More than 30 years after New York’s original Playboy Club shuttered, the brand reopened in midtown into a vastly different world than it once operated in. Whereas closing came due to a diminishing membership and interest, reopening faces the era of #MeToo.
A male writer for The Guardian called the opening tone deaf, leveraging comment from a male food and beverage consultant who said, “People are demanding better conditions and a bunny suit and ears doesn’t seem to be on par with what people are wanting.” Another male writer for the New York Times put the Bunny ears up against the “pussy” hats of the Women’s March, questioning how the club will be received. Interesting.
The #MeToo movement is just over a year old and while it has forced the topic of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence into the forefront, there is undoubtedly a long road ahead of us to consistently see justice brought against abusers. As Roxanne Gay wrote for Refinery29, while watching Harvey Weinstein and few other men in power finally be held accountable for years of sexual abuse we still have our consent-free pussy-grabbing President and his rapist Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh advancing through their careers consequence-free.
If there was a problem with the Playboy Club opening, it isn’t the Bunny suits or the place we are in during the #MeToo era, it’s men. Not only their lack of understanding of the movement and the denial of responsibility they have, it’s their inability to comprehend consent and unwanted sexual contact. A Bunny suit is no more an invitation to be groped than a power suit, and truthfully, that notion parallels the victim-blaming idea that the type of clothing women wear dictates whether or not they become victims because they asked for it.
That being said, there are legitimate reasons for concern. We haven’t forgotten Gloria Steinem’s damning diary of going undercover as a Bunny for her two part series, “A Bunny’s Tale”, in which she accounts having to be tested for venereal diseases and be nickle and dimed throughout her time working for the club.
These working conditions are no longer in place 50 years later. The venue is much more reminiscent of a high-end lounge than a strip club—both of which exist with scantily clad women without a clause against sexual harassment like the Playboy membership does. Further, Playboy hasn’t only employed women in Bunny positions. They brought in Tabitha Yeh to be in the executive chef, their house DJ is Paola Shea, and Nicole Levinson is the Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing and Communications.
Ultimately, the biggest test the Playboy Club is up against in regards to #MeToo is that they remain accountable for not allowing abusers to treat the place as their playground, which is exactly the same challenges our administration and businesses who have enabled abusers are currently facing. I implore the men criticizing the opening to redirect their efforts to question and educate abusive, problematic, and misogynistic men in their lives rather than minding the clothing women want to wear.