For all her accomplishments, feminists often considered Helen Gurley Brown a sellout because being fashionable and sexy was part of her game plan.
To be a true feminist, one had to take sex out of the equation and create a society based on asexual opportunity. A woman sleeping her way to the top was considered exactly how to not be a feminist, as it could easily backfire or simply play to the wrong story line.
To a feminist, a woman sleeping her way up the ladder is kind of like a slave doing volunteer work -- it sort of missed the point of liberation. It was difficult in the early days of feminism for some to see where sexual freedom fit in, to see it was a part of the picture, too.
At some point it had to be asked: Aren't women allowed to like sex? Aren't they allowed to look beautiful? Certainly feminism shouldn't mean wearing burlap and brogans. Is that dab of perfume behind the ear really a deal-breaker for a card-carrying feminist? Tough questions, then and now.
Well, along comes Helen Gurley Brown, who published "Sex and the Single Girl" in 1962 and then took over Cosmopolitan magazine as editor in chief, a job she held fashionably well for 32 years. To Brown, success was beautiful and beauty -- or sex appeal -- had its separate rewards and if they collided, well, so be it. For the ultimate "Cosmo Girl," the good life had everything to do with a woman getting her very feminine needs met. But Brown was labeled "the patron saint of do-me feminism," a quote so popular it is hard to tell where it came from.
Brown, who died at age 90 this week, turned the equation around. A successful, fulfilling life between the sheets wasn't selling out, it was just, simply, that women deserved success in every facet of their lives, including their relationships. No need to apologize for that, eh?
Be that as it may, Brown was also the quintessential small-town girl who moved to the Big Apple and took a fairly large bite. Author, editor, gal about town, she was no stranger to the minted understatement.
Here are a few of them:
"One of the paramount reasons for staying attractive is so you can have somebody to go to bed with."
"You can have your titular recognition. I'll take money and power."
And the Understatement of the Week:
"How could any woman not be a feminist? The girl I'm editing for wants to be known for herself. If that's not a feminist message, I don't know what is."