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Game of Thrones is an Excellent Lesson in Patriarchy, Sex, and Power

Queen Cersei and Sansa Stark

Knights and queens, high-walled castles, brothels full of exquisite lady companions, more wine than anyone can drink—this is the world of HBO's Game of Thrones. Though the show is set in a medieval land of chivalry where men hold most of the legal power, women find ways to pull the strings in Game of Thrones' tales of conquest and copulation.

As Queen Cersei Lanister advises one young lady, "Tears aren't the only woman's weapon. The best one's between your legs."

Denied legal titles to control seats of power, the women in Game of Thrones use sex as a tool to enact their plans.

[Spoiler alert!]

Queen Cersei herself is the best schemer in the land's seven kingdoms, employing spies in every corner her country. After her husband dies, following the country's patriarchal rules, official control of the country goes to her son. Queen Cersei keeps tight control over her son and country, but her power slips when the Lady Margaery Tyrell becomes betrothed to the king. Margaery knows the young king is secretly a monstrous ruler who enjoys torture and death, so she plays a careful role. Toward the public, she's friendly and tender. In private, she amuses her fiancé by talking about sensuality and violence. Lady Margaery feigns stupidity, manipulating the king with her good looks, sexual innuendo, and outward subservience.

In the show's many intersecting plots, there are plenty of other examples of female characters using sex as a way to obtain power that's legally denied them. Melisandre, a red-headed priestess, assists another man on the throne through magic while promising him sex and sons. However, when impregnated, she literally births a murdering spirit-like force, which killed his enemy, and dissipated like smoke. Queen Talisa of Volantis is married to Robb Stark, who also seeks the throne as king. He was previously engaged in an arranged marriage, but broke his betrothal after one steamy night with the charming Talisa.

Only one woman seeks to rule the land as the lone monarch: Daenerys Targaryen, nicknamed Queen of Dragons. Targaryen was exiled to a land across the sea and sold by her brother to marry a tribal leader after her father—a king—was murdered. Her husband's tribe had little regard for women, treating them as slaves. But after she takes control in bed, her husband falls in love and begins treating her like a queen. After her husband and son die, Targaryen is forlorn. But she finds her strength when she helps hatch three baby dragons, previously thought to be extinct. Now in possession of something more powerful than sex—fire-breathing dragons—she heads for the mainland to claim her throne.

Like ruling ladies, lower class woman in Game of Thrones also use sex as a way to climb the ladder. Prostitutes are shown using tantric-like tricks to gain a foothold on power, for example. Though she's destitute, the character Osha— a free woman from the north—is skilled with all types of weapons and certainly counts sex among her tools. At one point, Osha saves a boy and his younger brother from certain death by offering to have sex with an invading army commander, only to drug him, kill his guards and escape.

But not every woman on the show uses sex as a means to power. Two women with other legal options open to them climb the ranks by taking paths traditionally reserved for men.

Yara Greyjoy gets away with acting like one of the guys by conquering with ships instead of seduction—but she's different from the other women on the show: she has untraditional backing from her father. Yara is from the seafaring people at Castle Pyke; her father, lord of the castle, entrusts her with military conquest and his fleet of ships. Yara rides horses in pants, kicks her feet up and mouths off to her brother when he returns to claim his title. Yara's father backs her as the rightful leader instead of his prodigal son; she is elite with a father's blessing.

Then there's Brienne of Tarth, a female knight who fights with bravado and bests many men. She uses a sword as her tool of power, instead of her lady parts. Because of her sword-wielding skills, other characters mock her for being unladylike.

Within Game of Thrones' rigidly patriarchal society, the female characters pursue their own plots with as much determination as the men. But barred from legal paths to power, they have to find their own ways to get a leg up.  

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Comments

35 comments have been made. Post a comment.

