Hefner Has His Way With Chicago

I hear that Chicago is honoring Hefner for his economic contribution to the city. So the city fathers are admitting that, like Hefner, they don't mind living off the proceeds of prostitution. Don't they have a city ordinance against that? --Twiss Butler

Letters reprinted below were written to Chicago and Illinois city and state representatives unless otherwise stated.

Advocates for Prostituted Women and Girls
Patricia Barrera
Angela Bortel
John Burke
Nikki Craft
Lynette J. Dumble
Margaret A. Gannon
Donna Hughes
Stephen D. Grubman-Black
Laura Geenchild
Sheila Jeffreys
Elizabeth Matz
Kim McCarten
Steven Schacht
Nick Seidenman
Linnea W. Smith
Shyla Welch

Feminist/ Activist Colleagues:
     The City of Chicago is officially designating the eastern part of Walton St, leading to the Playboy Mansion and located in the north end of the Loop, as 'Honorable Hugh Hefner Way' on Monday, April 10th.
     Many who are not focused on these issues might find porn and the mainstreaming of sexual images of women as liberation, and not at all offensive--despite the fact that changes in the power structure in our country have not occurred.
     But the idea that the third largest city in US would deem it acceptable to not only name a street after a man who pimps women, but call him Honorable, is a contempt for women that should not be met with silence.
     The City Council this past fall passed CEDAW: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. This Convention, originally convened by the UN, states that, in addition to attending to the "civil rights and the legal status of women . . . is also concerned with . . . the impact of cultural factors on gender relations."
     Article 5 states that parties who have signed CEDAW must "give formal recognition to the influence of culture and tradition on restricting women's enjoyment of their fundamental rights. These forces take shape in stereotypes, customs and norms which give rise to the multitude of legal, political and economic constraints on the advancement of women."
     Noting this interrelationship, the preamble of the Convention stresses "that a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society . . . is needed to achieve full equality „ between men and women.
     State parties are obliged to work towards modifying social and cultural patterns of individual conduct in order to eliminate "prejudices, customary, and all other practices, which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority ofeither of the sexes, or on stereotyped roles for men and women."
     Parties who have signed this Convention are to "condemn discrimination against women in all its forms;" to "refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation."
     They are obliged to "take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise;" and to "take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women."
     Prostitution continues to be the ONLY 'profession' where women make more than men. Many will suggest that women freely choose to pose in Playboy or participate in the porn industry.
But as long as a vast economic imbalance between men and women exists; as long as women's reproductive decisions are limited; and as long as our Government is almost exclusively white and male, there cannot be a serious discussion about 'free choice.'
     It will only be when these and other changes, such as when women have a substantial voice in the media and the cultural institutions in this country, that the potential of free choice will be possible.
     This is another in a long line of 'bombs' that have been aimed at women in the gender war, another attack in this dangerous time of backlash and the vilification of feminism, which is after all, our civil rights movement.
     As long as we continue to take these offenses without responding, the line for what is tolerable and intolerable will continue to move: it will not go back, and it will not move in the favor of women.
     True sexual liberation can only exist in a society where women who are dressed are respected, valued---and paid-- as much as those who are not. Only when women have full participation in education, government, media, and business will there be an environment for women to be free to express themselves sexually.
     Until that time, men in 'the sex industry' (who make millions while the actual women make thousands, if that) must be viewed as pimps, exploiters of women--and certainly not honorable. Playboy and Hefner are dangerous because they give this exploitation a 'main street legitimacy.' Yet another reason that this 'honor' must be reneged.
     Please pass on any of this info to like-minded activists.And please, take a minute to write or make a call to: Mayor Richard M. Daley, 121 N. LaSalle, Chicago, IL 60602 (312) 744-4000.
     Women are a powerful force in Chicago--or can be--and we deserve better than this. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,Kim McCarten
Chicago, Illinois

