Playboy gets its first transgender playmate, but does she really advance women's rights? | Elizabeth Wellington

Playboy magazine made history last week when it announced that French model Ines Rau would be its first transgender Playmate.

Twenty-six-year-old Rau is known in the fashion world for her work on several high-profile campaigns, including for funky French label Balmain. She’s appeared in  American Vogue and Italian Vogue, and modeled in Playboy for a nude spread back in 2014.

Cooper Hefner, son of Playboy’s bad-boy founder Hugh Hefner, said he chose Rau as the first transgender Playmate two months ago. Rau was set to grace the cover of the girlie mag’s November/December issue, but her picture was swapped out with one of Hugh Hefner, who died in September. Rau, dressed in a white thong bikini, is instead the centerfold of that issue.

Hefner said choosing Rau further expands the magazine’s mission: embracing evolving attitudes towards sex. (Back in 1991, Tula became the very first transgender model to pose for Playboy.)

Selecting  Rau “very much speaks to the brand’s philosophy,”  Hefner told the New York Times on Thursday. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving.”

On the surface, that sounds like a good idea. After all, transgender women believe they are women, so they are. Who we are starts in our mind. (Whatever the trolls say on the internet — and, trust me, a lot has been said — is their issue.)

Here’s the downside: Rau, in an interview with Reuters she hopes her Playmate helps to status pave the way for “all women — trans or otherwise — in fashion and other sectors.”

So basically, Rau believes her femininity is now validated because she’ll be objectified as a Playmate.

It’s safe to say the goings on at the Playboy Mansion contributed to a climate in Hollywood where the Bill Cosbys and Harvey Weinsteins of the world think it was perfectly within their right to drug and assault women in an attempt to sexually molest them.

Things were different for women in 1953, when Playboy debuted. But even as women became doctors and lawyers, senators and businesswomen, working mothers and presidential candidates, Playboy — like beauty pageants — have continually reminded women that many powerful men think of us as nothing more than trophies. Playboy gave men permission to lust after women haphazardly pinned up in lockers, on garage and basement walls.

The last thing we need is for transgender woman is to play into these stereotypes. That’s taking women’s issues one step forward and two giant steps back. We need transgender women to help us fight for equal pay; we need transgender women to fight with all women for peace of mind to walk the street safely, instead of being a part of the cadre unrealistic body images the media presents.

That’s a better route to pave for all women.

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