“A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance” by graphic designer Hayley Gilmore is one of the posters created for the Women’s Marches, a women-led movement started on January 21, 2017 as a response to the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America. The sign depicts Star Wars’ Princess Leia in her iconic white dress and her cinnamon bun hairstyle, clutching an Imperial blaster; the image is also accompanied by the sentence “a woman’s place is in the resistance.” This poster, a tribute to Carrie Fisher’s legacy, experienced an incredible success in its online circulation thanks to two main elements: the memorialization of the actress and the feminist appropriation of her character.
Carrie Fisher had died of cardiac arrest on December 27, 2016, less than one month before the Women’s March and, according to Scott Radford and Peter Bloch (2015), a celebrity death triggers several reactions by the fans, including the “memorialization” and “mythologizing of the celebrity.” In Fisher’s case, the protests have offered her fans not only a public space to express loss but also the opportunity to join a conversation on an issue, that of women’s rights, that was dear to the actress herself.
The artifact also reveals the feminist appropriation of a character from what was considered an all-male space fantasy and its reinvention as an explicitly political symbol representative of women’s empowerment. The image of Leia with an imperial blaster communicates the idea of a strong woman with both political and military expertise finding her own place (as princess, senator, leader of the Rebellion, and founder of the Resistance) in a male-dominated field.
The poster stands as a successful example of participatory politics: the memorialization of Carrie Fisher as feminist icon and the feminist appropriation of the patriarchal constructs in which her character was conceived make it an effective symbol of resistance. Fisher’s fans saw in this particular historical moment the potential to challenge and redefine women’s representation in the political sphere. Women are no longer willing to be relegated to the margins, both in politics and popular culture, something Fisher herself believed in, as she made repeatedly clear in her life and works.