The Honorable Hugh Hefner's Way

Date: April 11, 2000
To: Chicago Tribune
From: Linnea W. Smith, M.D.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516

Dear Editor:
Hugh Hefner is in Chicago to promote the current issue of Playboy (May, 2000) in which the headlines describe HEF's TWINS: NAKED AS JAYBIRDS. At the same time he hoped to manipulate the city of Chicago into further legitimizing and even honoring him and his commercial sex publication by naming a public city street after him. What an effective advertising strategy!
     This situation is particularly worrisome for a number of important reasons, but one critical problem with this month's Playboy issue is Hef's twin's pictorial. (Notice in the title the use of the possessive - no egalitarian relationship here.) Sandy and Mandy, sisters and identical twins, are billed as only part of Hefner's current group sexual arrangement. For this pictorial they perform pseudo-lesbian activities for the sexual entertainment of Hefner and, incidentally, all his magazine's viewers. They are at the same time demonstrating sibling, incestuous interaction, which in almost all mental health circles is recognized as pathological or dysfunctional, while Christie Hefner, the disciple of if-you-repeat-it-often-enough-the-masses-will-believe-it philosophy, is promoting such displays as "in good taste". Hef is glamorizing and normalizing non-egalitarian group sexual activity with his harem of young female employees.
     Citizens locally and nation-wide would be have been inspired and grateful if Chicago aldermen would have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the progressive ideals of dignity, full humanity and equality for all citizens. They could have shown that money can't buy local government, or shouldn't purchase the sexuality of subordinated females as commodities. The council's decision thumbs its nose at each of the Articles in the "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women" which they ratified just last fall.
     Unfortunately the Chicago City Council was not able to hold fast against the pornographer's money and power and they now have a city monument to misogyny and the good ol' boy network. Chicago bought Hugh Hefner's Way--the erection of the sign post occurred even before the city council vote took place.
     As my individual protest of this decision I plan to cancel my attendance in Chicago to the annual national meeting of the American Psychiatric Association and encourage organizations to consider
alternative convention sites in the future.

Linnea W. Smith, M.D.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

You CAN cast a progressive vote for Chicago and for Women

Date: April 12, 2000

Dear Chicago City Council Members,
Today is the city council's vote to approve Hugh Hefner's Way. The Playboy PR spin has been that anything less than a monument to Hefner is "provincial" and "anti-sex". However, what is actually regressive is not the opposition to the exploitation of women that the Hefners are obsessed with perpetuating. In fact, opposition to this stereotypical (i.e. bigoted), passive, sex object/sex-for-profit commodification of women is, instead, progressive. What is actually archaic and backward is the stealth, corrupted political process that was used to ramrod Hefner's street sign project from one committee to the next with established governmental procedures flagrantly and unethically twisted. Don't swallow what the pornography industry is feeding you. You CAN cast a progressive vote for Chicago, and for women, by saying NO to Hugh Hefner's Way.

Nikki Craft
Always Causing Legal Unrest
Rancho Cordova, California

What next? Larry Flynt Lane?

Date: April 11, 2000
To: Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times

Dear Editor:

Oh shut up, Christie. We get so tired with all your talk about how you and your daddy promote equality. Why don't you stop pimping and instead take off your own clothes? Spread those legs, throw back that head, expose that neck, and pout those lips and don't forget the stupid bunny ears. Display yourself for a change, honey and show us all what you've really got. And if you can't--or won't--then stop being the hypocritical "feminist" front girl for Hef and his harem brothel. We vote NO on Hugh Hefner's Way and will boycott Chicago until they do, too. What next? Larry Flynt Lane?

Nikki Craft
Always Causing Legal Unrest
Rancho Cordova, California

Hugh Hefner Way

Date: April 12, 2000
From: Sheila Jeffreys

Dear Alderman Stone,

On behalf of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia I would like to express our very serious concern about the proposal to honour Hugh Hefner by naming a street after him. Our understanding of Hefner is that he is a man who has contributed greatly to the national and international expansion of the prostitution and pornography industry which is responsible for grave human rights abuses against women and girls. It is not appropriate for a city in which women can expect to be treated with respect for their human rights to seek to honour a man famous internationally for human rights abuse against women.

