Game of Thrones and the role of women in Westeros

Marcus Campbell
Mesa Legend

Gage Skidmore Maisie Williams_editedThe Game of Thrones season seven finale wrapped up a seven-episode arc and closed the book on one of the best seasons of Game of Thrones yet.  It was full of homecomings, reunions, jaw dropping battles, and zombie ice-dragons.  The season also saw a reshaping of power within the show. Over the course of the seven-season series, the role of women has been criticized in Game of Thrones. Journalists, writers, bloggers, and feminists have cited countless examples of the shows poor treatment of women. There is the forced incest, countless rapes, murders, and debauchery that all influence the women in the show.

influence the women in the show.  At one point in the series, Senator Claire McCaskill gave up on Game of Thrones and took to Twitter to voice her frustration.  McCaskill said in the tweet, “Ok, Im done with Game of Thrones. Water Garden, stupid. Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable. It was a rocky ride that just ended.” What critics of the show commonly fail to acknowledge are the positions of power the women in Westeros hold and the number of sexual crimes committed against men.

Danny Harrison Lena Headey_editedDanny Harrison Lena Headey_editedLord Varys was castrated when he was a boy before the audience has the pleasure of meeting him and Daenerys Targaryen commands an entire army of men who have had their genitals removed as children and call themselves “unsullied”. Theon Greyjoy also has his manhood chopped off at the climax in a sadistic Game of Torture perpetrated by the same man who raped Sansa Stark and caused so much controversy. Rape and sex crimes are not to be ignored or taken lightly but must be placed within the context of the all the acts of violence and power dynamics within the show.

Resigning women to puppets of abuse is limiting to the range of the power and influence of women in the world of Westeros. Women occupy the two highest offices in the land, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen sit on thrones on opposite sides of the world. Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth are other examples of powerful women in the show who overcome gender discrimination. Neither of them wants to be a lady of their house and both spend their lives as warriors, a role traditionally designated to men.

Both women earn the respect of those around them as warriors by proving their prowess and superiority in combat. Sansa Stark played a major role in the deaths of both men who wronged her.
She orchestrated the death of the man responsible for the show’s most controversial rape by ensuring the success of an entire military campaign.  She then outmaneuvered the most cunning character in the show and had him executed for murder and treason.  The difference between the women in the show in two years is profound. They are no longer on the sidelines and they are no longer at the mercy of other characters in the show. In fact, some the most powerful characters in Westeros are women and Daenerys is commanding that men “bend the knee”.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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