August 14, 2012

"At her most radical, [Helen Gurley] Brown was a subversive rather than a revolutionary..."

"... a sexual libertarian rather than a liberator; and an unapologetic partisan of free enterprise." 
(She once called Margaret Thatcher a “Cosmo Girl.”) “How could any woman not be a feminist?” she wondered, in 1985, in an interview on her twentieth anniversary at Cosmopolitan. “The girl I’m editing for wants to be known for herself. If that’s not a feminist message, I don’t know what is.”

Feminists come in every bra size, and what feminist would deny or belittle Brown’s achievements? But, whoever her reader was, the dewy model or celebrity who appeared on the cover of her magazine every month for thirty-two years never resembled Mrs. Thatcher, and, indeed, looked suspiciously like a bimbo to the older generation of militants for women’s rights....
Via the Metafilter discussion of Brown's death.

16 comments:

Wally Kalbacken said...

[yawn]

wyo sis said...

The best piece of advice she gave was to go get things for yourself. She was not exactly Julia. Julia doesn't have to work as hard to maintain her allure. Julia is like HGB's polar opposite.

Peter said...

One of my early memories was seeing my Momma enraged because the rules did not allow her to become chief clerk in her office at the Southern Pacific Railroad back in the early 1950s. women were not allowed to lift a weight that most women routinely lifted at home.

She had worked through the war at the railroad while her sister built bombers. They both were appalled at the antics of the later "feminists".

edutcher said...

Brown was a little like Johnny Carson, acting as if she were doing something scandalous, using the word "sex".

Shana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prairie wind said...

Why do I connect her with "Where the Boys Are"?

Freeman Hunt said...

She made a major contribution in the total destruction of female culture.

"Being a woman is all about creative sex acts and making men want to have sex with you. Pish posh on having a real thought in your head. Just be confident."

Some feminist.

Dan in Philly said...

Feminism might be easy for brilliant highly educated hard chargers like Brown, but for the majority of western women out there, it's been less than good. It is like how people look to rich movie stars to model their lives. Sure you maybe can get away with that irresponsible nonsense when you are rich and famous, but those of us in the real world have to worry too much about consequenses to imiate them.

Freeman Hunt said...

Despite the title (“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere” is one of Brown’s favorite mottoes), this is a serious academic reconsideration of a figure who, Scanlon argues, has been slighted by feminist history, and deserves a place in its pantheon, particularly because she was speaking to and for the typists, the flight attendants, and the sales clerks who couldn’t afford to burn a good bra, rather than the college-educated sisterhood that was “womanning” the barricades of the nineteen-seventies.

How's this new sexuall ethos working out for "the typists, the flight attendants, and the sales clerks who couldn’t afford to burn a good bra," their children, and their partners?

furious_a said...

"Libertarian" or "Libertine"? Sometimes the two are confused.

...if they didn't dress like a stripper and give an amazing blowjob on the first date...

..or aspire to an unrealistic body-image ideal. Still damaging young women to this day.

William said...

I don't know the pecking order of women's magazines. I have the vague impression that Redbook published quality writers like Joyce Carol Oates and that Good Housekeeping was like Popular Mechanics for women. Were they as popular as Cosmo and did they also shape women's opinions?....When I was a kid, I made every effort to look at Playboy, but I think that the magazine that really shaped my view of the world was Mad. I get the sense that something like this went on with Cosmo. It was a bubble on the stream. It showed you which way the current was flowing, but it did not direct that current.

Methadras said...

I think using the word subversive is to light a term. She sold women a bill of goods and they lapped it up.

Gene said...

The LA Times wasted Brown's entire obituary debating whether she was a real feminist or not. What a waste of newsprint. The writers at that paper fight battles 30 years out of date and wonder why their circulation keeps dropping every year. Sometimes I go pick up the paper in the morning and discover it has fewer pages than my local small town Pennsylvania paper did 50 years ago. When the entire print edition folds (probably within the next decade) they will devote the entire final five stories to racism, diversity, gay marriage, carbon quotas and trans-fat cooking oils.

Gene said...

William: When I was a kid, I made every effort to look at Playboy, but I think that the magazine that really shaped my view of the world was Mad.

a man after my own heart.

prairie wind said...

I don't know the pecking order of women's magazines.

Cosmo is bought and read by college girls, probably high school girls now. It isn't a women's magazine; it is aimed squarely at girls who want to be women and who think Cosmo is a women's mag.

Redbook and Ladies Home Journal are second tier. Redbook is for the younger married set who want cheap fashion and LHJ for the older.

Good Housekeeping is solid housekeeping--"Popular Mechanics for women" isn't too far off. First tier. Still some silly girl stuff but less than Redbook and none of the Cosmo shit about how the men you work with will still take you seriously in thigh-high boots.

Grandma Bee said...

Reading Brown's obit in the State Journal yesterday reminded me of a Hollywood actress who had just had a baby and was gushing about how she didn't feel the need to get married. Somebody remarked that the only difference between this actress and her teen fans was about a hundred million dollars a year.