Monday, August 13, 2012

A True Feminist Is Dead

Helen Gurley Brown died today in New York City and the world is not a better place for it. Almost single handed she invited women to join the sexual revolution and to empower themselves as women, mothers, and professionals. Her 1962 book "Sex and The  Single Girl" was a book filled with advice, opinion and anecdotes on why being a single woman did not mean a woman was powerless and worst of all sexless in her everyday life.

She was hired in 1965 to turn around the Hearst owned Cosmopolitan Magazine and she did so in rather short order.

She said at the outset that her aim was to tell a reader "how to get everything out of life -- the money, recognition, success, men, prestige, authority, dignity -- whatever she is looking at through the glass her nose is pressed against."
Helen Gurley Brown was in reality the public face to the beginning of women being empowered and in telling women to use what you have to get what you want which was unheard of for women and something only men were encouraged to do because it was a man's world. Unlike militant feminists Helen Gurley Brown championed women from the everyday housewife to those trying to climb the Corporate ladder or break the glass ceiling that limited women. Helen Gurley Brown was a giant pain in the ass to militant feminists primarily because she realized militant feminists were limited in their views on women and after all most of us do like men.

I had the fortune to meet Helen Gurley Brown twice during my life.  Once when I was 24 in NYC in late 1971, at a party and in the late 80's, in the Southampton, at a friend's party. She found it interesting what I did for a living and I found her interesting when she asked how I handled being a woman who was the boss of men in a male dominated world. Well I learned wearing a miniskirt to work did not quite work when the elevators on the job site were basically open to the world. The one thing she said that I remember was "do not limit yourself" and I always took that to heart over the years.

When we met the second time I was recently married and she said "nice catch" which was odd until I realized it was a compliment. He was a good catch because we were in love and for most women that kind of relationship is very fulfilling.

The funny thing is you never think about your life as it passes if you are living it to the fullest. That is what Helen Gurley Brown wanted for women and in some ways she succeeded. A woman should be able to live her life as she wants to and not be told how to life her life by men or worse yet militant feminists that have little clue about the lives most women want. Helen Gurley Brown helped make it possible for a woman to have a family and a career while being successful at both.

Leading as good a life as you can is or should be the goal for all of us whether male or female or even born transsexual or even transgender. The problem is militant feminists wanted to tell women how to live their lives based on their myopic and sadly very oddly skewed views of life and society as a whole. They spoke for a very small but loud minority while Helen Gurley Brown spoke for the vast silent majority that wanted change but cherished their mainstream lives as women. mothers, wives, and workers or professional women. She made it okay to be both.

Helen Gurley Brown made it okay for women to openly look at men as sex objects which shocked the male dominated world but just brought to the front what every girl and woman attracted to men already knew. Some men are just so sexy they are yummy to look at and that is our right.  She made it okay to use our sexuality in a positive way and actually awakened men to the simple fact we kind of like orgasms ourselves. Sex can it should be fun for us also.  A novel idea in 1962 actually.

In her own way Helen Gurley Brown led the revolution that enlightened women and enabled woman to be the person they wanted to be whether that was a wife and a mother or a professional.  Just be the best woman you can be. Helen Gurley Brown was in touch with the essence of most women which is that innate desire to have a family but also to be taken seriously if working.

A true feminist empowers all women to live the life she wants and does not tell them they "must" do this and "believe" that because someone says so.  It was and is up to every single one of us to be the best women we can be.  That kind of flies in the face of the militant feminist movement but then Helen Gurley Brown was never fooled by their myopic view of women. We are diverse and we each have our own dreams and desires and because someone is opposed to it on militant feminist grounds does not make it wrong if it is right for the particular woman.

A feminist voice of reason died today and my world is a little sadder.


Van Buren said...

She sounds like someone I'd have liked to meet (and who, maybe, might even have liked to meet me).

I'm pleased that you did get to meet her, and pleased she made her life (by the sounds of things, VERY) purposeful.