ARYA

I know she is considered a "girl" but lets not underestimate her. we are 5 books in and she is independent, learning and is going places and yet will likely never use her sexuality to get her there. She is all brain. She can't use a sword like Brienne because she is too small, so she has to be catlike. she constantly has to use her mind. She is the series strongest female character.

Per request on Twitter, this

Per request on Twitter, this is something I posted there in response to this article:

"...Patriarchy drives the motivations for all the women, who are looking to circumvent it--but it also drives the men, who have to worry about legitimacy of children and inheritances and cuckoldry. Without patriarchy, Westeros would have vastly more freedom, and I feel that Martin puts in the Night's Watch, Dany, Yara/Asha, and [Arianne in] Dorne to show alternatives to the patriarchy that destroys the continent."

And, per the comment above, Arya is another great alternate perspective given :)

What exactly is the lesson?

I mean seriously? Are we meant to be learning that women can only exercise power via sex or by adopting violent masculinity? I think that trying to find a feminist narrative in Game of Thrones is a serious stretch of the imagination and wishful thinking. This is a violent masculine fantasy, a brutal rape fantasy in which all of the female characters are brutalized over and over again. And the only ones who escape this become brutal themselves.

Where is the lesson in Cersei saying that the best weapons available to women are tears and vaginas? Or perhaps I should rephrase, where is the positive lesson, the feminist lesson?

I agree that women using

I agree that women using sexuality as a means for power isn't exactly the most positive feminist lesson. However, how often do we see such complex stories centered around women in television and movies? I mean, just look at all of the female characters that the author mentioned, and if you watch the show, just look at how much airtime women get. I can think of only a few t.v. shows that give women such complex, multidimensional roles. I personally don't think that women are in any way secondary characters to the plot of GoT—they are central to every plot development. Men and women are equal driving forces.

And I don't think it's fair or correct to say that all female characters are brutalized over and over again. Whom exactly are you referring to? "Brutalized" is not the first word that comes to mind to describe any female character.

I hear you

I just think that holding up Game of Thrones as being in some way feminist media just because it acknowledges that women exist is settling, and not for anything good.

Dany - a child bride who is basically sold for power - is brutalized by her brother and then by her "husband" who does rape her repeatedly until - add horrible rape fantasy to horrible rape fantasy - we're supposed to believe she falls in love with him. So there's one example. The constant threat of sexual violence is another and it happens to all of the female characters. I think that being constantly threatened with sexual violence is pretty brutal.

Arguments can be made that some of these characters make their own claims to power but I think a valid question is what feminist framework are we talking about here? Like is Cersei a feminist because she wishes she could be more like her misogynist brother? Is Arya a feminist character because she hates Sansa in part for being too girly and because she thinks that girls suck and that rejection is part of what leads her to learn to sword fight? Cause that is part of her character. As a more specific question, if it had been Cersei and not Robert who ordered that Dany be killed to ensure she did not challenge him for the throne, would it have been somehow a feminist act because it was committed by a queen and not by a king. In my opinion no.

slow clap for Kim C! totes

slow clap for Kim C! totes agree.

Think Kim c hates girls

Cersei is the one that had her husband, the King murdered and worked with her brother/lover on getting Eddard arrested . Have you forgotten that the father of her children is her brother and that the they were both responsible for Bran Stark's "fall" and attempted murder? Cersei is intelligent, driven and is ruthless. Arya doesn't hate Sansa, she was justifiably angry at her for not telling the truth about how Joffrey acted and why he was bitten by one of the wolves. The wolf and Arya's friend were killed. Your comment about Arya thinking girls suck and that is why she wants to sword fight is as misogynist as you say Cersei's brother is. Why don't you get some balls and break out of that closet? Your Robert vs. Cersei question is as pointless as the idiotic blog.

Hilarious

In the book Arya says she hates "girly" things and hates Sansa in part for adopting girly things. Misogyny is actively hating women, which Martin clearly does. Pointing out how a character speaks and acts from a misogynist ethos is being critical of a text, not in fact misogynistic. You can think I hate girls all you want, but Game of Thrones is still a deeply sexist, poorly written rape fantasy.

