COSMO’S GRAND DAME DIES
Helen Gurley Brown has died.
“She was 90, although parts of her were considerably younger,” said he obituary in The New York Times.
That could have been her face. Here’s one of her celebrated nutty beauty regimens:
“Put on a shower cap; grease your face with Vaseline, cold cream, or something goopy. Fill the bathroom basin with cold water. Dump in two trays of ice cubes. Using a snorkel (a little rubber tube, one end of which you clamp between your teeth; the other end – open – sticks up put of the water so you can breathe. Any sporting-goods store has these), stick your face down just below the water surface and stay as long as you can. Twenty minutes is ideal. You never saw such skin… poreless, glowing.” Helen Gurley Brown.
Helen Gurley Brown on her first day as editor of Cosmopolitan in 1965.
Cosmopolitan magazine in the years she edited it was both an empowering and confusing read: how to diet; how to have hot sex; how to have even hotter sex; how to get a raise at work; how to feel good about being single; how to bag the man of your dreams…
Some of her most famous quotes:
“The message was: So you’re single. You can still have sex. You can have a great life. And if you marry, don’t just sponge off a man or be the gold-medal-winning mother. Don’t use men to get what you want in life — get it for yourself.”
“My success was not based so much on any great intelligence but on great common sense.”
“Cosmo is feminist in that we believe women are just as smart and capable as men and can achieve anything they want. But it also acknowledges that while work is important, men are too. The Cosmo girl absolutely loves men.”
“I think marriage is insurance for the worst years of your life. During your best years you don’t need a husband. You do need a man of course every step of the way, and they are often cheaper emotionally and a lot more fun by the dozen.”
“Feeling insecure is good for you. It forces you to do something better, drives you to use all your talents.”
She was a divisive figure in feminist circles.
Perhaps one of the best summation of Gurley-Brown’s place came from Naomi Wolf writing in The Washington Post in 2009.
Book Review: Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown by Jennifer Scanlon.
Reviewed by Naomi Wolf…
Look at Michelle Obama: She has segued seamlessly from an active professional life as a highly paid hospital executive to her current incarnation as fashion plate, doting mom and demure sex object, posing for Vogue in a hot fuchsia frock that shows plenty of skin. What’s most surprising about this metamorphosis? How few people are objecting to it.
Every other first lady in living memory has been flattened into some stereotype of either/or femininity – from Nancy Reagan as adoring Stepford wife to Hillary Clinton as shrill career woman. But now we finally seem to have reached the point where women don’t face a false choice between sacrificing their softer qualities to be taken seriously as professionals or embracing love, sensuality, fashion and pleasure only to be dismissed as frivolous.
And this revolutionary development isn’t unfolding just in the White House: It’s now affecting your house and mine. It’s everywhere.
So what happened? Well, when it comes to women’s rights, Americans have clearly matured.
What has helped that process along is that stealthily, quietly, second wave feminism – the movement personified by Betty Friedan and her 1963 bestseller, The Feminine Mystique - has been supplanted by “third wave” feminism, with its more upbeat and individualistic signature.
And how timely that at this moment of next-generation triumph we have a new biography of an icon whose optimistic, go-getter vision of female emancipation helped bring on that third wave. Yes, it’s that leopard-print-wearing provocateuse, Helen Gurley Brown.
Sex and the Single Girl, Brown’s brash, breezy and sometimes scandalous young-woman’s guide to thriving in the Mad Men and Playboy era, made headlines the year before Friedan’s severe, profound manifesto burst onto the scene.
Since then, the media and the women’s movement itself have put these two icons in opposition, pitting Friedan’s intellectual, ideological, group-oriented feminism against Brown’s pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, girl-power style. They contrast the Seven-Sisters-educated, brainy, politically serious Friedan with the working-class, aspirational and funny Brown, who claimed that a woman could be happy whether single or married, that she could have sex on her own terms, and that she should refuse to see herself as a victim and have fun.
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