Gloria Steinem Got Her Start As An Undercover Playboy Bunny

By | September 28, 2020

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Gloria Steinem on the job as a Playboy Bunny. Source: Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

In 1963, Gloria Steinem's expose "A Bunny's Tale," was published in Show magazine. The article lifted the curtain on one of the most legendary nightlife establishments of the 20th century -- the Playboy Club. Written in the form of diary entries, the multi-part article details the ho-hum drudgery of a table-waiting job that will be familiar to anyone who's ever worked minimum wage in a goofy outfit, to the body horror and nickel-and-diming perpetrated against the young women who saw the Playboy Club as an opportunity at good money and an entree into the world of modeling. Steinem's expose didn't bring down Playboy and it didn't turn her into an overnight sensation, but it did help bring about necessary changes in an exploitative industry.

Gloria Steinem led the charge for feminism

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Hugh Hefner and Bunnies at the first Playboy Club in Chicago, 1960. Source: Pinterest

Before Gloria Steinem was the answer to a question on Jeopardy (I'll take feminism for $200, Alex), she was a young journalist attempting to write about female rights in the early 20th century. Even though she wrote for Help! magazine in 1960, her first "serious assignment" was for Esquire. Initially meant to be an article on contraception, her final piece explored the ways in which women are forced to choose between marriage and a career, a precursor to the women's movement that displayed a canny understanding of gender politics and the kind of writing that people want to see. To follow that up she decided to go undercover at the Playboy Club in New York City.