Until recently, I always considered Game of Thrones (GoT) to be set in the standard misogynistic, medieval, fantasy world where women are objectified and constantly faced with the glass ceiling. Julia Rhodes wrote a wonderful piece about exactly that on PolicyMic about a week ago.
And initially, I did agree with many of her points. But after watching GoT’s season three finale, “Mhysa,” I started to notice how many female main characters actually break gender norms and the glass ceiling.
I do not deny that the superstructure of the GoT world favors men over women, but many of the following women overcome this obstacle in ways that feminists could be proud of.
1. Daenerys Targaryen
Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Queen, or Mhysa. Call her whatever you want but this woman has come a long way. Starting out with nothing but her heartless brother, Viserys, who only cared about sitting on a chair made out of swords, Daenerys has freed countless slaves and built up an impressive army. Her ethical decisions to constantly free slaves from their cruel masters has defied the standards of warfare in GoT. She wins people over with compassion and trust rather than with fear and malice (unlike father of the year, Tywin Lannister). And she has three dragons. The ending scene of “Mhysa” clearly shows her growing power in a world ruled by men. Women like her may be the key to ending that repetitive cycle.
2. Arya Stark
Speaking of female characters that have come a long way, Arya has been through hurricane after hurricane of sorrow. And just when she reaches the eye of the hurricane, minutes away from being reunited with her brother and mother, the storm picks up and leaves her with nothing but the Hound. However, Arya’s resilience and determination is what keeps her constantly fighting for revenge and justice. She ruthlessly killed a Frey soldier and does not even fear the towering Hound. Arya, who always hated being a lady, seems to be heading towards the direction of killing everyone on her long and growing hit list. A proper lady is the last thing Arya is. And deviating from the norm has definitely contributed to her ongoing survival in a dangerous world.
3. Brienne of Tarth
Brienne is worthy of being a Kingsguard, especially after defeating Jaime Lannister in dominating fashion earlier this season (I know he was not in the best shape but that is still an impressive feat). With only a brief scene in the finale, we can see that she safely escorted Jaime to King’s Landing (albeit a missing hand) while still sporting a nasty bear claw wound. As one of the finest warrior in the land, I truly hope Jaime gives her the honor of being the first female knight of King’s Landing. Although, Tywin did play a part in the Red Wedding so Brienne would probably rather have the unofficial title of “Hand-of-the-Kingslayer” over being a knight.
Even though Melisandre sometimes sexually tempts men to get what she wants, her power cannot be overlooked. In the finale, we see again how strong her grasp is on Stannis, persuading him to give up the war against the Lannisters and spare Davos’ life after Stannis originally condemned him to death. In many ways, Melisandre runs Stannis’ kingdom like how Tywin runs Joffrey’s kingdom. This priestess is controlling Stannis like a puppet. Being a king is overrated when you have the Lord of Light on speed dial.
Jon Snow has three arrows in his body for proof that you do not mess around with Ygritte. And she loves him too. Imagine how she deals with her enemies. In the finale, Jon tells Ygritte, who has an arrow ready to be fired, “I know you won’t hurt me.” Well … I am definitely not going to him to get my fortune told. It is unclear if she intended to kill him or not but I am certainly glad that she stood up for herself and did not let him off that easily.
6. Yara Greyjoy
With a brief appearance of Yara Greyjoy in the finale, we see her defy her father’s orders by taking the fastest ship and the fifty best fighters of the Iron Islands to rescue her brother, Theon. This act of defiance shows how little control Balon Greyjoy has over his daughter. Yara did not just take a random ship and fifty average men with her. She took the fastest ship and the fifty best fighters with her. Cersei Lannister would have had to take the entire Kingsguard and a bunch of other knights to rescue Jaime in order to accomplish a similar feat. Luckily for Theon, the one person that cares about him does not give a crap about what Balon has to say.
Shae rejected Varys’ offer of a pouch of diamonds in the finale. She will not be bought so easily even if it was for the future betterment of the realm. I expected nothing less from Sansa’s handmaiden, who can strike fear into Tyrion with a reproachful glare. True, she may be a servant of King’s Landing but she holds power over Tyrion, the one Lannister that can pass on the family name.
8. Meera Reed
Similar to Osha, Meera protects Bran as well as her brother, Jojen, from physical harm. Osha even asked Meera, “Isn't he ashamed, your brother? Needing you to protect him?” She simply replied, “Where's the shame in that? Some people will always need help. That doesn't mean they're not worth helping.” This young woman is definitely switching up gender roles and has proven to be capable of playing the protector role. And in this finale, we see her prepping up to fight White Walkers as well. If Sam is the first man in thousands of years to kill a White Walker, Meera is set to be the first woman to do so.
9. Sansa Stark
Sansa Stark is the best argument for feminism in GoT. Why? Because she is the ideal princess character who is the epitome of what it means to be a lady. She even had her own prince (Joffrey) and was set to be queen for a while. And that stereotypical dream turned out horribly for her. Joffrey is a psychopath and is also responsible for the beheading of Sansa's father.
Her brother (Robb) and mother are dead thanks to Tywin, the father of her new husband (twice her age but half her height). And even though she lives in a castle, she is arguably more miserable than every character in the show (minus tortured Theon). Being the perfect lady has completely backfired on Sansa. Luckily, Tyrion is kind with good intentions but he is also already taken.
George R.R. Martin, the author of the book series GoT is based on, said, “I’m a feminist at heart.” I am starting to believe that after reassessing the women of GoT.
Comment below with your thoughts about GoT’s feminist elements.
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