Also

The larger pointless point I'm trying to make here is what feminist framework are we using? Do the below actions you point out make Cersei a feminist character because they are done by a woman, or are they instead part of a violent masculinity, a patriarchal system of oppression that women can be part of too. I am not trying to deny that Cersei is intelligent and ruthless. I don't think she's a feminist character. My pointless and idiotic question is about the nature of feminist resistance in a patriarchal system. But, you know, I am critiquing something you think is cool so please feel free to insult my thinking and feminist cred on the internet. Also, seriously? Get some balls? I have no need for them, thanks, I don't think they will make me more brave or honest.

Cersei is the one that had her husband, the King murdered and worked with her brother/lover on getting Eddard arrested . Have you forgotten that the father of her children is her brother and that the they were both responsible for Bran Stark's "fall" and attempted murder?

My ball reference was in

My ball reference was in response to your misogyny which makes me wonder if you are a woman. You also do not know what I think is cool. What I shared was my disgust with a blog that twisted events and the characters of the women to legitimize her bizarre and strangely sexist claim. Not sure if it was a lame way of seeking attention or a lack of critical thinking skills. Either way, it was written by someone who obviously knows nothing about the show, the books or feminists. Will tell you that I do think you will look for and claim you see a problem, even when it is not there. The baseless claim that using sex as power is the only option for the women of Westeros is predicated on assassinating the characters of the women on the show while leaving out and/or twisting their abilities and strengths. It is lying by omission and is garbage. Not sure why George Martin who is a feminist and has created some of the most amazing women characters I have seen on television, especially considering the time frame and that the author is a man. Not exactly, a common occurrence. That is why the baseless attack on him is confusing and serves no purpose. George Martin writes about people who are dismissed, abused, mocked and judged because of their gender, height, blood line, race and social status. Unfortunately, it is still going on. These are the people in his book that are usually the ones who have the most compassion and the courage to refuse to let society define who they are or will be. That is what Arya meant when she was talking to her father, who listened to Arya and enlisted a great instructor for his daughter. What was he thinking or was it a ruse to trick her into learning how to use sex? Never said Cersei was a feminist, but think she could be if she wasn't busy jockeying for position or hiding who the father of her children is. Did point out that she does not use sex and mentioned her boy toy to show that there are boys on the show who have a leg up. Cersei is lonely and she is cut off from the rest of the world and doesn't trust anyone and shouldn't. She does love her children and brother/father of her children. Cersei is an intelligent woman who soaked up everything she could which served her family well until they felt threatened Her father is her mentor and unfortunately she can be as cruel as he is.

Not a woman?

Really, so now because I am critical of this thing you like (and while I certainly don't know anything about everything you think is cool, you clearly like GoT) you suspect my gender/identity? Tell me, what would you need to believe in me as a woman and a feminist? Would you like a list of favorite feminist theorists? Would you care to view whatever portion of my anatomy you think proves my womanhood? Or do you just need me to agree with and validate your taste in literature? Being critical of sexist literature does not make one sexist. Or a man for that matter. It is an act of the critical thinking you seem to think I am lacking. I could go through this response point by point and argue it critically, but there's really no point, you have your opinion of GoT which is clearly set and which you will happily defend by making me an evil sexist bro. A point I do think remains salient is this, and I write it to anyone else who is still reading this:

