2016 has robbed us of so many incredible people, but for a lot of people, the shocking news that icon Carrie Fisher passed away this week was a super hard one to swallow. While most know Fisher as Star Wars‘ Princess Leia (and the groundbreaking role that made an impression on so many young girls and women) she was also an author and mental health warrior. Her impact was felt in a variety of settings and she will be greatly missed.

In this special Feminism 101, we share our favorite memories of Carrie Fisher and explain exactly what she meant to us.

Katie Klabusich:I met Princess Leia at two very important times in my life: as a four-year-old Ewok lover who noticed that she was the only female figurine in the Star Wars sets I played with and as a senior in high school when the 20th anniversary editions of Episodes IV-VI were released in theaters. Five years later I would be misdiagnosed bipolar II. When none of the meds worked (because I’m not bipolar) I self-medicated for over a decade. I finally had access to real mental health treatment at age 34 (#ThanksObama for the ACA) and have spent the last three years untangling the mess. That struggle has made me fiercely anti-capitalism and pro-democracy; thanks to our recent election, I also consider myself part of the resistance.

Losing Carrie Fisher now is devastating. She is the General we need so desperately: unapologetic about who she is and what she’s been through and dedicated to making the world around her just and livable for all. I’m so grateful for her life and her work; what will we do without her?”

Sa’iyda Shabazz:I was never much for Star Wars, but Carrie Fisher has always been a part of my consciousness. I remember her acerbic wit and wry personality. She was always unabashedly herself and in Hollywood that is so rare. I remember finding out that she was a script doctor for some of my favorite movies which made her even more. I admired her for her openness about her battles with addiction and her mental health struggles. She took everything in stride and never backed down; something that is so rare nowadays. She will be sorely missed.”

Nina Bargiel:When I was a kid, I wanted to be Princess Leia. When I grew up, I wanted to be Carrie Fisher.”

Jen Selk:I never really cared about Star Wars, (Maybe because Leia is a fictional character created by a man? I don’t know.) But I cared about Carrie Fisher. I cared about her writing, and her openness about her mental health, and (maybe strangely) about the way old Paul Simon music talked about her. (In high school, Hearts and Bones was my favorite song.) Celebrities die. Everybody dies eventually. I rarely feel anything when it happens, but Carrie Fisher was so funny. As a non-celebrity, a so-called ‘regular person,’ to me her life seemed unbelievable, sometimes absurd, but she had a preternatural relatability about her. I wanted to know her. I wish I had.”

Veronica Arreola:Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia taught girls so much. One of the things I look back on is that she never changed for Han. She called him out on his selfish ways, his nerfherder ways, and still loved him. But she never changed. She did not minimize her role in the rebellion. Leia stood tall. For that, I will always be grateful for Leia and to Carrie for making sure that the one major woman character in the original Star Wars movies was always true to herself.”

Krista Benson:The thing that mattered so much to me about Carrie Fisher isn’t really to do with Star Wars at all. Rather, it was that she lived her life openly living with mental illness. There aren’t many people for folks with mental illness to look to for inspiration, for role models, because most of us never talk about being mentally ill. But Carrie just said what was going on, talked openly about bipolar disorder, and opened conversations about mental illness. I hate it when people describe her as “battling” mental illness. If you see one interview with her where she discusses it, she’s talking about her mental illness as a part of her, as something that she lived WITH, not in spite of. So, from one crazy person to another, I thank you for that, Carrie.”

Sarah Buttenwieser:What mattered to me most about Carrie Fisher is the way she spoke and wrote so forthrightly about mental illness. She used her freedom to be brassy and funny to become impossible not to take seriously. I am grateful for the example she set and the points she brought from private whispers into public conversation.”

Debra A. Klein:How can we improve upon her own words? I choose these from her tweet exactly a year ago, aimed at those criticizing her appearance, or, more accurately, those using social media to notice that decades after Star Wars premiered, she was no longer a teenager: “Youth&BeautyR/NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS,theyre theTEMPORARY happy/BiProducts/of Time&/or DNA.”

That even in her passing, certain actors made comments about her looks first, and then her accomplishments shows that no matter how smart and talented you may be on the inside, as a woman, you’re going to be assessed on the outside first. How sad that even her own peers weren’t getting the message.”

Amanda Rose Adams: “I listened to Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones” today (about his brief marriage to Fisher) and reflected as I’ve often done on the line ‘Why can’t you love me for who I am?’ And that is so Carrie Fisher — challenging the patriarchy from her early marriage to the twisted logic of her weight as a factor in last year’s Star Wars film. My daughter would have never had Rey if I hadn’t had Leia, and we would have had none of that without Carrie Fisher.  She was a woman who refused to be just a sexual icon, and instead fought to just be who she was, writing with biting honesty, saying what she thought .

As a short woman with weight and mental health struggles, Fisher became an icon of reflection and exploration. Simon’s response to Fisher’s lament in his song is, ‘Because that’s not the way the world works, Baby. This is how I love you, Baby.’ That wasn’t good enough for Fisher — she subverted the ‘way the world works’ and changed it for the better. I love her for who she was, and the world is a better place for it.”

Awanthi Vardaraj:I was an eighties child who was a voracious reader with an overwhelming eagerness for everything to do with science fiction and fantasy; I adored Star Wars and Star Trek, and I grew up pretending I was Princess Leia. I loved Carrie Fisher very much, and looked up to her no end. I grew up and grew into myself, and as I did so I was diagnosed with unipolar depression. As devastating as that was, it was also a bit of a relief; I could finally understand the why, even if understanding the why me was harder. Almost as though it were fated, when I was struggling the most, I read a quote by Carrie Fisher where she says that it can be an all-consuming challenge that requires a lot of stamina and a lot of courage. “If you’re living with this illness and you’re functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

I have always been upfront about my illness, and never hidden it; I tell people in my life how to support me when I need it, and I was already advocating on my own blog, writing fearlessly about my illness. Reading Fisher’s thoughts on the subject gave me the pat on the back that I needed because it normalised my condition and it made me feel less alone. I imagined that she had my back, and in turn, I had hers.

I will miss her very much.”

Mayim Bialik: I first fell in love with Carrie Fisher as a young girl who wasn’t into ‘princess’ stuff but was very into the idea of a Princess who held a gun and fought for freedom and also got to kiss Luke Skywalker but ultimately fell in love with dreamy, snarky, cocky Han Solo. As I grew up and learned about her family history and her struggles with mental illness and addiction, my respect for her as a human being was added to my love for her as an actress. Postcards From The Edge, which is her semi-autobiographical book-turned-movie, was one of the first depictions of a mother/daughter on screen that spoke to me very deeply. The advocacy she did for those with mental illness has had a profound influence on countless individuals and their families. But mostly, I look at her face and I remember gazing up at a screen as a child and wondering what it would be like to be her. I made many attempts hair-wise and I have loved someone who was thrilled with me saying ‘I know’ when he said he loved me. That’s as close as I could get to her magnificence. She will be missed by so many.”


What will you remember about the phenomenal Carrie Fisher?