Are you on Twitter? Do you follow fashion hashtags? (If you’re inclined to use “twittering” as a verb and you just opened a new tab to Google the definition of “hashtags,” bear with me. I promise to keep the social media speak to a minimum.)
If your answer to the two questions above was yes, you’ve probably seen tweets about Helen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who died Monday.
In response to this news, many women took to Twitter to hail Helen as a “fearless force of nature,” “a pioneer and an inspiration,” and “an incredible woman.”
|Helen Gurley Brown (G. Paul Burnett/AP/NPR)
If you relied solely on these tweets, you might be inclined to believe that Helen had a positive influence on the world, particularly women, and that her advice and editorial contributions will be missed. If you know anything about the magazine she reigned over, though, you might have a different perspective.
Just to clarify, I don’t read Cosmo. I don’t agree with its messages, but I don’t look down on Cosmo consumers. In fact, after reading several articles about Helen this week, I found the distaste I’ve had for her content in the past turn to sadness.
I feel bad for a woman made her fortune telling readers that what matters most in life is money, sex, stilettos and bra size. She used her influential media position to promote objectification, ironically claiming it was the quickest route to empowerment.
And here’s the saddest part: She believed it was true. Don’t get me wrong, I like to shop and buy the latest lipgloss, but at the end of the day, I hope there’s more to my life than brand names, pay checks and skinny jeans. That didn’t seem to be the case for Helen.
From what I can tell, she believed manipulating men and embracing vanity would lead to a fulfilling life. She was well-known for this quote: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”
And when asked why she never had children, she said this: “I didn’t want to give up the time, the love, the money.”
All of these sadly distorted views got me thinking about another woman who was also talked about much after her death and who continues to have an influence on women: Marjorie Pay Hinckley
Here was sweet Sister Hinckley’s approach to life:
I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.
One Huffington Post article called Helen a visionary, and perhaps she was, in her own regard, but if you ask me, I think she had the wrong vision.