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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Christian clerk fights on as Sixth Circuit orders her to issue gay ‘marriage’ licenses

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By Dustin Siggins

ROWAN COUNTY, KY, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A federal appeals court has ordered Christian clerk Kim Davis to provide same-sex “marriage” licenses, but she’s refusing to give in.

Davis, a Democrat, says that her Christian beliefs will not allow her to issue licenses for same-sex “marriages.” Despite pressure from Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear, a lawsuit from the ACLU, and two federal court rulings, Davis has refused to issue any licenses while the matter is still working its way through the courts.

However, the Sixth District Court of Appeals said Davis must issue the licenses.

While critics say Davis must follow the law as a public employee, she says the First Amendment protects her decision even as a government worker. In addition to being sued by the ACLU, she has pro-actively taken her case to court.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Beshear told all government employees that "you can continue to have your own personal beliefs, but, you’re also taking an oath to fulfill the duties prescribed by law, and if you are at that point to where your personal convictions tell you that you simply cannot fulfill your duties that you were elected to do, then obviously an honorable course to take is to resign and let someone else step in who feels that they can fulfill those duties.”

The initial court decision against Davis was stayed 10 days ago. Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, whose organization represents Davis, told CNN that they might appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and are hoping the high court would issue a stay of the Sixth Circuit ruling in the interim.

A poll of Kentucky voters that was released last month found that 50 percent of the state backs natural marriage, while only 37 percent supported its redefinition. 

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Christians at Duke U refuse to read lesbian porn novel assignment

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By Steve Weatherbe

DURHAM, NC, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Christian freshmen at Duke University are refusing to read an assigned graphic novel depicting masturbation and homosexual intercourse. The university says the assignment was optional and won’t discipline the holdouts.

Brian Grasso emerged as the spokesperson for the dissenters after he posted his decision on the Class of 2019’s closed Facebook page. Opponents have done their best to mock and deride the holdouts as ignoramuses who don’t belong at Duke, but Grasso has addressed all their jibes, first to Duke’s student paper and then in an op-ed in the Washington Post, intelligently and engagingly.

The book at issue is Fun Home, a fictional depiction by lesbian artist Alison Bechdel of growing up with a homosexual, suicidal dad and discovering sex with other girls. “After researching the book’s content and reading a portion of it, I chose to opt out of the assignment,” Grasso told Post readers, explaining he was not opposed to learning about homosexuality any more than he would be with the ideas of “Freud, Marx or Darwin,” though he might find them immoral too.

“But in the Bible,” he went on, “Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic. ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,’ he says in Matthew 5:28-29. ‘If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.’” He then cited St. Paul to support his argument.

Grasso knew Christians would be in the minority at Duke, he admitted, but what surprised him was that Duke would blithely assign something so obviously offensive to this minority. “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

But Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization devoted to promoting American Catholic orthodoxy at Catholic universities, isn’t surprised. “American society has been moving away from Christian values or even neutrality, especially at secular institutions but even at Catholic and other Christian schools,” Reilly told LifeSiteNews. He urged Catholic and other Christian parents and high school students to choose their universities carefully.

Other freshmen have supported Grasso: Bianca d’Souza said the novel’s ideas were important but the salacious content unnecessary and offensive. Jeffrey Wubbenhorst wrote, “”The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that the content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic content.”

But others from the class of 2019 responded, “Reading the book will allow you to open your mind to a new perspective and to examine a way of life and thinking with which you are unfamiliar.”

In the same vein students wrote the Duke student newspaper Chronicle, mocking the dissenters with references to a Dr. Seuss children’s book. “Mermaid Warrior,” for example, wrote, “I’m sure there are people who think Cat in the Hat sends bad messages. That’s a big problem I have with complaints like these, ‘I shouldn’t be expected to read stuff I disagree with!’ It’s like, guess what, there’s no way to find something that everyone will agree with.”

But Grasso makes clear his issue isn’t with disagreeable ideas at all. “I think there is an important distinction between images and written words. If the book explored the same themes without sexual images or erotic language, I would have read it. But viewing pictures of sexual acts, regardless of the genders of the people involved, conflict with the inherent sacredness of sex. My beliefs extend to pop culture and even Renaissance art depicting sex.”

Inevitably, Duke itself weighed in. The book was selected for summer reading by the freshman class, explained Duke’s vice president or public affairs, Michael Schoenfeld, “because it is a unique and moving book that transcends genres and explores issues that students are likely to confront.”

After touting its artistic value and noting that a Broadway adaptation won the Best Musical award for 2015, he noted that the book was not a requirement and there would be no examination or grading. He expressed the hope that Duke’s 1,750 freshmen would arrive with open minds willing to “explore new ideas.”

