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Pamela Anderson Has Often Been A 'Bad Feminist' — And That Makes Her A Great One

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Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee

Pamela Anderson’s been on a long journey. She’s traveled a winding, difficult road that’s taken her to where she is today— the star of her own narrative, someone who’s reclaiming her story, on her own terms.

Often seen as the victim of 90s misogyny and exploitation, Anderson’s newest projects have allowed her to set the record straight on her tumultuous past and the public’s image of her. 

The 55-year-old actress and American icon is the author of a memoir, "Love, Pamela," and the subject of the Netflix documentary "Pamela, A Love Story," both of which serve to humanize Anderson and explain the cultural moment in which she gained fame and, later, infamy.

Her fame spans decades in which women went from being punished and exploited for their sexuality to being praised for proudly exclaiming their sexual liberation — Anderson has done both and faced both pillory and praise, often simultaneously from feminists.

Now, she is — rightfully — held on a pedestal as a woman who has fought to reclaim her own agency. But given how explicitly she was excluded from feminism before being welcomed into its folds, her relationship with women's rights is complex.

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Pamela Anderson has, at times, been what one might call a 'bad feminist.'

Anderson’s journey started in the ‘90s with her infamous Playboy shoot. 

She recalls the photo shoot as an event that “gave me this little kind of portal on what it felt like to be a sensual woman.”

“My sexuality was mine. I took my power back,” Anderson explained in an interview with The Sunday Times. 

After her first appearance in Playboy, Anderson was featured on the magazine’s cover a record 14 times.

She’s come to the posthumous defense of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, stating that he was the one person who ever treated her with “complete and utter respect.”

In a 2019 interview with The View, Anderson came to Hefner’s defense, amidst allegations of abuse and assault in the Playboy mansion. 

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When asked if he exploited her and other Playboy models, Anderson claimed, “we exploited ourselves." 

"We had the choice to do it, and we weren't vulnerable in that way that he was exploiting us," she explained. Anderson continued in her praise of Hefner, stating that "he's empowered so many women and broke down walls.”

“I think Hefner was a great civil rights activist,” she continued. “He was an activist for human rights and for women.”

“He had this chivalry,” Anderson said. “He really was a wonderful person."

Anderson doubled down on this praise in her Netflix documentary, reflecting on her time with Playboy with an air of unflinchingly positive nostalgia that felt uncomfortable to watch less than a year after a docuseries on a different channel exposed heinous allegations of sexual assault and violence from other Playboy models.

But anyone who followed Anderson's career saw the endless droves of talk show hosts and comics mocking her body, her personality and more. 

If Playboy was one of the few places for her to own her sexuality without facing criticism, one can hardly blame her for remembering it fondly.

Her take on Hefner isn’t the only controversial opinion on feminism that Anderson has shared publicly.

In her interview with The View, Anderson stated “I’m just not a fan of 3rd wave feminism.”

“I think feminism brought us a lot of great things, but we need to save feminism from feminists,” Anderson claimed. “There’s things that women do and things men do better than each other.”

Anderson’s stance on feminism and gender now seems outdated, yet she was of a generation that dealt with massive misogyny, of which she was often a victim.

It’s not surprising that Anderson internalized some of that misogyny in her own worldview.

That ingrained misogyny could have colored her opinion of feminism and the #MeTooMovement.

In a 2017 interview with Megyn Kelly, Anderson discussed her traumatic past with experiences of abuse, stating “you somehow think that you’re to blame… I learned to never put myself in those situations again.”

She explained that when she got to Hollywood, she had a lot of “offers to do private auditions and things that made no common sense.”

“Don’t go into a hotel room alone,” she advised. “If someone answers a door in a bathrobe, leave.”

“I think it was common knowledge that certain producers or certain people in Hollywood are people to avoid,” Anderson said of Harvey Weinstein. “You know what you’re getting into if you’re going to a hotel room alone.”

While this attitude could be construed as victim-blaming, Anderson was a product of her time, and a product of the trauma she experienced.

Anderson didn't have a #MeToo movement and wasn't even given a chance to tell her story in her own words until 2023. Who could blame her for being a little jaded when her trauma has been downplayed for most of her life.

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In a recent interview with Ronan Farrow for Interview Magazine, Anderson revisited the controversial comments she made about the #MeToo Movement.

Years on, Anderson's opinions have developed — as anyone's should with time — but we so rarely afford public figures the space to change their minds.

In their conversation, Farrow recalled that Anderson “faced a lot of criticism” for her comments regarding agency in the #MeToo Movement.

“You suggested women need to protect themselves a little more,” Farrow reminded her. 

Farrow posed the question to Anderson of whether “that was a healthy thought to introduce into the dialogue at that point.”

Anderson was unflinching in her response. She told Farrow, “I could even take it a step further.”

“My mother would tell me—and I think this is the kind of feminism I grew up with—it takes two to tango. Believe me, I’ve been in many situations where it’s like, ‘Come in here little girl, sit on the bed,’” Anderson explained.

“But my mom would say, ‘If someone answers the door in a hotel robe and you’re going for an interview, don’t go in. But if you do go in, get the job.’”

For what it’s worth, Anderson now recognizes the double-edged sword that type of advice exists upon.

“That’s a horrible thing to say but that’s how I was,” she explained further. “I skated on the edges of destruction.”

She told Farrow, “Thank God for the #MeToo movement because things have changed and people are much more careful and respectful.”

Her change of opinion on the #MeToo Movement is an example of the ways in which we as humans can change our minds.

Feminism is an ever-evolving entity, a movement that can only benefit from becoming more inclusive.

There’s no perfect way to be a feminist. 

In fact, Anderson's complicated relationship with the term is exactly why her redemption has been so impactful. She is proof that women are multi-faceted, make mistakes, and learn from them.

Anderson is everything feminists once despised and, now, someone they defend. She represents how the movement has changed its borders and is better off because of it.  

As Anderson herself has realized, “humans are interesting people and we’re flawed. That’s just the way it is.”

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.