Feminists can like media that is sexist! We live in a patriarchal society, the vast majority of the media we consume, whether we choose it or not is deeply sexist. And we can like some of it and still have feminist cred, that's just part of the complexity of humanity. We don't however have to try to make everything we like feminist to legitimize enjoying it. To give a hopefully less heated example: I like James Brown. I think the man wrote some killer dance songs, was an excellent performer etc. James Brown is decidedly not a feminist. Actually he was a wife beating piece of shit Nixon supporter by all accounts. I would never, ever try to argue that James Brown is a feminist just because I like his music. That would actually be pretty irresponsible of me as a feminist. It's a part of my complex thinking about myself, music, the world and how we interact with each other that my feminist ethos is antithetical to wife beating AND I like James Brown's music. Another example: I enjoy some of the X-Files. I don't think it's the most feminist work of all time but that discussion aside, the show is extraordinarily racist and xenophobic. So much so that there are episodes that I just can't watch they are so offensive. And I think that some of the episodes are highly entertaining. I file the horrible racism in with the enjoyment of the show and when I talk to people about it I admit first that the X-Files is racist and xenophobic and then that I still enjoy aspects of it. And to some extent it makes me more critical of representations of people of color in the media because of its offensiveness. But I would NEVER try to argue that the X-Files is not racist because I like parts of it. That would be racist of me. And nearly impossible.

One point I will argue from your comment:
"George Martin writes about people who are dismissed, abused, mocked and judged because of their gender, height, blood line, race and social status."
George Martin writes mainly about landed, titled, noble, rich people. Sure he throws in some sex workers and a few other folks, but it's mostly a book about the ruling class. It's a Game of Thrones after all, not a Game of Plows. It's one of the things I found to be so dull about the book. I don't actually care about rich people's problems. These are privileged powerful characters who make their own problems, behave badly and give little to no thought to the common folk who are affected by their power struggles. Their emotional struggles within their class are not interesting to me, or to my mind equal to the effects they have on those with less power (effects we have to only guess at because Martin gives them almost no page time).

And here's where I just get snarky cause this is the internet after all:
If Martin is a feminist than we need to get back to the drawing board on those points of unity. What exactly makes one a feminist, to restate the question I've asked a bunch of times. I'm not one cause I don't like GoT and I may have swinging man parts. Ok, check. Vaginas make feminists. Wait, what about Ann Coulter? She's a lady. She's anti-choice and thinks that all of the world's ills are due to bad mothering, especially mothering while Black. Is she a feminist? Katie Roiphe is also a lady. She doesn't believe in date rape she just thinks those drunk ladies regretted the sex and cried rape. Is she a feminist? Or, maybe more importantly, did she like GoT? Is George Martin a feminist cause he says so (and did he?) or is it the thousands of pages of rape fantasy and domestic violence that make him a feminist?

And finally:
http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/26/enter-ye-myne-mystic-world-of-gayng-...

I'm going to go attend to my man parts now and stoke the fires of my misogyny while I read Octavia Butler.

And another thing

And here's another great critique of the show/books:

http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/05/05/game-of-thrones-its-grim-oop-norf/

Back to my man parts!

the author replies to your scathing remarks

You wrote that I must "obviously know nothing about the show, the books or feminists."

I have watched every show- every single show- and loved them all regardless of the displays of misogyny represented in this genre of stories (the Medieval-esq tale). My favorite Characters are Aria (there was no room to speak of her), Brienne, Daenerys, Jon Snow, and Ygritte. Also Tywin Lansiter, but because that actor is awesome and plays the character so well.

I have been a feminist all my life (thanks mom), studied feminism, and spent the last 2 years of my life doing gender research in the Middle East. When it comes to feminist theory, there is plenty to choose from. The sexuality of most characters is often not a free choice, although women of the North seem to have a great deal more autonomy. But which theory do you use for literature and TV show reviews set in a fake Medieval era?

Articles are only 700 words, and therefore cannot cover even a page of reflection, let alone a thesis about it. My original point still stands: women find ways to pull the strings in Game of Thrones’ tales of conquest and copulation. While I don't think that's the best part of the show, in fact, as I included in my unedited version sex as a tool for power is often used by women in GoT AND by HBO. It's an HBO show; everyone knows if the show is on HBO or SHO it's going to involve butt and boob shots with a fair amount of sex.

