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Gillian Anderson on Feminism, Being Asked to Smile, & Not Feeling Sorry For Men

Sure, fine, whatever.

GillianAndersonXFilesBack in August of 2014, Gillian Anderson did an interview with Celia Walden for Glamour UK. She discussed feminism, how she compares herself to Kristin Stewart, and if you read on you can witness what she does when someone asks her to smile.

The love I have for this woman is unparalleled. FBI Special Agent Dana Scully was a huge influence on my development (so yeah, I’m pumped for more X-Files) and I’m not quite sure when I found out Anderson shared a lot of her qualities but it just made me love her all the more.

Her most recent work, The Fall, is very difficult to digest but absolutely touches on some important feminist themes. While the interview with Glamour UK has been out for a few months, Anderson’s sentiments have been staying alive via tumblr reblogs and Twitter. Thanks to her official website, we can share a few of the best bits:

Celia Walden: Your character The Fall – detective Stella Gibson – is pretty steely, isn’t she? It must be liberating playing a woman who absolutely knows what she wants.

Gillian Anderson: Oh, it is. Just because of who she is and how she carries herself…

CW: … and how she rocks a silk blouse. Do you know how many column inches those silk blouses racked up?

GA: [Laughing] It was mad. What’s weird is that when I wear a silk blouse it looks nothing like when Stella does. It must be down to the way she carries herself, because even made-up with my hair done I can’t replicate it.

And then this happened as they continued to talk:

Our photographer: Can you smile for the camera, Gillian?

GA: I don’t smile.

Our photographer: Can you look impish?

GA: I can do impish.

CW: You do impish but you don’t smile?

GA: [Laughing] Yes. Do you know what’s funny? Sometimes I’ll see photographs of myself in the early days of The X-Files, and I think that my attitude towards the whole thing was very similar to Kristen Stewart’s. There’s a very similar look in my eye: slightly defiant, slightly bored. All I ever got was: “Smile! Smile!” when I didn’t want to smile. And I really wish that somebody at that time had told me: “You know that it’s OK to be who you really are.”

ScullySmileI love that Anderson made that connection because it is so ridiculously true. Stewart got swept up in a sea of Twilight fame and was the skewered by the media when she didn’t fit into a certain mold. Stewart’s talked abut the double standard in Hollywood before and has a lot of great things to say, even if they aren’t what most would consider “nice” or “polite” when she’s asked to smile.

Anderson went on to discuss feminism directly in the interview:

CW: Do you think life is more or less complicated for women nowadays?

GA: I think the really complicated thing about life now is that men haven’t caught up with us.

CW: What do you get riled about in a feminist context?

GA: [Sighing] A lot. I have feminist bones and when I hear things or see people react to women in certain ways I have very little tolerance.

CW: But don’t you ever feel sorry for modern men? Not knowing whether they should help us with our bags and open doors for us or whether we’ll see it as an affront?

GA: No. I don’t feel sorry for men. I do appreciate gentlemen, though. I have a frozen shoulder at the moment and I’ve been on a plane twice a week since February, struggling to put my bag into the overhead compartment. Because I always do things for myself I don’t ask for help, but it’s amazing how people don’t even offer. Only three times in two months has any man offered to help. It’s sad.

CW: What are these men’s mothers teaching them?

GA: Who knows? Having spent some time in developing countries, I also have a problem with women not being included in conversation.

ScullyYesDuring the interview Anderson also touched on her ’90s X-Files fashion, “for nine years I went to work and was somebody else, without devoting any time or attention to the way I looked,” and mentioned she has “a healthy appreciation for Ryan Gosling.” But who doesn’t, right? But let’s close with this:

CW: [Y]ou’re one of those lucky women who looks even better now than you did at 20.

GA: Well, since that day I’ve started using face creams. Until then I had two decades worth of creams unopened in my bathroom. [She pauses] I did have a very pathetic/existential moment a few years ago, too. I’d been filming something where I was a couple of decades older than everybody else and I remember spending a day mourning my youth – literally weeping. Afterwards I talked to women about it and found out that it’s not uncommon and potentially a healthy thing to do. Because as long as you can get to a point where you’re able to embrace what the next stage is, and you’re not constantly obsessing over trying to get back to looking a certain way, then it’s fine.

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Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."