The Playboy and the Pencil Case

It was our turn to host Charlie, the school rabbit for the weekend.

It died.

Seeking to comfort my distressed children, we went to WH Smith, a large stationery shop to buy some coloured pencils.

‘Imma, there’s Charlie,’ my little one shouted. ‘They’ve put him on the pencil case. Look, he’s on the folder as well.’ Here, in full view, next to Minnie Mouse was the eponymous Playboy symbol plastered over a range of children’s stationary. ‘Can I have the pencil case?’ my little one asked.
‘What about Winnie-the-Pooh? It’s so cute,’ I replied.
‘I want Charlie. ’
Could Hugh Hefner ever imagined that one day, little girls would aspire to own Playboy branded stationary, blissfully unaware of its associated connotations?

‘But darling, it’s not Charlie. It’s a different rabbit – what about Minnie?’

‘Minnie is an idiot. I want the one with the rabbit.’

‘But don’t you understand, DARLING, you’ve been conned by this whole pink glittery thing. Can’t you see that even your sweet young kodesh teachers, freshly minted from a year at sem, are walking around school carrying pink folders, furry pencil cases and packets of cute mini neon highlighters suggesting a permanent state of infantile sexuality. Playboy represents the exploitation of women’s bodies and promotes a sexualized view of women that frankly, I find quite offensive. Don’t you see that by putting this cute logo on everything, the company is seducing unwitting young children into supporting this adult brand. Parents who buy this stuff are just colluding with the sex industry.’

She’s looking at me strangely. ‘What?’

‘Nothing. Choose something else – the rabbit is naked – it’s not very tznius and your teachers won’t like it in the classroom.’
I always play the modesty card when I am stuck. I am pathetic.

A newspaper cites Louise Evans, the head of media relations for WH Smith. “Playboy is probably one of the most popular ranges we’ve ever sold. It outsells all the other big brands in stationery …We offer customers choice. We’re not here to act as a moral censor.”
Of course not, that’s my job – Moral Mother. If only I had the same courage as Reverend Tim Jones – a vicar who found his 15 minutes of fame in the national media when he initiated a petition objecting to the sale of these goods to his local store and moved all the Playboy products to an empty shelf. This could have been an excellent spot of interfaith collaboration, but a rabbi-t was nowhere to be found.
We eventually settled on Minnie Mouse. After all, when Minnie and Mickey debuted together in the film Plane Crazy, she did not agree to his request for a kiss in mid-flight. Further, when Mickey eventually forced Minnie into a kiss, she heroically parachuted out of the plane. Minnie definitely had the makings of a Beis Yakov icon. Shame her skirts were just not long enough.

–Modesty Blasé

Cross-posted to The Jerusalem Post blog.

2 comments on “The Playboy and the Pencil Case

  1. sylvia_rachel on


    I have not yet had to have the Playboy bunny conversation with my six-year-old, B”H. But we have had the “no leopard-print string bikinis” conversation (!), and ever since the run-up to her first dance recital, I’ve been trying to explain exactly why I object to, among other things, that “Acro” number with the scantily clad nine-year-old girls cavorting provocatively to a samba tune. I keep falling back on “It’s not appropriate” … and I don’t think she’s understanding why.

    This dance school’s clientele is at least 50% Jewish; there were lots of frum families in the audience, including men, and I had to wonder what they were thinking as they watched some of the performances.

    And when I was through wondering that, I went on to wonder what any of the parents with daughters in those classes were thinking — especially those who hooting and hollering during the above-mentioned samba number. It shouldn’t be just the observant among us who consider it inappropriate for little girls to be used as billboards for Playboy or encouraged to dress like toddler-sized centrefolds. And if that isn’t a feminist issue, I don’t know what is.

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