Helen Gurley Brown Perpetrator or Victim?

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Helen Gurley Brown’s Grateful Supporters

So Helen is no longer with us, this icon of what we are told is a sexual revolution, has left and will at last be brought face to face with the realities of death. As the founding editor of Cosmopolitan she is being lauded by the media as a champion, a leader in the cause of women’s rights, but is she really all the BBC portray her as? Each day death touches the lives of men and women with great minds who have made contribution to our understanding of life through the arts, science, business and theology, why is the passing of Helen given such prominence? The simple answer, which is probably the best, is that she was a spokesperson for popular culture. She was tuned in, she reflected culture in her work, and was a member the liberal media industry. She was on the same team as those who format and prepare our news broadcasts so why wouldn’t they be inclined to mark the passing of one of their own? In the reports I have seen she is celebrated as a positive role model for women, but what about her era’s legacy, shouldn’t we look a little closer at what we are being told?

The accompanying meta-narrative is that she heralded liberation from the constraints of society’s conventions, with sexual expression as a principle feature. The big idea is that women wanted liberation, but what were they craving liberation from? The caricature is of oppressive men keeping women at home and inhibiting their ability to have a good time, allowing men’s grip on power to be maintained. Bastions of these attitudes were sporting clubs and we have been reminded of women not being permitted to run Olympic races greater than 200 metres for fear of harming their health. However, juxtapose this idea with how women are treated today; the lack of dignity they are afforded in the street and media, the rampant spread of STDs, the site of homeless addicted women on the streets, a flourishing sex industry, where women are the primary victims of its exploitative nature and traded across borders as never before, the breakdown of the family unit exposed in the public glare by our celebrities and repeated in depressing patterns by neighbours.  I am left wondering did Helen leave a worthy legacy?

Things are different today and perhaps more women have their place among our heroes, such as Jessica Ennis and we do have a female home secretary? However, let’s not forget history’s female heroes, from Florence Nightingale to Joan of Arc not to mention our Monarch has been female for over 60 years! In fact, it’s always worth remembering that human history, as recorded in the most reliable of ancient historical texts the Bible, is rich in female heroes: Ruth, Esther, Rebecca, Mary, Joseph’s wife, Mary and her sister Martha, Tabitha and Lydia, there are more.

Am I to really believe that Cosmo’s message of self-gratification has empowered females, and eased their burdens? Have not the ideas and methods proclaimed by Helen Brown brought untold misery on many: addictions, poor health, unplanned pregnancies, abortion and women turning to lesbianism in the absence of men with the strength of character, courage and self-restraint to treat a woman how she deserves with equal value, dignity and worth?

So is Helen a victim or a villain? She was born in 1922. It makes more sense that the sexual revolution really got going in the roaring 20s not 60s. Following a horrendous war, when the bloom of Britain youth spilt its blood on Flanders Fields, moral codes were challenged as never before. These tumultuous events repeated in the Second World War, were accompanied by the arrival of the motor car, allowing young men to take women away from the protective overwatch of fathers, the first publication of Playboy encouraging the objectivising women, and then the ready availability of the contraceptive pill. All these factors gave talented writers and journalists great material for capturing our changing attitudes so by the time the mid 60s came around society was ready for her book sex and the single girl.

I propose, and please challenge me, that she captured the cultural mood in her journalism, told people what they wanted to hear, endorsing behaviour that was already established and managed a successful publication with all the business acumen you would expect from a smart, and educated woman. Did she care that she was reinforcing a cultural mandate that continues producing victims at an alarming rate? For example who knows what motivated twelve year old Tia Sharp’s killer. If 37 year old Stuart Hazell proves to be her killer I wonder if he will join the ranks of imprisoned offenders fuelled by porn and a society in which graphic sexual imagery is readily accepted. Helen jumped on a lucrative bandwagon. Cosmo is a commercial product, it turns a profit, offers jobs and serves its customer what they hunger. People’s appetites are stimulated from the deep desires their heart and human history is full of societies descending into pits of human depravity. In the Old Testament it was Sodom and Gamororah in the new the City of Corinth, where sexual boundaries were overran by sex between sons and mothers, fornication, idolatry and homosexuality.

If it wasn’t Helen Brown there were many others promoting the agenda of women giving their bodies away on the cheap. Oh, and by the way, you don’t think this is about women’s rights and equality do you? This is a revolution funded, fuelled and promoted by men. There may be greater equality but it has required women to abdicate their dignity, purity and consciences to lower themselves to the male mindset of sex without cost or responsibility.

It is though intriguing to learn that Helen Gurley Brown was married to the same man for fifty years. Now that’s an powerful testimony you won’t find in the headlines. Could she have used her journalistic talents to encourage and celebrate fidelity, the value of purity, the magic of sex within a monogamous heterosexual marriage which, by the way, she most likely enjoyed? I bet she could. Was she aware of her influence and could she have turned it to helping and serving the millions of female victims stripped of their dignity, abuses, and neglect by those supposed to care for them? I have yet to see any evidence for that. Victim or villain? You tell me.

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