If you want to know why National Review is better than the New York Times, compare their review of Jennifer Scanlon’s new biography of Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, with ours (which is not available online, so you’ll have to buy a print copy of NR or subscribe to NR Digital). Ours is by the inimitable and irrepressible Florence King; the Times’s assessment comes from Ginia Bellafante, who is a television critic for the Times and makes up for that embarrassment by being every bit as grim and humorless as the popular image of a feminist would suggest.
Of Brown’s breakthrough how-to book, for example, Bellafante writes:
Published in 1962, the same year as “The Golden Notebook,” composed as if in a spaceship with limited intergalactic communication, it is Brown’s thematic blueprint for Cosmopolitan, a work of good intentions and singular lunacy. Written while Brown was continuing her ascent in advertising, the book, not really about sex at all, promotes self-sufficiency and ambition, emphasizing careers that might lend women a patina of glamour and ignoring those — in the fields of cardiology, say, or jurisprudence — where female participation might have really shaken things up.
It’s pretty much all like that. Bellafante does make one good point, though. Bristling at Scanlon’s suggestion that Helen Gurley Brown deserves “inclusion in the pantheon of remarkable mid-20th-century feminists,” she snorts:
To believe that [Brown] and [Betty] Friedan ought to be thought of as equals is to imagine that the differences between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are largely distinctions of affect. Sisterhood is no democracy.
She certainly has that right. Sarah Palin rose from a humble background to become governor of Alaska by starting out at the local level, working hard, learning the ropes, and overcoming a powerful machine. Hillary Clinton married well. There definitely is no comparison between them — and Bellafante’s proud shunning of the democratic principle reminds us that, just like everything else, “sisterhood” has strong, entrenched hierarchies to which its practitioners cling.