Hugh Hefner, Who ‘Liberated’ Women Through Playboy Empire, Dies at 91

Image Credit: Alexander Hauk / www.alexander-hauk.de

Hugh Hefner, notable businessman, playboy, and philanthropist best known for his creation of the “Playboy” brand, passed away Thursday night at 91 years old.

Hefner died in his home, the Playboy mansion, outside Beverly Hills, California.

Hefner was infamous for his role in the sexual revolution of the 1950s and 1960s and advancing the then-progressive liberal attitudes. In spite of this, Hefner later clashed with third wave feminists for most of the latter half of his life.

Despite the criticism he often received from the religious right, Hefner famously said “Being attacked by right-wing Christians did not bother me – being attacked by radical feminists did.”

In his obituary, even the New York Times notes that his largest detractors in his later years were feminists rather than the religious right.

Mr. Hefner was reviled, first by guardians of the 1950s social order — J. Edgar Hoover among them — and later by feminists. But Playboy’s circulation reached one million by 1960 and peaked at about seven million in the 1970s.

In fact, in a recently rediscovered interview with Bob Costas, Hefner took radical feminists like Gloria Steinem to task. Costa, pretending to play the “devil’s advocate,” accused Hefner of being hypocritical for his writings criticizing feminists as “living out neurotic childhood fantasies” and trying to enforce puritanical morality standards.

The Playboy founder told Costa he had “clearly lost the plot,” and retorted in reference to the accusation that he was no better than feminists. He told Costa that he had “managed to put together a life that worked.”

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Hefner’s death has been met with mixed reactions by the mainstream media, some of whom acknowledged his vast contributions to American culture, and others who have derided him as the last of an old guard of rich straight male misogynists.

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