Yours sincerely,
Sheila Jeffreys
Melbourne, Australia

Date: April 12, 2000
To: Chicago Tribune
From: John Burke

According to Susan Brownmiller ("In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution"), when Hugh Hefner became aware of the women's movement, he circulated a memo at Playboy that contained the following:
     "These chicks are our natural enemy. It is time to do battle with them..."
     He was absolutely right. Hefner, his publications, and the "philosophy" they purvey are fundamentally hostile to women's dignity and equality. Hefner stands in relation to women's rights exactly where Faubus, Wallace, and "Bull" Connor stood in relation to the rights of African Americans. He's a die-hard male supremacist, in exactly the same way that they were die-hard segregationists.
     Chicago, a city pledged to equal respect for its citizens regardless of race or gender, should not honor Hugh Hefner, any more than it would honor one of those champions of racism.

John Burke

Date: April 12, 2000
From: Steven Schacht

Dear Mayor and Alderman of Chicago,

I am writing to protest the proposed official naming of a city street to Hugh Hefner's Way. With Hugh Hefner being one of the world's foremost pornographers and pimps, I very much question why the city of Chicago would want to honor such an individual. This would mean that you are both approving and supporting his exploitation of women's bodies for profit. Directly supporting a 72 year old man who most recently touts his relationship with two 21 year old twins as his playmates who are expected to perform incestuous acts for his viewing pleasure. Is he to come to represent the great city of Chicago, its people, its values?
     I was born in Chicago in 1960 and proudly note it as my birthplace. For business and pleasure I visit Chicago on a nearly yearly basis. This coming week I will be in town for the Midwest Sociology Society meetings, last summer I was in town for the American Sociological Association meetings. I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs and Bulls attending games of whatever team is in town whenever I am in Chicago.
     Sadly, should you approve the Hugh Hefner Way, in protest of such a woman-hating stance by the city of Chicago, I will no longer visit your town. I will also approach the excutive boards of both the Midwest Sociology Society and American Sociological Association in hopes that they will boycott holding future meetings in Chicago.
     Hopefully none of this will happen and you, the good leaders of the city of Chicago, will see that naming a street for a pornographer is not ethically sound.

Steven Schacht, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Plattsburgh State University of New York
Plattsburgh, NY 12901

Date: April 12, 200
From: Dr. Lynette J. Dumble

Dear Mayor Daley,
I am an Australian who lived in the city of Chicago between the years of 1984 and 1990 while a medical scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago. During those seven years, I saw both the best and the worst of life in a city which had been plagued by racism and corruption. In the end, I came away believing that the city's leaders were endowed with the political goodwill essential to create social justice for all of its citizens, no matter what their race, color, creed or gender.
     A decade further on, I am appalled to learn that the City of Chicago is considering the renaming of the eastern section of "Walton Street" after Hugh Hefner, a man who is internationally recognized for having made his fortune from pornography. In the eyes of decent women and men worldwide, Hugh Hefner is nothing less than dishonorable. The proposed "Honorable Hugh Hefner Way" can only be seen as contempt for each and all of the world's women who Hugh Hefner has exploited, offended, and denigrated with his obscene images.
     Undoubtedly, an "Honorable Hugh Hefner Way" would shame the City of Chicago, while simultaneously flying in the face of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to which the City of Chicago is a signatory.
     Personally, and on behalf of the Global Sisterhood Network, I urge you to use every means at your disposal to prevent the City of Chicago from bestowing the misogyny of Hugh Hefner's name to a single one of its streets or landmarks.

Yours sincerely,
Lynette J. Dumble,
International Co-ordinator,
The Global Sisterhod Network

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