Carolyn Moynihan

‘Do as I say, not as I do’: The mixed legacy of Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan
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August 20, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - Helen Gurley Brown, the former editor of Cosmopolitan who died last week at the age of 90, is famous for putting sex on the cover of the women’s magazine—and in the middle, at the end, and at several points in between. Her career with the magazine, which lasted until her death, was based on the quintessentially 20th century notion that sex should be fun—for women as well as men—and not confined to marriage. Girls could have office affairs and still ace their job and “land that man”.

That was the Gurley Brown brand, first launched on the popular culture market in 1962 with the publication of her “pippy-poo little book”, Sex and the Single Girl, and adopted in varying degrees by most women’s magazines ever since. There were, and are, other things in the Cosmo package: work, money, fashion, health… But, first and foremost, it was about sex: how to look sexy, how to have sex, with whom to have it (married men fair game), how to recover from it, and, ultimately, how to bag a man for keeps.

Millions of women have bought the brand over the past 50 years and we are now in a position to judge just how good it is. “I would want my legacy to be, ‘She created something that helped people’,” Ms Gurley Brown said when surrendering the editorship of the US edition of Cosmopolitan in 1997. “My reader, I always felt, was someone who needed to come into her own.”

Have young women come into their own by following her advice? Have they got their man? Have they kept him? Have they had fun?

Not so’s you’d notice.

In 1960, 72 per cent of adults in America aged 18 and older, including Ms Gurley Brown herself, were married; today barely half are (51 per cent in 2010). That figure includes remarriages after divorce, which doubled between 1965 and 1974 and ravaged the family life of a generation. Divorce has been a quick path to impoverishment for millions of women and children.

Ms Gurley Brown had no children and did not want any, but she would be the first to agree, surely, that struggling to raise children on a low income is not much fun.

Fewer “girls” (as the Cosmo editor liked to call them, to the fury of serious feminists) are landing their man and, with the average age at first marriage (note that, “first”) rising (28 for men, 26 for women) many are doing so at ages well beyond girlhood.

Well, the Cosmo club might say, “There are more ways of holding onto a man than marrying him. Living together is just as good.” No it’s not. Cohabiting relationships are much more fragile than marriages. A recent Australian study, for instance, shows they break down at 3 to 5 times the rate of marriages. Where there are children, this gives the next generation of girls and boys a shaky start in life, and it’s not much fun for the adults either, even without kids; ask a couple that have just broken up after living together for six years and had to cash up their house and furniture and start again, while nursing a broken—or at least seriously disillusioned—heart.

It seems likely, then, that the joy of sex has been short-lived for many of the generation or two of women who have been sold the Cosmo brand. And the worst of it is that it’s the women who need marriage most, in a social and economic sense, who have lost most in the gamble of sex before marriage.

When Ms Gurley Brown wrote Sex and the Single Girl around 1960 the contraceptive pill was just coming on the market and this perhaps accounts for the insouciance with which she approached her theme. The pill was supposed to remove the most obvious risk of extra-marital sex as well as the standard remedy of the “shotgun” marriage. Abortion was legalised to stop the gaps in this theory. Even so, women continued to have children before getting married, and, increasingly, without getting married at all.

But it was not the daughters of the social class that the editor of Cosmopolitan (and its publisher) mixed with at evening soirees—upper middle class college graduates—who began to swell the numbers of single mothers; it was young women from poor and (like her own) modest backgrounds. In the early 1960s around 10 per cent of babies in the US were born out of wedlock; today the figure is 41 per cent. But less than 10 per cent of births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while among women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 per cent.

Marriage is disappearing from Middle America leaving increasing numbers of women struggling to bring up children on their own (more or less) and the sex-for-fun ethos has played its part in this dismal trend. Respect for marriage has diminished—nearly four out of ten Americans in Pew’s 2010 survey said marriage was becoming obsolete, and yet the same survey found that most people who had never married (61 per cent) would like to do so one day.

Clearly, the Gurley Brown sex recipe has failed: for so many it has resulted in no man of your own, no marriage, and in all likelihood very little fun.

The great irony in all this is that Helen Gurley Brown herself married—though, at 37, late for her era—and stayed married to the same man, movie producer David Brown, until he died in 2010. In fact if you look at her personal life—and ignore some of the bragging about past affairs—there’s a whole different recipe for success there for the modern girl.

As Slate editor David Plotz wrote 12 years ago when reviewing Ms Gurley Brown’s memoir, I’m Wild Again:

But on closer inspection, I’m Wild Again is a strangely inapt title and a poor description of Brown’s life. She’s not wild again (and she may never have been very wild in the first place). This is the autobiography of a puritan. Wild chronicles how Brown exercises obsessively; doesn’t drink, smoke, or eat; has remained utterly faithful to her husband of 35 years; and lives for her job. The Cosmo girl’s dirty little secret isn’t sex. It’s work.

Although she encouraged cavorting with married men, Plotz points out, she was too busy to do it herself. She worked 12-hour days on the magazine and lived her gospel of self-improvement to a puritanical degree. Between Cosmo’s sex talk and seduction was sound advice to the secretaries and beauticians who read the magazine: “Get out and do it, kiddo!” she told them. Work hard, be punctual, be tough, don’t fear competition, save your money.

Self-made people can be ruthless. Perhaps Helen Gurley Brown was. Certainly she dished out a lot of bad and harmful advice about how young women could “improve” themselves. Unfortunately that obscured some very good messages: be ambitious, work hard, dress up, marry—and stay married. Let’s remember her for that.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article is reprinted under a Creative Commons License.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

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By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

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By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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