I'm sure the books are excellent, but I've not read them. I'm doing gender research at this time in Egypt and my books are generally academic. If I was in the states I would trot down to the used book store (Powells, I miss you) and check them out. However, we're talking about Game of Thrones NOT the books which as any book lover knows, are never like the series/movie.

Scathing? Is that how you define the truth?

Below is what I wrote about your childish article on facebook and it lists the many inaccuracies and your false portrayal of the women and how they keep "a leg up." You say you are a feminist but I find that hard to believe when you shred great female characters and then turn them into something that only a limbaugh could love. How did you get so many things wrong if you watched every episode. Margaery and Joffrey have not "betrothed." Talisa and Robb did not decide to marry because of a "steamy night." Melisandre, uses sex? Cersei uses sex? When have you seen her use sex? If you do watch it did you see the torture, rape and probable castration of Theon? Below are more "scathing remarks":
Season 3 is turning into the best one so far. Has the author of this version of Vagina Horror Blogs ever actually seen the show or read any of the books? Lots of misinformation. Whoever wrote this article should be sentenced to one year working for beck, limbaugh or hannity. Who knows, the way she attempted to assassinate the characters (which are some of the best I have seen on television) while making things up, glossing over important details and/or leaving out important details are things she seems to enjoy and has no problem with which might make them a perfect match. Example: Says Cersei's husband died (she murdered him) and she had tight control until her son married Margaery. She lost control the minute her demented son became King and he hasn't married Margaery. Cersei is a masterful politician, who has not used sex to get what she wants. Matter of fact, she has a boy toy who keeps his leg up. Ignores the fact that Melisandre is a High Priestess who has both mystical and prophetic powers and claims that she uses sex and promises him sons to gain power and then delivers birth to a demonic spirit that kills his enemy. Newsflash" His enemy is his brother, Lord Renly. Melisandre promises him he will be King which is what he sees when he looks in her fire, not sex and sons. Says Margaery "feigns stupidity, uses her looks to manipulate, sexual innuendos and outwardly subservient"? The only thing I have seen Margaery feign is interest in Joffery's weapon, liking how it worked when he showed her, shooting it and asking him if she could go hunting. The demented one responded like a kid in the toy store. She also spontaneously stopped the royal entourage in the middle of the city, walked to the baths, talked to the children, some mothers and promised she would help them, while Joffrey hid in his carriage and the guards scrambled. Hardly subservient. Now, the people love her and sex has nothing to do with it. Her grandmother is another strong woman who makes a great partner. Robb's marriage to Talisa is credited to a steamy one night stand which is not based on anything that has been depicted on the show. The fact that Talisa is a high bred woman who trained in the medical arts and is a healer is somehow missed. They actually respect and admire each other but that wouldn't work in your hollow piece. Daerynus one of the best characters in fiction and television you have whittled her down to" girl and her dragons". The way her character has evolved is fascinating. She was 13 when her sadistic brother traded her to bargain for troops because he thought he was supposed to be the King. After the awful introduction to sex Dothraki style and dreading it. Doreah, shows up and teaches her how to take control in bed and once she has control finds out she is finally able to enjoy sex when she is not treated like a Dothraki hole in the wall. Later, Daerynus and her husband fall in love. When her brother hits Doreah, she tears into him for the first time and reminds him who has the power. Then, she starts to realize that she is connected to the dragon and realizes it may be her destiny, not her brothers, to lead the Targaryens. When the Dothraki's attack a village and start to rape the women she stops them. She just gets stronger and stronger which is what lead her to the place she needed to be to walk into the fire with the dragon eggs and be there when they were hatched. Powerful scene and sex wasn't involved! In the blahg , you say, "Now in possession of something more powerful than sex—fire-breathing dragons—she heads for the mainland to claim her throne." First of all, she never used sex "as a possession" for power. She learned how to have sex without dreading it. Secondly, the dragons are her children, not her possessions. She is part dragon, don't ask me how. To rule the Targaryens is her birthright and ruling Westeros may be her destiny which slays what you said about women ruling. Next is Brienne, who is a high bred woman, that is highly skilled in combat which makes her a great warrior. Brienne served in Lord Renly's Knightsguard, which is no small feat. You said, "She uses a sword as her tool of power, instead of her lady parts. Because of her sword-wielding skills, other characters mock her for being unladylike" The way you described her use of a sword instead of lady parts, sounds like you are mocking her for being unladylike. Something I have not heard on the show. Usually, it is men who are up to no good, are going to have to fight her or are her prisoner that like to make fun of her size, armor or sword. They usually look stupid, dead or both when she is done. Liked what she said to Lady Stark when she helped her escape after Lord Renly was murdered, " You are brave and have the courage of a woman." Don't know how that show gets away with writing women who say things like that? Tsk, tsk. On Arya a commander who has her own ship, knows strategy, is fearless and a well respected leader, you say that" she gets away with acting like one of the guys because she conquers with ships instead of seduction." She is a woman that is known as a fearless warrior and commander and you don't see what is wrong with ignoring who she is and find it okay to knock it down to getting away with acting like one of the guys? Here is you making her sound like a 10 year old girl, " Yara rides horses in pants, kicks her feet up and mouths off to her brother when he returns to claim his title." Seriously, who let you get away with this and why? Will glide over the lower class and prostitute reference leading to Osha who is not a prostitute and met the Stark's when she and 2 men were trying to kidnap one of the boys. She is the only one that was smart enough to live and the Stark's are lucky to have her. What is interesting about Osha's character is what she seems to know, what she does know and how cool and methodical she was when she did what she needed to so she, Hodor and the Stark boys could escape Winterfell without alerting the soldiers their prisoners were escaping. Ending with wondering when it became acceptable to make it up as you go, distort what is real, leave out details about a person or event to support a false claim. Are you the same person that went after a scene in Girls based on a hollow premise? Is this lack of substance the Bitch version of beck, hannity or limbaugh? Are you trying to fan the flames with outrageous claims that will hopefully raise numbers or is this for attention? You do know that attention is not always good, right? Might try focusing on real issues and the people behind them instead of going after the ones that are improving and raising the bar.
Last but not least, you are forgetting that Game of Thornes depicts the awful way everyone is treated in this game. Tyrion is a great man who is treated like disposable trash by his father and sister. Margaery's brother who is gay is treated the same way Cersei and Tyrion are treated, he is a pawn who is told to wed Cersei to further the Tyrell agenda. If you are going to point out how bad women are treated and/or what they resort to at least get your facts straight on what has happened and who they are.

