Jennifer Scanlon is a professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College. An award-winning teacher and scholar, she has published widely on consumer culture and women’s history.
Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, the Woman Behind Cosmopolitan Magazineby Jennifer Scanlon
As the author of the iconic Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for over three decades, Helen Gurley Brown (1922–2012) changed how/i>/i>/b>/i>
The biography of the revolutionary magazine editor who created the “Cosmo Girl” before Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw was even born
As the author of the iconic Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for over three decades, Helen Gurley Brown (1922–2012) changed how women thought about sex, money, and their bodies in a way that resonates in our culture today. In Jennifer Scanlon's widely acclaimed biography, the award-winning scholar reveals Brown’s incredible life story from her escape from her humble beginnings in the Ozarks to her eyebrow-raising exploits as a young woman in New York City, and her late-blooming career as the world's first "lipstick feminist." A mesmerizing tribute to a legend, Bad Girls Go Everywhere will appeal to everyone from Sex and the City and Mad Men fans to students of women's history and media studies.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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Curvaceous, suspiciously symmetrical cleavage bursting out of a tight bodice, heavy eye makeup, long lush hair...a bod and a come-hither look that begged for ravishment.Those Cosmo cover girls once represented, for me, the epitome of female sexuality. At the time, I also found it flattering when my boyfriend forbid me to wear a bikini. So take my view with a large grain of post-feminist cynicism. But even so - as a young girl just beginning to understand my sexuality, I was captivated by Cosmo girls for good reason. This book explains exactly why. Bad Girls Go Everywhere traces the life of Helen Gurley Brown, creator of those uber-sexy covers as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Author Jennifer Scanlon, a women's studies professor at Bowdoin College, describes how Brown, a poor Ozarks girl, hit the New York City magazine scene just as birth control and legalized abortion freed women to enjoy sex without constant pregnancy risks. In every issue of Cosmo and her landmark book, Sex and The Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown extolled the power of women's sexuality unencumbered by maternity (Brown never had children, so she knew). Birth control = freedom sounds like a simple equation. However, access to the Pill, abortion and other forms of pregnancy prevention resulted in critical and complicated freedoms that allowed women to educate ourselves, pursue longterm careers and time the births (and amounts) of children in our lives. To appreciate the importance of Brown's message, think for a minute about your life without birth control. What kind of balance can anyone have if you had a baby every two years since you became sexually active? Being candid here, for me that would mean at age 43 I'd have close to 15 children instead of three. Goodbye, English degree from Harvard. Ditto for my MBA from Wharton and 10 years of work experience at Johnson & Johnson and the Washington Post. Doubtful I'd have written two books or this column. And perhaps most important, during my four years with my physically abusive ex-husband, I probably would have had at least two babies instead of zero, dooming me and my children to a lifetime of physical and psychological torture. Goodbye, second chances. Goodbye, happy endings. On the surface, Helen Gurley Brown celebrated women's bodies. But the sexy Cosmo girl was as much a metaphor as New York's Statue of Liberty. She represented women's choices, our freedom in finances, careers, relationships, lives. Move over, Thomas Jefferson - Helen Gurley Brown's signature should be on the Declaration of Independence. Instead, life being what it is, she had to settle for her signature being in every issue of Cosmo, another declaration of independence. By Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of Crazy Love and Mommy Wars Originally published on Mommy Track'd (http://www.mommytrackd.com)
Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl saved my life when I read it at age 13 by inspiring and empowering me to strive to become all I could be. There were other options for me besides suicide, and HGB showed me what to do to live a rich, full life. Scanlon writes that formal feminists derided Brown as fluffy and detrimental to the movement, but that Brown prevailed with women who were not college-educated and who had to start work as underlings. True: although I was a member of NOW and other womens' rights groups, Brown had more appeal to me than the judgmental, dictatorial Gloria Steinem. Maybe we "underlings" were tired of being judged and dictated to and felt sympathy for HGB as she stayed true to her -- and our -- vision of what a woman could be. Scanlon's research is thorough and entertaining. Although HGB has been forthcoming about her own life, Scanlon gives us lots of background, from her bleak beginnings to the heights and denouement of her later years. Helen, thanks for all you've done. Jennifer, more books please.
For me, the book is too dry and reads more like a thesis paper. Given the meaty detail of a rich life lived, the author had alot to work with here in telling the story of HGB and chose to tell it in almost bullet style writing. I'm struggling to get through the boring timeline details and facts that dont seem necessary for the reader to know (unless you are a professor grading a paper). Im doing alot of skimming to get to the good parts. Not the book i was hoping to read. But yes, HGB was a trailblazer!
I just didn't care for it...