Game of Thrones Finally Gives the Narrative Back to its Female Characters

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Photo credit: Helen Sloan for HBO

Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones!

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are no strangers to controversy — especially when it comes to the popular show’s female characters.

Back in season 4, they faced backlash when Jaime Lannister rapes his sister and lover Cersai right next to their dead son, Joffrey. Despite Cersai’s vocal resistance to Jaime’s advances, he forces himself on top of her and has sex with her. Audiences were upset with the depiction, especially since the scene was clearly consensual in the books. To many viewers, it felt gratuitous, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the redemptive story arc of Jaime’s character. However, according to the episode’s director, Alex Graves, while the scene was meant to disturb, it was not meant to depict rape. Because the season was already wrapped and edited by the time the controversy emerged, there was no acknowledgment in the story from either character that the rape had taken place. It was as though it never even happened.

In season 5, the showrunners faced further backlash when Sansa Stark is brutally raped by her cruel and sadistic husband, Ramsay Bolton. While the rape did not happen on-camera, the audience experiences it through the eyes, and tears, of Theon Greyjoy, who was essentially raised as Sansa’s brother. Viewers were upset that the rape felt unnecessary, and that Theon’s pain was front and center, rather than Sansa’s.

More generally, the show has received plenty of criticism for its abundance of female nudity and lack of male nudity. The female nudity is received by many viewers as gratuitous; obviously meant to cater to the male gaze. Titillation geared towards female viewers has been much harder to come by. The one time the series showed a male member, it was flaccid and wart-covered — not to mention, it was part of a comedic scene. One of the show’s female stars, Emilia Clarke (who plays Daenerys Targaryen, also known as “Dany”), has even called for nudity equality between female and male stars on the show.

All of these controversies, taken together, suggest that the showrunners — both of which are men — have probably not thought very seriously about a woman’s point of view. They have also often scoffed at criticisms aimed towards them. Upset female viewers are generally urged to acknowledge that these scenes depict reality, which has often been a brutal and unrelenting place for women. As if we aren’t already aware of that. Continue reading

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A woman’s place is in the White House.

 

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New addition to my home office. Looking forward to the reminder every day.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with two parents who told me I could be anything I wanted to be; even the president of the United States.

As a little girl, I asked my mother why, if women can do anything men can do, has there never been a woman president?

“There will be one day,” she told me firmly. “By the time you’re my age, there will be. Maybe it will even be Hillary Clinton.”

I couldn’t help but notice a wistful look in my mother’s eyes whenever she talked about Hillary Clinton. It was clear she had the utmost respect for the woman, both as a person, and a politician. I remember how, when Hillary would speak, my mother would nudge me and say, “that’s Hillary Clinton. She’s one of the smartest people in the world.”

Perhaps, my mother’s admiration for Clinton came from spending the majority of her own working life in industries that were boys’ clubs. In college, she’d been a math major. One professor accused her of cheating because she got an ‘A’ on a difficult exam, and because she was female, he didn’t believe that was possible. As a twenty-something, she was an insurance executive, back when few women were climbing the corporate ladder. She rose quickly through the ranks, but was constantly underestimated in her abilities and assumed to be the secretary as she sat in on important meetings. Later on, she became a high school athletic director; one of the few women in Connecticut holding such a position.

My mother felt the limitations of the glass ceiling intimately in her own work life. She felt the pressure to be perfect; to be better than the men but for only half the credit. She felt the pain of being treated with disdain, and of having to routinely work with people who hated her just for being an outspoken and driven woman. She was called terrible things behind her back — shrewd, bitch, tyrant, insufferable, fat cow. And those were only the words people said to or around me, her young, impressionable daughter. So I can only imagine what they were saying out of my earshot. Continue reading

Hillary Clinton and the trap of acceptable female behavior

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“She’s as power hungry as they come. She thinks she’s entitled to the presidency and doesn’t care what she has to do to get it.”

“She’s just not likable or charismatic. She doesn’t seem real to me.”

“She’s secretive, cold and calculating. She flip-flops constantly. She’s just plain dishonest and can’t be trusted.”

I spend a fair amount of time reading about and engaging in politics online, and I see these refrains repeated about Hillary Clinton over and over again, ad nauseum. Discouragingly, they’re often perpetuated by fellow liberals whom I like and respect. These are gendered and shadowy claims that speak to our country’s collective discomfort with the idea of a woman in the highest office of the United States. Yet, trying to expose their inherent sexism is dizzying. One of the reasons sexism can be difficult to call out is because it’s so often insidious and coded. Further, no one will ever admit to it.

When I suggest that the aforementioned statements hint at a subtle sexism towards Clinton, and ask for demonstrable facts to back them up, I’m met with rebuke: “I’m not sexist! I support and respect Elizabeth Warren. I totally would have voted for her if she ran!” This reasoning is essentially the “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” of misogynist liberal politics. It’s maddening trying to engage, but it feels even worse to let it slide by. Continue reading