game of thrones

Fighting Sexism the ‘Game of Thrones’ Way

What we’ve learned about living in a man’s world from the women of Westeros.

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With the beginning of this already-killer Game of Thrones season—really, with the end of the last one—the show’s true feelings about women are clear: They are the unequivocal heroes of the viciously sexist kingdom of Westeros. HBO’s sexy, violent, soapy epic started off one-upping even Mad Men’s 1950s and 1960s paean to patriarchy, causing its share of outcry over its objectification of, violence against, and general disdain for women. Now it’s clear that’s the point: The women of Westeros are all the more admirable for what they’ve overcome to rise to the heights of Khaleesi, soon-to-be queen, soldier, swordswoman, or avenging angel. You can see how dominant they are in this trailer for the season:

Oh, the war stories they could trade with Peggy, Joan, Megan, and Betty. Those Mad women will be back on Sunday night to offer new revelations and lessons of their own, but for now, a few things we’ve learned about fighting sexism from the ladies of Game of Thrones:


Pretending to be one of the guys while neglecting fellow women gets you nowhere.

Why, yes, that’s you, Cersei Lannister. The erstwhile queen once rose to power through marriage. Now, even as she loses her influence after his death, she’s clinging to the men in her life while clawing at women all the way down. She kisses up to her ruthless father and rues the loss of connection with her pathological son-turned-king, even while she turns a blind eye to the continuing torment of young sister-in-law Sansa Stark and clearly resents Margaery Tyrell, her soon-to-be daughter-in-law.


Waiting for your prince to come is a giant waste of time.

Sansa once pined for the love of cool-kid prince Joffrey Baratheon. Of course, now he’s king and routinely threatening to, say, serve her dead brother’s head to her on a platter, while she’s married to Joffrey’s imp uncle and living a basically pointless, weepy existence. I personally would be thrilled to find myself married to Peter Dinklage, of course, but we all have our tastes, and things clearly haven’t turned out to Sansa’s liking.


Make good on your threats.

You might not see getting your throat slit as a victory, but there’s no denying that Catelyn Stark went out in a blaze of Red Wedding glory. The sad fact of Westeros is that everyone, male or female, is going to meet some shitty fate one way or another; she died fighting for her family. She also died pretty quick and with minimum torture, it seemed, so, hey, glass-half-full, right?


Embrace your gender-transgressive instincts.

Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth both prove it’s possible, if not terribly easy, for a girl to learn how to wield a sword. And maybe it’s just me, but I feel like they’re farther along the self-actualization spectrum than most of the ladies languishing around King’s Landing. At least Arya and Brienne are out living life in Westeros, crappy as that is, and they’re doing it on their terms—with the ability to protect themselves, thank you very much, as you can see here as Arya kills her first man:







Find a traveling companion you can trust.

There’s a difference between clinging to the men in your life, like Cersei, and finding yourself a true equal whose got your back—Arya’s got the Hound and Brienne has Jamie. They happen to be men, but the relationships are mutually respectful. They could just as easily have such a relationship with a female, if only they could find a like-minded one. In fact, as someone who hasn’t read the books all the way through and doesn’t know what happens next, I say: Please, Gods, let Arya find Brienne. As, um, strong a guiding force as the Hound has been to her, Brienne might serve as a slightly better mentor.


Use what you’ve got to your greatest advantage—without becoming a tyrant.

Mother of dragons? You’ve got some serious leverage there. But if you use it to give people their freedom, rather than to become a dictator, you’ll win friends, influence people, and take down all the war-mongering sexists who want to undermine you by treating you like nothing more than a pretty face. Sample line: “The next time you lay a hand on me will be the last time you have hands.”

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