Anonymous said...

This is sad, she changed the face of female culture in this country.


Anonymous said...

Following a heated discussion on a blog that is now dead, I conducted a kind of survey amongst my girlfriends about feminism. I got pretty much the same response as the owner of the blog who had done a similar survey. "Feminism" is really a lesbian issue. Beyond equal pay and equal opportunity in education and career, most women are really not that interested. In other words Helen Gurley Brown had female equality pretty right.

The availability of contraception for women to control is what has lead to the freedom that women have now. While still not ideal things are a lot easier than they were in 1950's. Pregnancy and looking after children mostly kept most women out of the workplace and career professions. Today there is a choice albeit not an easy one to make.

Can a man be a feminist? I don't think so. He may be sympathetic to feminist issues but I honestly don't believe they can know what that glass ceiling is like from the other side of the glass either in commerce or socially. RIP Helen and thank you for what you did. I've always loved Cosmopolitan, right from when it came on to the UK market. Caused quite a stir!


Anonymous said...


I would have to agree.


Miz Know-It-All said...

A few years back I was trying to become more civilly active in my town so I joined NOW. Why NOW? Mostly because it was terribly apparent how the rights of women on all levels, such as they are, were being deliberately nibbled away in a concerted effort to put us back into the kitchen barefoot and preggers! Coincidentally, this was also about the same time the Disney Corporations brand new exploitation of little girls with their "Pink Princess Crack" was getting into full gear.

Seemed, at least to me like this was the perfect time to get out there and be a woman on a mission! What better time! I mean there are two whole generations of young women born after Row V Wade who are completely ignorant of the dangers that lurk behind these attacks on birth-control and their right to choose, not to mention how the youngest among us are being indoctrinated into thinking that women can work and drive and raise children but they are still these weak minded, can't do math little things always in need of rescuing by the smart man! (not that I mind a prince in shining armor doing his thing for me now and again, but as a rule they really are kinda rare!)

So anyway. I joined NOW... I sent in my dues with an additional amount attached and I made plans to drop into the local chapters next meeting... Yahhhh... I was ready! It was time and I was going to act locally and change the world!

To say that what came next was not what I expected would be a HUGE understatement! Oh sure we talked about the issues of birth control and the current round of idiotic legislation aimed at limiting the right of choice and what sort of strategies we might use to stop it. But that was were the expected script ended and the "WTF/WTH" are you talking about" script began!

What followed the expected Abortion/ Birth control issue talk was not about child care! Or health care for women and their families! There was no talk about the Glass Ceiling or how even if you get through it that women sill make less than men? There was no committee on Domestic Violence or on Date Rape! There was none of that! NONE in NOW that I could see! In fact, there was only thing on the agenda that had any relevance to most women, was abortion rights and ancillary to that, birth control,!

Everything else and I do mean everything was about lesbians! The issues we were expected to devote the lions share of our time to were issues such as lesbian health care access and lesbian rights to marry their partners and the homophobia directed at lesbians...

Mind you, I do support all of those goals. They are all worth while and wish them success in making them happen! But these issues simply are not in anyway relevant to the other 90-97 percent of the female population who isn't lesbian!

What is worse, at least to me was how the irony of this huge fail on their part flew right by! It was totally lost on them why their membership had fallen so in the last decade and why they could not seem to get any traction at all in the community of women as a whole...

Needless to say I was very polite, I nodded my head and tut-tutted at all the right moments and once I left that evening I made my excuses the next several times I was contacted to see if I could work on these various projects. Eventually I think they either got tired of calling or, they FINALLY got the message and stopped calling. Also as you might expect, when it came time to renew my membership the next year... My check somehow never got sent!

So from my personal experience Liz I would have to say that I agree completely. The few have indeed hijacked the tools of the many and in the process made feminism as it exists today utterly irrelevant to everyone but a small marginalized group of women!