Stop talking — and listen!
As many people now know, Steve Martin was recently taken to task for his tribute Tweet upon Carrie Fisher's passing.
In remembering her Martin said:
"When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher she was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well."
Within hours, Martin was thrashed in New York Magazine for characterizing Leia, and therefore Fisher, "as a wet dream for prepubescent men," which the article claims "is something Fisher spoke out against her whole career."
After which Martin swiftly deleted the Tweet in question.
Now the typically soft-spoken comedian has been taken to task by both sides of the everlasting battle — those who decry any statement in which a woman and her physical attributes are combined as "sexist," and those who beat down anyone who apologizes to women as pandering to "bullies."
Which leads me to feel — as is happening far too often lately — terribly sad to see the level of discourse between those with differing points of views reduced to the same kind of impulsive and childish bickering you can find on each and every elementary school playground come recess or lunchtime.
Rather than practice active listening like adults, we hear something — anything — that remotely sounds like it goes against our personal positions and off we run to either punch someone in the stomach or to tell the teacher on them.
The truth (IMHO) is that Steve Martin's now-deleted Tweet was NOT sexist. And the truth (also IMHO) is that Steve Martin was NOT bullied into deleting it.
According to an article in Time, the reasoning cited by those expressing outrage was that "Martin focused on Fisher’s physical appearance instead of her talent and work." This was apparently so egregious, according to the same piece, because "Fisher, a lifelong feminist, repeatedly spoke out against being perceived as a sex symbol and the way she was regarded physically."
As a lifelong Fisher fan, I've watched several interviews with her throughout the years, and I've read a good deal of what she wrote regarding mental health, but I didn't remember much of her making statements specifically speaking out against "being perceived as a sex symbol," so I decided to click on the links provided in various articles mentioning her stated career-spanning battle against objectification to see exactly what she herself had said.
Here are four of Fisher's direct quotes regarding Princess-Leia-as-sex-symbol — in the context they originally appeared:
"What's funny is I wish I had known I was a sex symbol. That's so odd. Because I don't think that way. I don't look at myself even remotely that way. So that would have been hilarious, if I had the chops for hilarious at the time. ... There are other pictures of women with t--s and [looking] sexy (in swimwear), like Bridget Bardot and Sophia Lauren, and then there's me in that (gold) bikini. I'm an extremely self-conscious and tense person … I did not know that I was pretty. I just thought I looked okay and I could go out."
The reporter then included the following:
"Part of the problem, she adds, is that she didn't have the most powerful self-confidence in the galaxy while she was battling Jabba the Hutt on screen. It's still an appearance-driven business that can wreck a person's confidence: Fisher had previously revealed that she had been pressured to drop 35 pounds to return as Leia in The Force Awakens ... Fisher seems bemused by that legacy, even if it came as a big surprise."
The NY Mag article I mentioned prefaced her quote in Rolling Stone as follows: "[Fisher] addressed Leia’s role as a sex object in a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone. 'Let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies ... so the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.'"
Reading the original interview as a whole, however, shows that the context for her words had nothing to do with Leia-as-sex-object at all:
"There are a lot of people who don't like my character in these movies; they think I'm some kind of space bitch. She has no friends, no family; her planet was blown up in seconds — along with her hairdresser — so all she has is a cause. From the first film [Star Wars], she was just a soldier, front line and center. The only way they knew to make the character strong was to make her angry. In Return of the Jedi, she gets to be more feminine, more supportive, more affectionate. But let's not forget that these movies are basically boys' fantasies. So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes."
WSJ: "There’s been some debate recently about whether there should be no more merchandise with you in the Return of the Jedi bikini."
Carrie Fisher: "I think that’s stupid."
WSJ: "To stop making the merchandise?"
CF: "The father who flipped out about it. 'What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?' Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage."
4. And a 2015 interview with the Los Angeles Times regarding the same doll.
LA Times: "Fisher may still get nervous, but that doesn't change her legacy. Nor did it stop her tenacious response about the recent kerfuffle over her character's notorious bikini. A frustrated father ... was perturbed [that the Slave Leia figure] was being sold in the toy aisle and flustered over how he was going to explain the toy's chain to his daughters."
Carrie Fisher: "How about telling his daughter that the character is wearing that outfit not because she's chosen to wear it. She's been forced to wear it," Fisher advises. "She's a prisoner of a giant testicle who has a lot of saliva going on and she does not want to wear that thing, and it's ultimately that chain, which you're now indicating is some sort of accessory to S&M, that is used to kill the giant saliva testicle ... That's asinine."
So, in a nutshell, it's not that Fisher saw being considered a sex object as inherently bad or sexist — right or wrong, she just didn't feel that she lived up to the title. It isn't that thought being put in a bikini was anti-feminist — she was being realistic about the reason for the wardrobe department's selection.
And, it isn't that she felt parents should take a stand against 'Slave Leia' toys — she thought that their hysteria over the issue was "stupid" and "asinine" and that they should grow up and just explain shit to their kids.
On the flipside of poor Steve's attack-by-Twitter, there were the outcries against the mean and nasty women who made him take his words off the internet.
Just as I was curious to see what Fisher had really said about herself and feminism, I was curious to see how Steve Martin's tweet was championed by those with a different opinion on the matter.
Here are 4 statements made about feminists in response to the deleted tweet:
1. From the Daily Caller.
"Feminism. What would we do without it? All sorts of bad things, obviously. Like mourning a beloved movie star in unapproved ways."
2. From the Daily Wire.
"Is there anything feminists don't find offensive? Don't try to rack your brain, the answer is a resounding no."
3. From the Independent Women's Forum.
"So, well, Martin caved to the bullying and deleted his tweet-memorial. You can't fight media feminism, I guess. And they say there's no war against heterosexual men."
4. From the Blaze.
"Steve Martin marks death of ‘beautiful’ Carrie Fisher, triggering feminist website meltdown."
I can't say this too many times. I'm a HUGE fan of people (myself included) reading the words that were actually written rather than drawing conclusions and/or placing blame based on some of what they think they heard.
Yes, some people criticized Steve Martin for his tweet and called him sexist. Some of them were really mean. Yes, he deleted his tweet after that happened.
But let's be clear. No one MADE him do anything.
And, as he has chosen not to comment on the matter publicly, none of us who aren't his close friends have any idea why he chose to delete it.
Perhaps he felt the attention would detract from the news of his friend Carrie's passing.
Maybe he had just wanted to say something he felt from his heart in a moment — as so many of us do when we post on social media — and he regretted (resented?) the way his grief was suddenly turned into fodder for the gossip mill.
Could be that he just wanted everyone to STFU and mind their own business.
I simply can't help but wonder how much better all of our mental health might be if we took the time to sit in each other's shoes instead of our own echo chambers for just a few quiet moments before leaping to cries of outrage.