Friday, April 15, 2016

Women and Rape in "Game of Thrones"

If you haven't already guessed, I love Game of Thrones. I'm counting the days to season 6, and it's kind of terrifying because I've read all the books, so until now I've always known everything that's going to happen (or at least the general gist of it). But now that the show is passing the books, I'm terrified! Is this how the non-readers feel all the time?! It's exhausting!

Anyway, I was talking about the show with a friend, another woman. At one point she asked me how I felt about how women are presented and treated in Game of Thrones.




Let's face it: you don't want to be a woman in Westeros or Essos. The story and world is based off of Europe during the War of the Roses, which happened in the 15th Century, back when women were sold off in marriage, objectified, dismissed, and had little to no political power (frankly, today isn't that different; we have a long way to go).

Westeros, just like Earth, is a patriarchal society. When you have a patriarchal society, you have rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in abundance. (Not that it doesn't happen when women are in charge, but since 1 in 5 women in America will be raped vs. 1 in 71 men, I think it's safe to say that having one gender in charge for so long doesn't do the other gender any favors.)




So, yes, women are horribly abused and mistreated in Game of Thrones, and it's not okay. And more importantly, Game of Thrones shows just how not-okay it is.

If GoT showed rape and abuse as totally fine, and dismissed it entirely, it would not be okay. If GoT showed its women being weak and meek and simply taking (or worse, enjoying) all the shit that happens to them, that would not be okay. If GoT blamed the victim for her abuse, that would not be okay.

Instead, GoT highlights an ugly truth that has plagued human society since we began. It pulls no punches, and it does not say, "well, what are you gonna do?" It shows that it is not okay and condemns the abusers to an agonizing death. (Usually; Jaime has yet to be punished for raping Cersei, but he did just lose Myrcella, so maybe that's a karmic punishment? And the Boltons have yet to see their comeuppance, but now that Sansa's free...)




Furthermore, GoT shows how women can overcome it. Dany seduces Drogo, taking charge of the relationship and forcing him to acknowledge her as a human being. Sansa gets help and escapes both of her abusive relationships (hopefully permanently). Arya uses Meryn Trant's pedophilia to get close enough to kill him.

In fact, the only problem I have with the rape on this show is that it's sometimes used excessively to really drive home the point that these guys are the bad guys. Like Meryn Trant; we wanted him dead already, he didn't need to be a pedophile. And when the mutinous men of the Night's Watch took over Craster's and we saw all the abuse on the edge of the screen while the men were talking...also not necessary. They killed Mormont, and the writers just needed to show a couple of seconds of abuse to get the point across.



Otherwise, kudos to Game of Thrones! For not romanticizing gender relations, for showing us the very real dark side of humanity, and for punishing the abusers instead of the victims.

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