Amazing rhetoric.

Finally! Someone who actually read, saw and understands the story.

On another note, I have never seen more hostility towards one another as on this ''feminist'' site.

I don't understand that people say Dany was ''raped'' by Drogo?
In the books he explicitly asks her for permission, and that's when she realised she wants to take control of herself and her life. She gave him permission and she actually mounted him. She took control!
Sadly they don't show it that way in the books, but that's what Dany's character is and Emilia Clark plays her with the written version of Dany in her mind, being a fan herself.

Further more, Arya dislikes being compared to her sister. She doesn't hate girly things, as GoT even showed us, she just dislikes how bad she is at them. ''That's not me.'' She said. She is then angry at her sister for choosing Geoffrey's side, instead of telling the truth.

I applaud G. Martin for these books. Even in a male dominated world, he shows how strong women are, in whatever role they play!

Interesting how different

Interesting how different perspectives one can have on the series. Never viewed the series as misygonist but not feminist either. One could look at it the other way and say it is quite misandryst since almost all the men are either obsessed with power, psychopats, rapists, egomaniacs, you name it. There are some bad women here as well, just as in the real world. it paints a bleak picture of the peopler in general, male or female. Only critique I have is that some of the nudity is really unnecessary, especially the brothel scenes. Nudity with Jon Snow and Ygritte in one of the latest episodes is ok as it is on equal terms and Ygritte is a free and strong woman.

