Warning: SPOILERS for The Last Jedi and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The recent release on Pirate Bay of The Last Jedi: A De-Feminised Fanedit, created by someone describing themselves as a 'Men's Rights Activist,' sent the internet into a fury. The edit completely cuts the character of Admiral Holdo, as well as the majority of scenes featuring the other major female characters. Mark Hamill and John Boyega, as well as many fans who disliked The Last Jedi, decried the anonymous user's actions as completely stupid. It wasn't long before a dorkly user rebutted the De-Feminised Fanedit with their own De-Meninised version, which cuts the film's male characters.
While many will suggest that the De-Meninised edition is just a bit of fun, such blatant sexism in either direction should not be treated as a joke. Beside this, both edits completely destroy an important enduring aspect of the Star Wars universe; everyone, be they human, Wookie, or droid are for the most part, treated as equal by the film's heroes.
The 'Meninist' Cut
As mentioned above, the de-feminised edit completely removes Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo from the film. It also cuts much of the late Carrie Fisher's performance as General Leia Organa, Daisy Ridley's Rey, and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico. To be specific, it cuts any sequence in which they disagree with, criticise, or appear more heroic than any of the male characters. This leaves The Last Jedi with just 46 minutes out of its original 152 minute run time. Also, Kylo Ren somehow becomes the hero of the movie.
The creator claims that the opening sequence is much 'cooler' without Leia chastising Poe, and that the edits help to present a 'united Resistance.' The reality is that this cut is probably made up of a lot of shots of Luke Skywalker wandering around sad and alone on his island, and Kylo Ren talking to himself.
The 'Feminist' Cut
The de-meninised edit of The Last Jedi flips things around, removing most of the film's male characters. Poe is replaced by BB-8, and Luke is replaced by 'those weird space nuns.' Without Poe's disruption, Leia and Admiral Holdo escape to safety much earlier.
In this case, it is much more clear that the creator was making a joke at the expense of the men's rights activist who created the de-feminised edit. Some though, have lauded it, and in doing so forgotten why either sexist cut of the film, even one intended as a joke, dishonoursStar Wars' legacy.
The True Star Wars
While Luke Skywalker is unquestionably the main protagonist of the Star Wars original trilogy, he would not have accomplished much without the help of Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and the droids. Alone, no member of the group could have accomplished much, but together they become near unstoppable.
Leia needed the aid of Luke and Han to escape her cell in A New Hope, and due to her title as 'princess,' they initially feel the need to shelter and protect her. Leia quickly proves that this is not at all needed, and she is just as capable as either of the men. While Han teasingly refers to Leia as 'princess' as their love story blossoms, neither he nor Luke treat her as a just a princess or damsel in distress for the rest of the original trilogy.
Nearly every major victory in the films is a group effort. While Luke takes the shot that destroys the Death Star, this would not have been possible without the support of the other X-Wing Pilots, or Han's timely return. Leia's rescue of Han in Return of The Jedi would not have been successful without the participation of Luke, Chewbacca, and the Droids, and the Battle Of Endor could not have been won without the Ewoks.
Perhaps one of the biggest points to consider is that either Luke or Leia could have easily become the hero of the rriginal trilogy. In the 40th anniversary novel A Certain Point Of View, it was revealed that Yoda originally wanted to train Leia, not Luke, in the ways of the Force. The prequels, and the Clone Wars animated series, show that there were both male and female Jedi, so neither Skywalker sibling would have been deemed better suited on the basis of gender alone. Rather, it was Leia's temperament that made Yoda believe she was the better choice. From what we saw in The Last Jedi, Leia's affinity for the Force could have been equal or even slightly greater than her brother's - After all, we never see Luke use the Force in the vacuum of space. Where Leia was usually cool under pressure, Luke was impatient and quick to anger. While Obi Wan favoured the idea of training Luke, Yoda literally dreamed of placing a lightsaber in Leia's hand. If not for fate landing Luke in Yoda's lap first, the events of the original trilogy could have gone quite differently.
Or would they? Certain parts of the story would have taken a different path, but the ending would probably have been the same. Anakin Skywalker's love for his child turns him back to the light. Whether that child was his son or his daughter is irrelevant, the love would be there either way.
Equality for All
It is not just men and women that are treated equally in the Star Wars universe, at least by the protagonists. Other alien species are on equal ground with the heroes, and even machines such as the droids are mostly equal as well. While Luke technically 'owns' R2-D2 and C3-PO, he ceases to treat them simply as property by the end of A New Hope. The same is seen in the interactions between BB-8 and the rest of the characters in the newer films. BB-8 'belongs' to Poe Dameron, but he is his buddy, not just a machine. In The Force Awakens, Rey refuses to give up BB-8 to Unkar Plutt, even in exchange for much needed extra food, because the droid is not just a piece of junk to be traded. In very stark contrast to this, droids seen within the Empire or the First Order are treated mostly as a source of free labour, or disposable soldiers. The other major point of difference is the treatment of Wookies. While Chewbacca is a beloved friend to Luke, Han, and Leia, many members of his species are slaves to the Empire.
These points are apparent in not just the films, but the TV series as well. In a season one episode of Star Wars: Rebels, Zeb loses the team's droid, Chopper, in a card game against Lando Calrissian. The rest of the rebels are furious, as Chopper is a vital and much-loved member of the group. The Ghost crew spends the rest of the episode on a mission for Lando to win Chopper back. Another early episode sees the rebels free a family of Wookies before they are sent to the mines.
The Star Wars universe is filled with strong men - Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi Wan, Rebels Ezra and Kanan - but it also features many strong women - Leia, Rey, Jyn Erso, Ahsoka Tano, Hera. Nearly all of these characters are part of larger groups working towards a common goal. All are equal, needed, valued. This equality is part of what makes the Star Wars franchise so beloved and enduring. Every little boy or girl can find a character to relate with and look up to.
The sexist cuts of The Last Jedi, whether they be joking or not, could taint this legacy. We cannot let it. We must remember the real Star Wars. To our heroes, all are equal.