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Here comes the General, Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher has meant different things to me over the years.
When I was 13, and lying in a hospital bed in my parents’ living room, recovering from a massive surgery to my hips, she was kicking ass and shooting baddies. She was a diplomat and a Princess. She had nonsense hair and a no-nonsense attitude. I couldn’t walk myself, but I could see myself running around in her white go-go boots.

I was in love. I wanted to be her so badly. If I’m honest with myself, I still do want to be her.

When I was 22 and coming to terms with the fact that I would have to learn to deal with my own broken brain chemistry, she was an outspoken proponent of taking mental illness seriously and taking the treatment for mental illness seriously. She was an unrelenting advocate that people whose brains were messed up were also fixable. She also managed to do all of this with a sense of humor.

I’m 35 now. I’m just starting to hit the age where women become more and more invisible in pop culture, and there she still was. On screen. She had laugh lines, and worry lines. She had a no-nonsense vest and still had utterly nonsensical hair (seriously, someone teach me how to do that bifurcated beehive thing). The men of her family had all gone away, but she still had her resistance. She had respect and love. Carrie, even now, was still a role model I could learn important lessons from. She was still standing.

Well, she might not be standing anymore, but all of us whom she inspired are. And just like our General, we’ll have our emotions. We’ll have our sense of humor. We’ll find the courage to speak out our authentic lives when we need to. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a dog like Gary to keep us company. If we’re really, really lucky, little girls will come to look up to us in the same way that we look up to her.

I saw the image below a few weeks ago and literally teared up at it.  Not just because I’m a sucker for a good Hamilton reference (which I am). But because she really is the General we hadn’t seen on screen before. And I imagined  a woman like Carrie Fisher (or my personal fancasting, Gina Torres) playing George Washington. A general for those of us who don’t get to be Generals, or even on screen. She didn’t fade away when she was no longer being pushed to wear gold bikinis by directors. She continued to write, to talk, to be seen.

 

2016 has taken away so many women who have helped me figure out the path I want to make in the world. On a personal and network level, it’s taken our incomparable Niki Massey, queen of the SkepchickCON room party bar, and giver of the best side eye and come-to-atheist-jesus talks. On a world stage, it’s taken women like Gwen Ifill, Vera Rubin and Carrie Fisher.

I’ve struggled this year with how to express my grief over these women. Niki, who was both a friend and a role model. Gwen, who along with Judy Woodruff, showed me that two women could sit on a national stage and discuss politics and be taken seriously by their male colleagues and the world. I mostly have a pit of unrelenting rage in the fact that Vera Rubin was never honored by the Nobel she so richly deserved.But with Carrie’s death, I am remembering some very important lessons she has taught me. I may not be able to express straight sadness or grief the way most people can, but I can express it through humor, in the way that Carrie always modeled. She looked her challenges dead in the eye, explained why they were problems, laughed at them, and gave them the finger. All at once.

And, let’s be honest, if there’s anything that’s needed to be given the finger, it’s this year.

So, in honor of Carrie Fisher, and in honor of all of the exceptional women we’ve lost this year, the women who have inspired us to rise up, let’s give the salute the world so richly deserves, for the way it has treated them, and us. This one’s in honor of you, ladies. Thank you so much.

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Seelix

Seelix

Seelix, aka Emily, is a Science Communicator, Forensic Anthropologist, Costumer and QA Analyst, sometimes, but not usually, all at once. Emily can usually be found lurking in dark corners of the internet as Seelix on Twitter, on Google+ and even occasionally at her blog This View of Life.

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