It is a patriarchal and hierarchial universe and as such women (and men of low status) have a hard time. The female characters are portrayed with real depth contrary to a lot of other series and movies.

If one look at most people's lists of favorite characters, Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen are among the most popular and these are strong women. I'd guess many are rooting for Daenerys to just crush the other (male) competitors for the throne as she is the only seeking the throne for the right reasons.

The initial fate of Daenerys being sold by her brother Viserys to the Dothrakis was pretty harsh and if anything led to a lot of sympathy for her among male and female viewers alike. Daenerys falling in love with who she was sold to is of questionable morale compared to modern westerm society but must be seen in context. Being sold as slaves or the like was par for the course in this brutal universe and it could thus be possible for her to accept her fate no matter how cruel it seems to us. Her brother Viserys eventually ended paying the price for his evil ways.

"Where is the lesson in Cersei saying that the best weapons available to women are tears and vaginas? Or perhaps I should rephrase, where is the positive lesson, the feminist lesson?"

There is no lesson. Why should there be? It just paints Cersei as a manipulative woman who, unlike most female characters in GoT, does not have the wits to outsmart men and therefore must turn to tears and sex. Yes, Cersei is portrayed as a bad person. There exists bad women in real life as well. That does not make GoT misogynist.

It must be added that the GoT

It must be added that the GoT universe is in itself misogynistic, it is as many has pointed out patriarchial but that does not mean the series as such is misogynistic. I'd say most of the female characters are overall more likable than the male characters and one is much more sympathetic towards the females. Except for Cersei who seems like will use any means, tears and sex included, to climb the ladder of power.

Game of Thrones is brutal,

Game of Thrones is brutal, especially if you are a dwarf, Theon Greyjoy, a bastard son, eunich, prostitute in love, prostitute working for Little Finger and a girl, woman, boy or man who is used to jockey for position. Have not seen Cersei use sex or tears. She is a lot like her father and at the same time, loves her children and brother. The last couple of episodes kills most of what has been said about the women on the show. Brienne's influence on Jamie and the way they work together as a team are great. Tyrion is one of my favorite characters and the empathy he has shown Sansa makes me love him more. Dany has been kicking ass and taking kingdoms and I love the fact that she saw how smart (forgot her name) the girl who was translating for the jackal was and that she freed her and now she is working for Dany. When the girl made a comment about how men killed each other and Dany replied, "It is a good thing we are not men", the way the girl smiled was hilarious. Danys' scene with her dragons and the diabolical slave holder was incredible. The scene between Arya and Melisandre was also powerful. Stannis' daughter taking books to his right hand and teaching him how to read was another great scene. You were right when you said that women like Cersei being portrayed as not so great people is what both women and men sometimes are.

What exactly is the lesson?

I mean seriously? Are we meant to be learning that women can only exercise power via sex or by adopting violent masculinity? I think that trying to find a feminist narrative in Game of Thrones is a serious stretch of the imagination and wishful thinking. This is a violent masculine fantasy, a brutal rape fantasy in which all of the female characters are brutalized over and over again. And the only ones who escape this become brutal themselves.

Where is the lesson in Cersei saying that the best weapons available to women are tears and vaginas? Or perhaps I should rephrase, where is the positive lesson, the feminist lesson?

The lesson is that while

The lesson is that while Cersei uses her sexuality to promote her cause further other characters including Arya, Sansa, Catelyn, Brienne, Asha, Osha, Lady Olenna, Margery, Talisa, and Dany find other (more feminist) routes.

Arya hates being a girl and

Arya hates being a girl and so becomes more like a boy. Sansa plays dumb and looks pretty. Margery, Talisa and Dany all use a variation of Cersei's strategy. Brienne is characterized as choosing her path because she's too ugly to be of any other value. I don't see these as being more feminist characterizations or strategies. I don't think they even come close to subverting the misogyny of the world that's described.

