Last weekend Vancouver, BC hosted a Fan Expo that included as its main headliners Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame and William Shatner from the Star Trek television series. Princess Leia, as Fisher is known to many of her fans, was at the Expo to sign autographs, be photographed with fans, and participate in a Q & A session.
A friend who attended the event remarked that Fisher was hidden behind a black curtain signing autographs, so he missed a chance at seeing her in person. When asked why she was behind a curtain, he commented that the rumour around the Expo was that she “hadn’t aged well.” His comment passed as a reasonable explanation to those who were present and no one challenged this perception.
Now, Fisher, who is fifty-eight years old, was not exactly hiding. She was in fact signing autographs as well as having her photograph taken with fans that had paid for the privilege, which explains the curtain. Her appearance at a question and answer session was well-documented and photographed by the media such as the UK’s Daily Mail, who commented that Fisher appeared “happy and healthy.” These are hardly the actions of a woman who wanted to remain hidden.
The idea that Fisher was being concealed by organizers of the Expo, or had asked to be hidden behind a curtain because she was aging, was the most disturbing aspect of my friend’s explanation. The notion that women are required to “age well” so permeates our society that it is now considered normal thinking and a reasonable expectation that requires no further probing.
Of course, little was said by my friend about the male celebrities at the Expo who were also concealed by the curtain. And there was no mention of Fisher’s accomplishments as a bestselling author and screenwriter, not to mention her acting achievements. Unfortunately, assumptions about women and aging demonstrates that a gendered double standard continues to thrive in western thinking.
The pressure being placed on women to remain forever young continues to be a sad reality. Despite the work of social reformers and feminists during the past fifty years, people of all ages continue to buy into the idea that women must not look their age, especially if they are in the public spotlight. Apparently, women who actually look their age do not deserve our respect or our attention.
It is long past the time to change this socially constructed and unobtainable ideal. And Carrie Fisher, you look fantastic.