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Sex and the Single Girl

September 9, 2010

So this morning I've been reading a handful of really interesting essays for my Gender Communication class. My favorite so far was titled "Inventing the Cosmo Girl" and it's about Helen Gurley Brown's creation of the fictitious 'cosmo girl' that shaped a whole new era of women's thought, work, and social class. She almost seems like a 1970's version of Carrie Bradshaw.

In 1962 she wrote a book called "Sex and the Single Girl" that became wildly successful. She was the first to publicly condone pre-marital sex, discuss sex and the workplace and a number of other scandalous (for the time!) topics. Her impact is far more complicated than I care to get into here….. 

I don't agree with everything the magazine originally promoted such as prostitution in the form of sleeping with one's boss in exchange for gifts, dinner or money… but, it did discuss a lot of important issues and gave women a new platform for becoming independent, working, pink collar girls. (Funny Note: there was a feminist magazine named "Ms." that started in the 70's…. Ms. readers, compared with Cosmo readers had higher incomes and were more than twice as likely to have gone to college. More than a 3rd of Ms. readers had higher education degrees compared to almost none of the Cosmo readers…. )

There's a point to all this… besides the fun pictures. There are two things that I initially wanted to share; I thought I should preface them with the previous information though….

First: throughout the essay there are lots of titles of various articles that have been featured in the magazine… My favorite – "A Handbook of Elegant Starvation; A Cosmopolitan guide to maintaining a 'desirable image' while pursuing the arts and getting by on unemployment insurance." Ahaha.

Second: Helen Brown, who by the way remained editor-in-chief until she was in her mid-70's, was quoted in 1968 as describing who her magazine was targeting. I love this!

"There are girl who… don't want to be that driven, to have that many affairs; they don't want more than one man or one dress at a time. They don't care about jewelry and they don't want a sable coat or Paris for the weekend… But "my girl" wants it. She is on the make. Her nose is pressed to the glass and she does get my message. These girls are like my children all over the country. Oh, I have so much advice for them… "

Great right? When you put it that way how could a girl (a la 1970) not want to be a cosmo girl?

If anyone is interested I found the essay online (actually I found my whole textbook, ha)…. You can read it here. It starts on page 116.

Back to reading!

(end note… the Cosmo available today is vastly different in the information it share but I would argue that many of it's original ideals are still prevalent….)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2010 3:18 pm

    Katie – I have been creeping on your blog for a long time – and when you posted this I just had to comment. Fantastic information, thank you for passing it on. And like you, those old magazine covers fascinate me! But they’re not so different from the ones we see today.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Sarah Blacksher

  2. Lyndsey permalink
    September 9, 2010 3:36 pm

    I love scrolling through old Popular Science magazine… here’s a funny one in a similar subject as above: Look at the “Pure and Germless Kiss” article! haha… you may have to zoom in.
    I also found one once that documented the first ever Jello shot!!! It was during prohibition, and wealthy people’s parties would have jello shots because they were a loop hole to prohibition against DRINKING alcohol….you eat jello with a spoon.

  3. Lyndsey permalink
    September 9, 2010 3:40 pm

    Found the jello shot article!!!
    The “Within the Law” article on this page:

  4. September 10, 2010 12:30 am

    Lyndsey I love those articles! A kissing screen?! haha.
    Sarah! I’m glad you follow! I’ve been creeping on your blog as well. :) I’m jealous of the dinosaur adventures!

  5. Leslie permalink
    September 14, 2010 1:26 pm

    Katie ~ Chase’s mom, Leslie here. I have a book that was given to me in 1976 when I was a lifeguard in St. Louis. It’s “The Cosmo Girl’s Guide to the New Etiquette.” It’s a scream now. I’ll mail it to you if you are interested in reading it. My mom about died when I brought it home and she read it.
    (And I keep up with your blog, too!)

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