But for all that, Schoenfeld did not explore the issues raised by Grasso: morality, pornography and the sexualization of relations.

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Aborted babies’ hands too disturbing? Solution: chop them off before shipping the bodies

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By John Jalsevac
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August 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - As if we needed more evidence that many of those in the abortion industry know perfectly well what they are doing, along comes the latest undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

The video includes disturbing undercover footage of a conversation with Cate Dyer, the CEO of StemExpress, a biomedical firm that acquires the bodies of aborted babies from Planned Parenthood clinics.

During that conversation Dyer infamously jokes with an undercover investigator about the need to warn lab techs ahead of time when a fully “intact” aborted baby's cadaver is being shipped to them.

But there it is: that hand, in all of its beauty, and its horror. Beautiful, as every hand is beautiful. Horrific, in that it is attached to a dismembered arm, yanked out of its socket, and swimming in a pool of the baby’s intestines and other body parts, to be bartered over and sold. 

“If you have intact cases, which we’ve done a lot, we sometimes ship those back to our lab in its entirety,” she says. "Tell the lab it's coming, so they don't open the box and" scream. "Their lab techs freak out and have meltdowns."

"Academic labs cannot fly like that, they are just not capable," Dyer adds condescendingly. "It's almost like they don't want to know where it comes from. I can see that."

But don’t worry, Dyer makes it clear she knows exactly where fetal tissue comes from, and isn't bothered in the least.  However, she agrees with a joke made by the undercover investigator, that if you’re going to be shipping the intact body of an aborted baby, it would be best to always make sure that the “eyes are closed.”

But surely the saddest part of the conversation comes when Dyer reveals how some of those squeamish lab techs manage to get around their natural repugnance at receiving little, perfectly-formed babies’ bodies in the mail, which they will then slice and dice – all in the name of “medical progress,” of course.

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She says that she often receives instructions from scientists who experiment on aborted babies that, "We need limbs, but no hands and feet need to be attached."

A curious request, no? But then again, there is something especially pesky about those tiny hands and feet, isn’t there?

Human hands are, after all, a true marvel of nature – so far surpassing in dexterity the appendages of any other mammal, the unparalleled tools that have enabled human beings to build empires, create art of breathtaking beauty, and to express themselves in myriad different ways. So marvelous, in fact, that Isaac Newton is reported to have said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”

Not only are hands and feet useful, but they knit human beings together in intimacy: lovers will hold or squeeze their beloved's hands, and friends will soothe their friends in time of sorrow by taking their hands. And then there is the case of new parents, who will go into raptures over the hands and feet of their newborn babies, and speak, using the foolish language of love, of wanting to “eat” them. Mothers will shower their newborn babies’ feet with kisses, and tickle them, and will study and fall in love with every dimple, every crease.

Perhaps that is why so many people found the fifth (or was it the sixth? I’m losing track of the horrors) video so disturbing: that footage inside the lab, when the man behind the camera uses his tweezers to delicately lift up a dismembered arm, with the hand still attached.

That arm, it is true, would not have been half so disturbing, were it not for the hand. But there it is: that hand, in all of its beauty, and its horror. Beautiful, as every hand is beautiful. Horrific, in that it is attached to a dismembered arm, yanked out of its socket, and swimming in a pool of the baby’s intestines and other body parts, to be bartered over and sold. 

Before this, we have heard the lab techs on camera identifying the baby as a twin, at about 20-weeks gestation. In other words, a baby on the very verge of viability.

But no mother will gaze in raptures at those hands and those feet. Instead, Planned Parenthood will discuss how much they can “get” for each "specimen." And perhaps Cate Dyer will instruct her staff to cut off the hands or the feet before shipping the limbs to those too-tender-hearted lab techs who might “freak out” and “have a meltdown” at being forced to see too much of the truth.

But what does it say about us, and our politicians, that the videos with those pesky hands and feet are out there circulating, watched by millions, and yet we are not “freaking out” or having any meltdowns?

Instead, our politicians are dismissing the video as being "highly edited," as if David Daleiden of CMP is a CGI wizard who can conjure up dismembered limbs at will, and even though even Planned Parenthood has never denied the existence of those dismembered arms and legs, but has only implausibly denied that they are illegally "profiting" from the sale of the appendages - as if illegally profiting from the sale is somehow worse than the fact that they have dismembered the babies in the first place. 

If the dismembered hands and feet aren't enough to awaken our consciences, and to force our politicians to stop the massacre, what will be? I fear the answer to that question. 

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