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Hugh Hefner wants your tween

Why is the Playboy empire peddling its bunny logo to the middle-school set?


Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 29, 2011 10:30PM (UTC)

The Playboy brand has come a long way. Playmates now samba proudly on family friendly fare like "Dancing With the Stars," and its empire is the subject of a retro-themed fall drama. But are you ready to let your little girl be a bunny-to-be?

The Collective Shout blog points out that the Australian accessories chain Diva -- a kind of Claire's Boutique for the Down Under set -- has launched a Playboy line of accessories. What's your pleasure, kids? A necklace with an iconic rabbit silhouette? A vintage-looking bowtie?

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Diva isn't Toys R Us, and Playboy isn't trying to peddle Baby's First Bikini Wax. The merchandise in question includes earrings and pendants, not plush toys. But that doesn't mean that either Diva or Playboy get a pass for another obvious attempt at sexing up young girls. Diva, with its cute pink heart logos and invitations to "BFF us on Facebook," aims squarely, unambiguously at the junior set. Most grown women aren't looking to pick up a K Perry ring or a Pixie Dust Necklace with Tinkerbell charms.

That's what's seriously messed up about this product line. As Collective Shout justly asks, "Why is Diva wanting to dress [girls] up in a Pornography brand?" Sadly, because they can. Playboy is a company sells young women cute accoutrements -- and sells men those young women's asses. It's no coincidence that the ubiquitous little bunny on Diva's harmless-looking necklace also appears on videos of girls clad only in knee socks, making out with each other. It's all part of the same, deliberately crafted corporate identity. They're Playboy. Their entire enterprise is built on giving guys something to spank it to.

You don't have to some stuffy anti-porn zealot to grok that there's a reason some thngs are called adult entertainment. And while a girl may not fully understand what the rabbit around her neck represents, rest assured that plenty of grownups get the symbolism. And who in their right minds would be cool with a daughter advertising herself as a mini-Playmate? Wait, don't answer that. Are they the same kind of people who'd dress a toddler up as a hooker?

Growing up is a natural process for every girl. And the child who was clutching a teddy bear just a short time ago may someday grow into Miss June. But the objectification of younger and younger females - from padded bras to Playboy bunnies -- turns girls' burgeoning sexuality into something that's not for their pleasure at all. It teaches them instead that they're playthings, to be displayed and logoed and ogled. Once upon a time, the word "diva" was applied to a female of power, grace and talent. Now, it just means a store where you can trick out your daughter like a centerfold.


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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