There has been a debate going on for decades about Helen Gurley Brown (HGB). Is she a feminist? How can a woman who has spent 45 years telling us how to please a man in bed possibly be a feminist? How could a woman who ‘pedalled cleavage’, as many critics claimed, be on our side?
What about all those serious, politically active frontline feminists – Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Germaine Greer?
They broke the boundaries didn’t they? Didn't they do the work? Not Cosmo.What has HGB’s ‘bare your bra rather than burn it’ kind of feminism ever done for you? This is how HGB answers that.
'Feminism,'is about being the best you can be for you. It’s about having the life you want, not the life everyone else wants you to have and living for yourself not through your job, your man, your children. It’s about equality.'
I would say that brand of feminism is everything I believe in. It's the backbone of a Real Cougar woman. Back in the sixties, it was very controversial. Even today I keep running into brick walls trying to get that message across. HGB's brand of feminism is totally non-judgmental. It's all about you.
HGB urged women to work within the system not against it. And she saw no reason to hate men or blame them for all women’s ills. I agree with that. Men can help us in our journey – not hold us back.
She used the magazine to get the message across – but the way she did it earned fierce criticism. Her provocative covers – the braless models often looked as if they just got out of bed after a night with Warren Beatty – caused the most concern for feminists of the time.
The way HGB handled sex, emotions and fashion alongside powerful pieces on abortion and single motherhood in Cosmo paved the way for women in power today to be as comfortable talking about what they are wearing as much as what they were doing.
She opened the debate that gave ordinary normal women a voice and more importantly brought them information about their rights, planted the seed in their mind that there was much more to life than they were being offered.
Helen started the job and now it's up to us to finish it. Always remember, Real Cougars are strong, independent, confident and refuse to let other people define who we are.