Perhaps Lena Dunham Tweeted it best:
Because Helen Gurley Brown’s vision of female sexuality and power was messy and contradictory, and to love her—or even just to embrace some part of her spirit—is to recognize that being a woman in this culture can be a loopy, wild thrill ride of messiness and contradiction a whole lot of the time. Back in the late 80s, when I was a budding young feminist fresh out of school and starting out in publishing, she seemed like the enemy. Two decades and a whole lot of perspective on the magazine business later, I realize she helped make me—and all my snotty-ass friends who thought we were re-inventing the world—possible.
Helen Gurley Brown was the type of woman who called herself a feminist, to the great consternation of those who considered themselves to more purely embody feminist values. But her story—and the story she encouraged her readers to tell in their own lives—of emerging from “mouseburger” un-specialness to achieve financial autonomy, sexual satisfaction and success writ huge, is the very portrait of female empowerment. That she would go on to marry a peer—movie producer David Brown—and tell the Times that she looked after him “like a geisha” was the type of thing that infuriated people in the movement. But it was all of a piece to her.
Some of her most memorable quotations from this list the Daily Beast compiled yesterday—like for instance “If you’re not a sex object, you’re in trouble,”—are maddening, but others are simply fantastic. “Nearly every glamorous, successful, career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlepp,” she once said, and unpaid interns filing class action suits would do well to take note.
Also, here’s a first edition copy of Sex and the Single Girl if you’re interested in adding it to your bookshelf. Later covers have a more groovy sexy vibe, but I love that this one looks more like an anthropological textbook.
Also: you might very much need to own a first edition of the Single Girl’s Cookbook, just for the cover alone.
And finally: here’s this, from the first paragraph of HGB’s Times obit: ”She was 90, though parts of her were considerably younger.” This seems undignified no? Coming as it does from the paper of record? Not even to mention colossally disrespectful: think what you will about Helen Gurley Brown, she was a serious force not only in the popular culture, but in the business world as well, and her magazine not only minted money, it spawned countless spinoffs that minted money too. No man in a similar position would be subjected to this. I was discouraged—but alas, not surprised—to see that the piece was written by a woman.