The Revived Legacy Of Helen Gurley Brown

The Revived Legacy Of Helen Gurley Brown

A review of two biographies and why they fall short

Underdog stories, while ingratiatingly clichéd, are universally beloved. Didn't we all shed a tear when Rudy was carried off of the field, and nod drowsily in church when David defeated Goliath? But while an underdog can elicit universal cheers (or, at worst, mild applause), some shine dazzlingly, stun the world, and are summarily relegated to obscurity. Helen Gurley Brown is one such figure.

Brown, the author of 1962's highly controversial, "Sex and the Single Girl" (in which she dismantled the stigmatization of women having premarital sex), became the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan in 1965, a position she would hold for over three decades. Proudly waving the banner of sex, Brown revitalized the failing magazine and drew the ire of feminists everywhere due to what they felt was her tendency to objectify women through her invention of the "Cosmo Girl," the female counterpart to the consummate bachelor for which Playboy was written.

To those in literary, feminist, feminist literary and literary feminist circles, the legacy of Helen Gurley Brown is almost exaggeratedly divisive. One on hand, she was a woman who encouraged women to rise in the workplace, to play the patriarchal system to their advantage by using sex as a weapon, of course, and establish their financial and personal independence. On the other, her focus on sex was viewed in the eyes of feminists, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, as a means to subjugate women and reinforce oppressive standards of beauty and femininity. The only thing that can be agreed upon by her admirers and detractors is that Helen Gurley Brown, the self-proclaimed "mouseburger" from Little Rock, was an unendingly contradictory and complex persona.

In the four years since her death, Brown and her impressive résumé have been all but buried by a cruel combination of the onslaught of time and the public's increasingly short attention span. This year, however, authors Gerri Hirshey and Brooke Hauser have dredged the fascinating story of Brown and her pioneering efforts in sexual advocacy up from antiquity and presented it in two vastly different biographies; "Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown" and "Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman," respectively. The books both tell of the fascinating victory of a driven woman against insurmountable odds and her monumental impact on American society through, what else, the sexual revolution and Cosmopolitan's role in it.

Hauser's biography is tantalizingly colorful and deceptively thick. While she presents the full story of Brown's ascendency to power and pop-culture iconography, it is done so in an overly-palatable format that makes for an all-too-breezy summer read. With chapters rarely exceeding five pages in length and an uneven chronology which, while easy to follow, seems jumbled and awkwardly situated, "Enter Helen" verges on reductive.

Hirshey, to an extent, picks up where Hauser leaves off, going into almost excessive detail while tracing Brown's family history and offering greater insight into the tragic childhood which shaped and scarred HGB and the misogynistic workplace slights which propelled her toward unprecedented success. While by no means an arduous read (aside from a few bits and pieces which should have been omitted), it still approaches the subject with vastly more vivid detail.

Unfortunately, both books -- despite the rich story found within -- fail to answer the glaringly obvious question of why four years after Brown's death and roughly 40 years after her heyday, these two biographies are worth writing, much less reading. While her interactions with powerful, society-altering women such as Nora Ephron, Betty Friedan, Joan Rivers, Gloria Steinem, Jacqueline Susann, and Joan Didion are detailed across both tomes, Brown's influence on modern feminism, while palpable and even hinted at, is very obviously absent. This omission is, in a sense, vastly more telling than anything written; Brown's heavy-handed, bold and aggressive -- yet stereotypically feminine -- imprint on the worlds of publishing, activism and feminism is perhaps too antithetical to explain; perhaps Brown -- who refused to let her carefully curated defenses down and reveal her true self to the public, motivations, regrets, and all -- would prefer it that way. Then again, she might have refuted the idea of this unanswerable question regarding her life's work with her signature dismissal, "Aw, pippy poo."

The two biographies read best in tandem, with both sharing a sapid style of writing that demands little of the reader. And while those interested in this fascinating-in-the-extreme figure should begin with Hauser's "Enter Helen" and end with Hirshey's "Not Pretty Enough," a clear, discerning portrait of the enigmatic Helen Gurley Brown should not be expected.

For an informative, untaxing read, "Enter Helen" both educates and entertains. For a more insightful piece, "Not Pretty Enough" is superior, though mired in minutiae. Whether you choose one or the other, or both, be sure to pay careful attention as anyone -- male or female -- can glean useful lessons from HGB, especially in the way of her most dreaded pitfall, "Not sexy enough!"

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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.

Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Poetry On The Odyssey: It's a Girl

An ode to the little girl raised to be insecure.


They raise little girls to be insecure

Little girls grow to be big girls

People always ask big girls why they're so insecure

Big girls aren't quite sure

Day after day the big girl can't keep up

She's exhausted

Her soul feels worn

The big girl learns to grow hard

In a way, she's a bit stronger

People call her a bitch


What is that?

How can she let that affect her

It's simply the only way to be her

She mourns that little girl

Hoping that one day

She'll be strong

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