Hanne Lise Thomsen (DK)
Bigita 2014


It’s a wellknown “fact” that Pippi Longstocking is the strongest girl in the world. Not only is she able to lift her horse one-handed, but also to protect herself and others whenever necessary. On top of that Pippi’s extraordinary strength is matched by a free spirit. From a feminist perspective Astrid Lindgren’s famous protagonist, who lives on her own and follows no conventiontional rules, is the (im)perfect image of women’s emancipation from a patriarchal society.

The first novel about Pippi was published in 1945. Around the same time as the birth of the 70-year old woman portrayed by Hanne Lise Thomsen. Had Pippi not been a fictional character, remaining a child throughout the whole series of books, she would propably have looked very much like the woman in the black and white photo – litteraly still going strong. With loose hair, a big smile, wild and full of life. Needless to say that growing old doesn’t mean that a person automatically leaves his or her vitality and strength behind. Yet, the standard conception is different. Partly because images such as Hanne Lise Thomsen’s joyous portrait of an extremely lively 70+ woman are rarely shown on billboard commercials, magazine covers or movie posters.

Representations of older people, especially women, are missing in public space as well as in popular culture. And if senior women are actually represented the staging is most likely stereotyped. ‘Grandmother’ seems to be a recurrent role which indicates that women of age are caretakers with no identity of their own. Leaving out the fact that there are lots of wild “old Pippis” around in real life.

Gitte Broeng