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Is Cosmo's Helen Gurley Brown a Feminist Icon?

Cosmo's Helen Gurley Brown: A Feminist or Her Nemesis?

It's hard to imagine calling a woman who once said "man-pleasing gets results" a feminist, but Helen Gurley Brown has had the word attached to her bra strap since Sex and the Single Girl published in 1962. In April, a biography on her, Bad Girls Go Everywhere, hit the shelves to solidify her place as a feminist icon, raising more than one eyebrow across the blogosphere.

So she doesn't have the intellectual clout of a Naomi Wolf, but what she did have — for 32 years — was the ear of the everyday woman. She described her upbringing as "hillbilly," and pedaled a populist feminism that was meant to be practiced instead of preached. It obviously resonated with American women, as Cosmopolitan outsold feminist Ms. six to one when she was editor in chief.

Brown saw nothing wrong with using looks to get ahead and believed that a woman should be free to be a CEO, housewife, or model without society's commentary. But then she'd go and say something like, "I think you may have to have a tiny touch of anorexia nervosa to maintain an ideal weight."

So who is Helen Gurley Brown? An feminist icon, or a woman who served a purpose in a place and time that are neither here nor now?

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Beastiegirl5 Beastiegirl5 8 years
I think Helen Gurley Brown was a feminist of sorts back in the 60's in that she advocated that women be more expressive and comfortable with their sexuality and needs- just check out her "Sex and the Single Girl." In her book (which I own) she tells women to go out an date men, not look for a "one and only." She puts the idea that women should be passive to rest, tells them to get into the workforce and to go beyond the typing pool. Now, some of the ways she goes about it are out-dated- the a lot of what was so revolutionary and therefore akin to feminism in "Sex and the Single Girl" is archaic today. Have you read a Cosmo from the 70's and even the early 80's? It was crammed with fiction (by some well-known authors such as Joyce Carol Oates) and features, some fashion, and a smattering of sex. Today's Cosmo is just silly and in a way, has turned things backwards. It isn't at all thought-provoking or empowering. British Cosmo is closer than the US version. So yes, HGB was a feminist of sorts back in the day.
cg130 cg130 8 years
I guess I think HGB is a feminist...but a certain type of feminist that only worked at the time. I think she sort of represented to women the idea that one could be a feminist, and not come off as "masculine" - but she's not really the greatest feminist role model around, because she still encourages women to treat their bodies as their most valuable commodity, which is the mentality that patriarchal society has used since the dawn of time.
bgorgeouss bgorgeouss 8 years
I used to have a subscription to Cosmo, and nearly every article was about how to find a man or please your man, and not so much about how to please yourself. I do like the fact that Cosmo made it OK to talk openly about sex, but I don't think that Brown is a feminist at all. The magazine encourages you to shape into one type of woman (the beautiful girl that uses looks to get ahead and has casual sex), and to me, being a feminist entails empowering women to shape themselves into anything they want.
filmgirl81 filmgirl81 8 years
well, she made it ok to talk about sex openly, but I think Cosmo only did well compared to Ms because they use big celebs and major supermodels on their covers. I don't really have an opinion on whether she is a feminist because I feel like that term doesn't have a solid definition.
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