthy witch hunts he would commission writers that had been part of the “Hollywood Ten” and he had a variety where he featured many artists that had been black listed as well. Heffner even claims to be a feminist: "I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism.”

He has also been quoted as saying, “Without question, love in its various permutations is what we need more of in this world. The idea that the concept of marriage will be sullied by same-sex marriage is ridiculous. Heterosexuals haven't been doing that well at it on their own." So if Heffner is such a believer in the queer movement, why does he not put some of his money where his mouth is?

All I see is another rich, white man, talking a lot about what he believes in but not doing a damn thing about it. All I see is a man who has built his empire by exploiting women for his own financial gain. Now let me say this, this writer is in no way a prude nor do I believe that porn is a bad thing but you can’t call yourself and activist and not do anything for the communities you wish to serve. Being an activist is more than giving money or stating your opinion. It’s more than a printing a story. One of my close friends says all the time “Being an activist is not what I do, it’s who I am.” If you want to call yourself an activist, fine do something. Own your words Heffner and put your money where your mouth is to show us you’re not another rich, old, white, man who doesn’t follow through on what he says.

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