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Henís night bunny feminism

By Katie Ellis - posted Monday, 15 February 2010


Apparently post feminist women are reinventing hen’s nights in order to (re)claim a male activity while men are becoming more “classy” with spa visits and golfing days. Yet for Hannah Pool, the hen’s night is a traumatic, humiliating experience where feminists are expected to disregard their political beliefs. Pool contends that the first step in reducing the “very specific tyranny” of a hen’s night is to make them bunny ear free.

My cousin just got married and I was invited to his fiancé’s hen’s night:

Yes, its dress up PLAYBOY BUNNY!!! Ears provided for those who think they are not the dress up type ...

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*Groan*

Although these origins are dubious to me now; I became a feminist in the 1990s. I actually understood what the Spice Girls meant when they said “you gotta get with my friends”, that female friendship was more important than a man. Although somewhat disturbed by their constant consumerist cash in on “girl power” I liked that they were seemingly in charge. The way they dressed appeared to be an important part of that and to me having long felt both controlled and judged by the way I dressed, I began embracing self control by wearing halter neck tops. Although still partial to a halter neck I’m feeling a bit troubled by Third wave feminism’s evolution into post feminism. I feel like girl culture is letting us down.

The current crop of girl bands, such as The Pussycat Dolls as they sing “don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me”, has got me depressed. There are so many contradictions regarding empowerment, girl culture, consumerism and the same old subjugation.

My soon to be cousin’s Playboy-themed hen’s night was a great text to think these ideas through. The Playboy bunny has become a ubiquitous symbol in modern life and has taken on new meanings of sexual self possession.

I love a themed party, but this theme confused me. Why was I dressing as a stripper to go and see a (male) stripper on a girl’s night out? I got a little bit outraged in the Ariel Levy sense. Levy famously investigated the rise of what she describes as raunch culture and the “new empowered woman” in Female Chauvinist Pigs. Levy is concerned that as women embrace raunch culture and the requisite objectification of women that goes along with it as empowering, they are sending the feminist movement back.

She takes particular aim at the Playboy phenomena, beginning with concern at the number of women wearing t-shirts with the Playboy bunny logo embossed across the chest and then taking issue with the rhetoric that posing nude for Playboy is empowering and a way for women to be in control of their lives and sexuality.

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For Levy, the Playboy phenomenon as it has infiltrated the lives of ordinary women is a sad indictment on the direction feminism and post feminism is headed. Levy disagrees with the argument that raunch culture is evidence that “the feminist project had already been achieved.” That, it’s because of feminism we can look at and look like Playboy bunnies. She disagrees that looking like a stripper is empowering, I think I agree.

However, I’ll admit I got into the hen’s night theme, well I thought I did. I bought Playboy bunny ears, cuffs, bow tie, and fluffy tail; a hot pink boob tube and wore tight jeans and a fluffy white jacket (from my Spice Girls days). But when I walked through the gate I saw in front of me what looked like actual Playboy bunnies; fishnets, lingerie, corsets and tiny knickers were everywhere. I felt a little sad I had elected to wear pants. With the massive blow up penis, pornographic deck of cards and count the nipple games, the party was definitely an arena for female self expression.

I thought the bunnies looked fabulous but still I was left wondering why the need to get all stripperised, and then my mother arrived. She had embraced the theme too with rolled up skinny jeans, bunny ears and a little crop top that showed a magnificent cleavage. “Put those away mum” I said. I had never seen my mother dressed like this before and to tell the truth was more than a little shocked that she owned such items in her wardrobe.

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About the Author

Dr Katie Ellis, the authorDisabling Diversity, received a PhD in communications Ė disability and media Ė from Murdoch University in 2005 and has recently returned there to lecture in the School of Media Communication and Culture. Previously, Katie worked in disability support at The University of Western Australia. Katie also works as a freelance writer and journalist for Quenda Communications.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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