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Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown Hardcover – April 10, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (April 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195342054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195342055
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 8.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Helen Gurley Brown, best known for her 32 years as editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, gets the full feminist icon treatment in this lively, engaging biography from gender studies professor Scanlon (Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, Gender, and the Promises of Consumer Culture). Brown invented the term "mouseburger" to describe herself-a "young woman of average looks, with some intelligence, more likely working in a job than pursuing a career"-but grew into a New York media diva after finding her niche penning women's articles and, later, best-selling books like Sex and the Single Girl. Combing girlish banter with a frank, no-nonsense attitude toward sex, Gurley's trademark voice gained her popularity and, eventually, the editorial gig at Cosmopolitan. There, she resuscitated the flailing publication with a sexy, transformative makeover. While contemporary 1960s society considered Brown the antithesis of feminist stars like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, Brown's push for freedom in the office and the bedroom presaged feminism's approaching third wave. Scanlon skillfully avoids caricature, depicting instead an intelligent and complex woman who, for all her talk of wild sex and steamy affairs, remained happily (and monogamously) married, lived as frugally as possible, encouraged women's independence, and frequently educated readers on vital issues like contraception, queer culture, abortion and rape.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. In the early second-wave feminism of the 1960s, Helen Gurley Brown made it her mission to argue that "good" girls were independent, hard-working, successful, and perfectly happy not being wives or mothers, instead enjoying casual sex, wearing make-up and high heels, and receiving expensive gifts from their lovers, some of whom may be married to others. Scanlon (gender & women's studies, Bowdoin Coll.), a feminist scholar, has written the first biography of the famous Cosmopolitan editor, whose views were certainly considered unconventional by both general society and the emerging women's liberation movement. As Scanlon's timely book shows, we're likely to be familiar with Brown and her famed "Cosmo girl" through their latter-day embodiment in characters in Mad Men and Sex and the City. Brown's life is a particularly rich, interesting subject, and Scanlon does a good job of recounting her transformation from ambitious working girl to influential promoter of the power of the feminine and, in Scanlon's view, feminist consciousness. Highly recommended.—Theresa Kintz, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Jennifer Scanlon is Professor and Director of Gender and Women's Studies at Bowdoin College in Maine. She has written widely on gender and consumer culture, including women's magazines, film, popular fiction, and feminism. Her most recent book, Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, has garnered national and international attention and accolades.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Hawley Roddick on April 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Helen Gurley Brown is a "bad girl" in the very best sense. She built her spectacular career on challenging the status quo, especially for women who had jobs outside the home and were expected to respect the limits of the glass ceiling pressing down on their heads.

Jennifer Scanlon's revealing biography portrays Helen as a pioneer feminist who not only encouraged young women to enjoy themselves in and out of bed but also supported safe and legal abortion, equal pay, and successful careers based on solid achievements.

At the same time, Helen could be controversial. For instance, she was not opposed to single women having affairs with married men who could help their careers. And she had a bit of a fetish about staying ultra-thin. (I know this well because I wrote "The Dieter's Notebook" column for Cosmo for several years.)

Yet because Helen kept her fingers on the pulse of a much larger group of women than did high-profile feminist leaders with less room for men in their lives, she expanded feminism. She was the one helping women to move forward while still enjoying their lovers and husbands as well as their own good looks and their rewarding careers.

Carrie Bradshaw and her friends are at least as much the daughters of Helen Gurley Brown as of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. Dare I suggest that so, in important ways, is the chic, lively, accomplished Michele Obama? Read the book and decide for yourself.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Allison K. on June 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Having worked in the magazine industry, I find HGB fascinating. This book, however, wasn't for me. I don't want to take away from the author's accomplishment; judging by the number of end notes, the author read every shred of information saved in HGB's papers. The book reads like a thesis on HGB's contribution to the women's movement and how she was the original Candace Bushnell/"Sex in the City" woman. I was hoping for something more about her as a person and magazine legend and how she got from point A to point B.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I saw this book sitting on the library shelf and then memories flooded back: the first few issues of Cosmo were so controversial. We'd hear people say, "Nobody in New York reads Cosmo; it's just a fantasy for young women in the boonies." I remember when we had the big discussion about the Cosmo centerfold. Now it's like, "Who cares?"

The book jacket identifies Jennifer Scanlon as a women's studies professor, so it's not surprising to find meticulously referenced details of every aspect of Helen Gurley Brown's life. For ordinary readers, these details will be way too much. I got bogged down in the background of Helen's childhood.

A major premise behind this book is that Helen Gurley Brown deserves attention as part of the history of women, at least in the US. Yet it's hard to see her in the same realm as, say Gloria Steinem. Steinem created her own role in the women's movement; Helen Gurley Brown held a job. The debate between the two now seems quaint and irrelevant. I wasn't even aware that it was going on at the time.

What comes through most is Helen's drive and ambition. She had a true "whatever it takes" attitude, even when the "whatever" croosed the line for many women. In the end, the real story seems less about her contribution to feminism than about how she managed to go from a hardscdrabble Arkansas background to a glittering New York professional career.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By jeffsdate on May 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the reviewer who said that much of this reads like a women's studies thesis, and that the first half of the book was hard to get through and a bit dry. (Do we really need yet another summary of Betty Friedan's contributions, and of the sexual repression and double-standard of the 50s that HGB was reacting to?) I would also add that much of the first part of the book was simply a rehash of stuff that HGB said in Sex and the Single Girl -- so I kept saying to myself, "Yeah, yeah, I already know this!", and wondered whether I'd even want to finish it. (HGB has already written so extensively about her life that, in some ways, a bio by someone else is a bit superfluous!) However, the book improved a lot in the second half - after HGB became editor of Cosmo. Ms. Scanlon has a lot of interesting insights about why HGB did so well with Cosmo, the politics of the magazine industry, and other things. The book does suffer from the fact that HGB did not participate in it. But on the whole, a competent and balanced job -- certainly not a "dishing-the-dirt" kind of book.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If I could, I'd give the writing of this book the five stars I did, but give the subject of the book, Helen Gurley Brown, two stars for her very existence. The author wrote an almost scholarly bio of Brown and her very heavy influence on society from the publication of her first book, Sex and the Single Girl in 1962 to her three decade-long editorialship (and redefining of) the magazine Cosmopolitan.

Brown DID have a great influence on post-war American women, "okaying" their position in the workplace, and telling them that it was "okay" to stay single and - gasp - enjoy an active love life. Even with - gasp - married men. The women Brown was writing for were not the ones later aimed at by feminists. These women were the secretaries and other white-collar workers, who maybe didn't attend college and were not aiming for "careers", but rather to get along in life. Betty Friedan - contrasted with Brown - was writing for the college-educated lawyer and doctors-to-be.

Brown's "girls" were urged to take advantage of men, in ways both financial and personal. In many sneaky and underhanded ways, Brown, tells her "girls" to score both money and other material objects from men. And that's what I always felt was dishonest about Helen Gurley Brown. She condoned "girls" sleeping with married men (while pointing out the obvious disadvantages) but I wonder how SHE would have felt had David Brown had affairs?

I can recommend the book for the writing as well as the analysis. I still didn't like Helen Gurley Brown, but I feel I understand her better.
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