In honor of Easter: Is the Bunny acceptable in the workplace?




Playboy Bunny T-shirt

Originally uploaded by sindy.

I wore a t-shirt today into the office that featured the Playboy bunny logo in gold. Putting it on in the morning, I certainly realized that it might a bit controversial, a bit eyebrow raising. But I work at a pretty liberal University and specifically, a pretty casual office at that, so aside from the wearing t-shirt and jeans non-issue, I kind of vaguely wondered if people would make an issue out of the shirt. The worst I expected was some ultra-feminist woman to make some snide comment about how magazines like Playboy objectify women. To which, I would probably respond something about how women have got much bigger problems and enemies than Playboy and the like and, if anything, we should thank Mr. Hefner and his magazine for helping to protect and exercise the First Amendment so well. There are certainly those who are supposedly in higher brow businesses, but are much more interested in and better at keeping women down– and many of them are women themselves– keeping us under glass ceilings and telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies.

In any case, back to my day at the office: truth be told, I usually keep a jacket or something on for most of the day since the office is usually cold, so I didn’t expect many people to see the shirt anyway. During the short time I did have my jacket off, I did get a few quick looks and comments– the director of our department (a woman) did a quick double-take and I got out of the way before she could say something, good or bad. A co-worker said he liked the shirt. My boss first merely noted that I was wearing a shirt with the Playboy bunny on it and then asked the question, part-jokingly, part-rhetorically, “is that appropriate in the modern workplace?”

The interesting thing is that no one is really sure. I probably wouldn’t have worn it in any other office setting, but in this one, I thought I could probably get away with it. But what am I really getting away with it? What is so threatening about it? Is it because the bunny symbolizes “adult entertainment?” Is it because it refers to a very famous, very specific adult entertainment franchise that people might have strong feelings about, for or against? What if a man were to wear a t-shirt from a no-name strip bar– would that cause the same kind of uneasiness? Is the mere presence of the bunny a form a sexual harassment? Is the mere presence of something that is non-sexual in itself, but that is linked to something sexual considered the automatic creating of an uncomfortable work environment? Have we really become that sensitive and paranoid?

Well, I haven’t heard anything from anyone yet, so perhaps I’ve gotten through a day without causing too much of a controversy. Maybe the fact that I was a woman wearing a t-shirt with a Playboy symbol over some big boobs was just a little too weird. What could they say? “Some women feel threatened by the bunny symbol on your very large chest.” Right.