The sexual revolution has hijacked the women’s movement, says former activist

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Sue Ellen Browder’s book “Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement.” It can be bought here.

As corporate America faced intense pressure from the women’s movement and the courts to hire more women in high-paying positions, the ambitious, still childless Cosmo Girl was a specialist’s dream. marketing and a CEO come true. She worked hard, bought heavily in the pharmaceutical, medical, beauty, fashion and travel industries, and (the triple benefit) she didn’t push for all those expensive and inconvenient extras like tax breaks for the family, maternity leave, shorter work weeks, and more flexible work arrangements.

Moreover, by inserting its “sex without children will set you free” program into the most intimate lives of men and women, the sexual revolution could sell all kinds of goods: the pill and other contraceptives, underwear in lace, make-up, singles cruises, pornography, sexy red convertibles, STD treatments, abortions, marriage counseling, divorces and even in vitro fertilization treatments when young women have been chemically sterilized for so long that they have exceeded their early childbearing years and could no longer conceive naturally without the help of a doctor. Separating the gender of babies has spawned many lucrative new industries and would continue to do so over the decades and from the juggernaut of the sexual revolution that swept down the tracks, crushing babies and families under its wheels and silencing anyone who dared to speak up or stand. path. As Cosmo’s circulation grew from less than eight hundred thousand to nearly three million copies, annual advertising revenues jumped eighty-fold between 1964 and 1985, rising from $601,000 to $47.7 million. dollars.

In 2009, long after Helen was relieved of her editorship, Cosmopolitan continued with sixty editions published in thirty-six languages, distributed in over one hundred countries and reaching over one hundred million readers. As one biographer put it, these international editions “are a long arm for the continuing philosophy of Helen Gurley Brown”. Their editors, “described by one reporter as ‘lifestyle evangelists,’ follow their mentor closely because like ‘all good evangelists,’ their work won’t be done until the Cosmo Girl struts their stuff. confidently in conference rooms.
and bedrooms of all civilized people.

The world is in bad shape, because the fantasy of femininity we created at Cosmo – the fantasy of a woman as a radical individualist who belongs only to herself and is disconnected from others – betrays the truth of women’s lives.

“We are what we say we are, so we have to be careful what we say we are,” observed novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Embracing sex without true love – the view of woman as an isolated being only to herself – left many young single women ambivalent, confused and in situations of regret. C—, a writer friend of mine, lived the Cosmo Girl lifestyle to the hilt, to the point that years later, while dining at a crowded restaurant in Greenwich Village, she saw a man from the across the room whose face looked vaguely familiar to him and wondered, “I wonder if I slept with him?” Like her
became increasingly caught up in a pattern of using men and being used by them simply as an object of sexual gratification, her relationships became blunt, shallow and twisted. She became so phobic about being touched that even a hug from a girlfriend in greeting could make her recoil in cold fear. Trapped in the fashionable Cosmo Girl, I belong only to me state of mind, she found herself unspeakably alone. After a series of empty non-relationships and several abortions, she finally found a temporary inner peace in decades of celibacy. But she never married or had children and died in her 60s of breast cancer, which some medical research suggests may be linked to abortion and the pill. Shortly before his death, in one of our many late telephone conversations, C— recalled his years of Cosmo lifestyle
with sad regret. She lamented, “We had sex like barnyard animals.”

For her part, Betty Friedan rightly called Cosmo “pretty obscene and quite gruesome.” As the mother of the women’s movement, Betty hoped to broaden and deepen the lives of women. Cosmopolitan’s superficial philosophy of sexual revolution reduced women’s lives to what Betty called “an immature adolescent-level sexual fantasy”, promoting “the idea that woman is nothing but a sexual object, that [she] there is nothing without a man, and there is nothing in life but bed, bed, bed.

I agree with Betty. Although I was willing to use Cosmo’s prestige to pursue my own ambitions and promote my career as a magazine writer, from my perspective it seemed clear to me that sex outside of marriage was fraught with danger for the women. All contraceptives have failure rates. If you happened to get pregnant by surprise (as I did with Dustin), the man who swore to love you until death do you part would most likely be there for you when you had the baby, like Walter was to me. A man who cared so little about you that he refused to make that promise would be much more likely to date. And then where would you be? A pregnant woman alone in the world with no way to find a job and no support system? Certainly not the kind of “freedom” I wanted to deal with! No thanks. Even as I made copies to promote the supposedly carefree bachelor lifestyle, I despised Cosmo’s philosophy of sexual revolution.

Yet one cultural social force that I knew in my heart to be unquestionably true and worthy of my unwavering support was the women’s movement.

Sue Ellen Broder is an award-winning journalist who has appeared on “Oprah,” the “Today’s showand hundreds of radio shows.