Happy weekend my dear ladies!!
I was reading Cosmopolitan the other day…and….well….I may get into big trouble for saying this, but I’m not a big fan of Helen Gurley Brown. I know she died recently and that is very sad. She will be missed by her friends and family. But right when she passed away, I watched some key women being interviewed about her. They are calling Helen a feminist. I say, Bullshit.
I had heard about the legend, Helen Gurley Brown, many years ago, and I was eager to read her book that rocked the nation when it was published in 1962. It was considered scandalous, ballsy and shocking – all the characteristics I appreciate in a book. When my copy of “Sex and the Single Girl” arrived via Amazon, I licked my lips, and settled in for a very good read. Within the first two chapters, I was in shock and felt nauseous. Surely, these words could not be from the poster girl of “lipstick feminism?”
I know 1962 was a very different time. Watching “Mad Men” which i am told gives a pretty accurate depiction of how women were treated in the workplace, makes my blood boil. I LOVE that show by the way! The idea of a woman having premarital sex was outrageous. The thought of her having a career was laughable. But, and correct me if I’m wrong, what Helen preaches in her book is all about how to get a man, not how to have a career and be an independent woman. She talks about a career as a vehicle to find the man. She writes, “Many companies do not allow dating among co-workers and clearly they are not with it! Why else do they suppose you are working except to cover a few items like food, rent, car payments bank loans and other trivia?” I am so confused. How can this be the powerhouse of publishing talking? Helen gives advice like going to a wealthy chapter of AA meetings to find a man, even if you yourself don’t have an addiction problem. She also writes about how dressing sexy will get you a man. She talks about Madge and how she lost seventeen pounds and made up her face like a Geisha, and went to work with “cleavage cleaving.” Helen writes “Madge married within a year…this was a case of a mouse (big bosom to the contrary notwithstanding) wanting to be sexy…willing it. She never had it but she got it…by adopting sexy attitudes and trappings.” Well Helen, sounds like a giant thumbs up for plastic surgery and fake anything to me! This statement shows that Helen was born to head up a magazine touting the latest fashion, makeup, hairdos and face creams…to get a man. How many lost women have spent a fortune on lipstick, Botox and hair dye, only to find out that they are still the same person with the same insecurities, or worse, still single?
Helen does give some decent career and budget advice (for 1962), but then she writes ridiculous statements like “I needn’t remind you, career girls are sexy. A man likes to sleep with a brainy girl. She’s a challenge. “ Oy vey Helen. She then gives decorating advice – not to live on your own and to be independent, but again, as vehicles to get a man. She writes “A beautiful apartment is a sure man-magnet,..” She even offers helpful “man-pleasers,” decorating items like “Travel posters” books and a toga-size terry bath sheet for your guy. (Are you cringing yet?) Helen even suggests you find a place close to the guy you are dating. Hello stalker!
Helen’s cooking advice is just as male-dominated with menus and recipes for dinners to impress him. “Look beautiful. Smell fragrant,” she advises.
She also has wonderful (not) dieting advice so you can look good for…yup, you guessed it – your man. “What you feed him and them bears no resemblance to what you should be feeding you when they aren’t around – to keep you sexy, vibrant and unmorose about being single.” Believe me, there are about thirty other quotes I could add to prove my point, but that would just be overkill.
The ultimate “What are you thinking Helen?!” is that she condones dating married men. She says “it seems to me the solution is not to rule out married men but to keep them as pets. While they are “using” you to varnish their egos, you “use” them to add spice to your life.” And it seems to me that she plays women against each other by saying “A wife, if she is loving and smart, will get her husband back every time.” Oh lordy Helen! What advice are you giving the poor, innocent women out there? How many affairs did you create by condoning such nonsense? How many women couldn’t trust each other because of your advice?
The book made me really pity and dislike this woman. It was like a politician, posing as one thing, but clearly being another. She had this strong, career-woman façade, but what she wrote and taught was the same goals from the olden days – that a woman’s ultimate purpose is to find, and please, a man.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to dress up and be sexy and I know men appreciate it. I have blonde highlights, gel nails and fake eyelashes. But I did these things for me first and not to bag a man. Yes, my husband likes all of these things about me, but he also likes that I’m a career woman who speaks her mind and if he doesn’t like the dress I’m wearing, he can go to hell. I’m not changing.
There is no doubt that what Helen Gurley Brown did with her career, as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan has affected the women’s movement and helped paved the way for women in business. She was tough, smart and tenacious. I only wish that she could have led by example only and not written this book. To this day, I can see her stamp on Cosmo, which is both good and bad.