Feb. 18, 1922. Green Forest,
Aug. 13, 2012. New York, New York"You can have your titular recognition. I'll take money and power."
1939-1941: Texas State College for Women (now Texas Women's University).
1942: Woodbury Business College.
1948: Foote, Cone & Belding: copywriter (at this time two of three Frances Holmes Advertising Copywriters awards).
1958: Kenyon & Eckhardt: copywriter and account executive.
1959: Married David Brown, motion picture producer.
1962: First book,Sex and the Single Girl becomes bestseller. Left advertising.
1964: publication second book: Sex and the Office
Syndicated advice column: Woman Alone
1965: named editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, targeted at the same audience as Sex and the Single Girl.
1988: Inducted into Publisher's Hall of Fame.
1996: Left Cosmopolitan. (Still editor in chief of Cosmopolitan's international editions).
Helen Gurley Brown's Outrageous Opinions (1966)
Helen Gurley Brown's Single Girl's Cookbook (1969)
Sex and the new Single Girl (1970)
Having it All (1982)
The Late Show: A Semi-Wild but Practical Survival Plan for Women over 50 (1993)
I'm Wild Again (2000)
I have to tell you that I hate Cosmo. I relate the editorial style of Cosmopolitan Magazine to the heavy black leather-gloved hand of an attacker over my mouth, as I'm stripped of my money and self-respect. The articles are predictable, boring, sex-obsessed trash. A Cosmo reader apparently doesn't cook, clean her apartment, watch TV, bathe or dress herself without a man to do it for. No decision discussed within the pages of Cosmo is to be made without the first priority in the decision-making process being the widest possible appeal to as many men as possible. To make up for this wide-eyed annihilation of the self, the reader is treated to as many discussions of sex as possible. Shut up, bitch, and enjoy this, because it's all anyone has for you. I have seen multiple articles in Cosmo about how to have multiple orgasms. I have never seen one article that even implies that a woman should have her own identity or interests, like herself, or think independently, although hobbies and television soap operas are occasionally hinted at.
Imagine my shock when researching this node I discovered multiple sources referring to Helen Gurley Brown, the long-standing editor of this monster, as a Feminist. A magazine that advises a woman's voice can be a turn-off to men if it's 'used too much' couldn't be less feminist if the cover model were wearing a burqa. Since Brown, according to her own version of events at least, pulled Cosmopolitan out of bankruptcy and certain doom back in 1965 when she took the helm and made it into a vehicle to spread her sexually-liberated gospel one would assume that all of the ideas contained within belong to Brown. To read Cosmo is to assume that Helen Gurley Brown is an Anti-Feminist.
The answer is that the articles and paradigms expressed within the chemically-scented glossy pages of Cosmo these days were revolutionary 30 or 40 years ago.
Brown herself titled a 2002 lecture kicking off the annual Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism's Gertrude and G.T. Crane Jr. Lecture Series, "No Background, No Talent, No Experience...Making a Magazine Take Off". Apparently this woman has no illusions about what she's good at and no idea how decidedly un-feminist it has always been to refer to women as "sexual creatures", in other words a nice old southern lady with outdated ideas who means well.
With a talent for writing sprightly prose and no understanding of feminist theory or any apparent training in critical thinking, Helen Gurley Brown found her niche talking about pre-marital sex to a society that had very little to say about "it", despite a sexual revolution and a women's movement which would eventually challenge all of that society’s assumptions. That she started talking about sex only from the safety of a recent marriage to a wealthy motion picture producer seems in keeping with her kind of feminism. I think of it as feminism with one's legs crossed: a desire to have a self and be respected individually which is undermined by a terrible and unacknowledged fear of male disapproval.
Simply stated this variation on feminism represents the sexualization and mainstream co-opting of the women's movement. It is the normalization of the sexual revolution and the cheapening of all the ideals behind the rights and freedoms women were originally fighting for. Brown's book Sex and the Single Girl alternated between advocating the single girl using sex as a way of getting ahead at work and the single girl using work as a way of meeting men.
So which is it? Probably which ever will sell the most magazines.
In the first 10 years of Cosmopolitan's existence under Brown's editorship, Naomi Woolf compared it to "a woman-run social service", dedicated to its middle-class readers and running articles on everything from do-it-yourself home repairs and book reviews. With Brown herself married and aging, her ideas about sex and the single girl had to age as well. They could not keep up with the changing times, and due to Brown’s warped perspective on modern life, Cosmo declined into the current shapeless, sanitized, commercialized, self-conscious, ridiculous, grotesquely over-sexualized image of femininity it propagates today.