Arya hates being stuffed into

Arya hates being stuffed into a mold, not being a girl. To escape King's Landing, she needs to be disguised as a boy to fit in with the Night's Watch recruits.

Indeed, she actually really

Indeed, she actually really hates being called a boy.

when the show started Arya's

when the show started Arya's brother is practicing shooting with a bow and arrow and is struggling. Arya is in her room, and shoots the arrow and hits the target. This is what she wants to do and is good at it. Funny, that her brother, Jon Snow recognizes her ability and gives her a sword that he had made just for her. All of this has nothing to do with Sansa who is not dumb and does not act dumb but is pretty. She is a child who was raised surrounded by people that were honest and good. She did not know what evil was until she met the Lannisters. Cersei's strategy? What is her strategy, since anyone who watches the show knows it has nothing to do with sex. Nice sticking to lying as a means to an end. Talisa, Margery and Dany are apparently too complex for you to comprehend. Guess Martin has you beat when it comes to recognizing that women are individuals which means that who they are or what they are good at is not determined by you. Your comment about Brienne is wrong and hateful and shows how little you know about the book or the series which means you should probably just slither away.

Not Talisa, along with Dany

Not Talisa, along with Dany and Margery. I was thinking of Melisandre.

distorted view

Name one time, Cersei has used her sexuality. This blog and some of the comments are not applicable to anything I have seen on Games of Thrones. To top it off, some of the comments sound like they were made by gop men. Arya is a tomboy who hates being a girl? Have to go throw up now....

Agree with everything you

Agree with everything you said about everyone but Cersei. Haven't seen her using sex to promote any cause? Have seen her boy toy who matches the description how women are treated in the blog that should have died.

exactly what the author was trying to say- in 700 words

That's exactly what I was going for in 700 words or less.

I really wish I could have included Arya since I think she's awesome. In future episodes I'm sure she'll surprise us.

My point was only how women are using sex and manipulation for power.... Cersei is not a popular or kind character but you can't speak of women in GoT without her.

But the women of the North? wild, free & fierce... love those ladies too.

Picky selection of examples

I really have to disagree. I feel like you're searching for the precise examples to prove a point while ignoring anything and everything that would disprove it. Having read all five books to date, I can definitely attest that the women in GoT are a major driving force in the realm. Because the Westeros society (excluding Dorne) is patriarcal, women, much like in the Middle Ages, have little to no rights. Their role in life is to be wives and mothers, ladies and queens. However, the women of GoT won't settle for such rules and, as it's stated in a comment above, find ways to circumvent these issues.

Cersei's comment about sex as a weapon is rooted in her cynical nature and her spite for the limitations of her gender. It's said many times in the book that, had she had the choice, she would have learned to wield weapons alongside her brother. Not only that, but she especially hates the fact that her gender also restricts her power. As a Queen, she cannot rule so long as there is a male heir on the throne. Not to mention, she hadn't had sex with her husband for years after their relationship severely deteriorated, only he was too drunk and stupid to notice.

Margaery is on a similar quest to be Queen. In the TV show, she was shown with Renly mostly only trying to have sex with him, I'll admit, but it was not used as a weapon. In this case it was only a case of "sealing" the mariage in a way that it could not be questioned. With Joffrey, she is well aware of what type of person he is. She knows what he's done to other women and knows he'd do the same to her if she's not "pleasing" to him. It's only a case of giving him what he wants to better manipulate him, it only so happens that what most pubescent power-tripping kids want is sex. Without giving any spoilers, though, I'll only say things don't go exactly how he wants them to.

Melisandre is a priestess who sought a promised warrior and found Stannis Baratheon. Though he is the rightful heir, technically, Stannis has few supporters and little power. Until Melisandre arrives, that is. Her magic and her charisma are his best weapon, and they don't come from sex. Her power is shown long before she gives birth to a shadow-creature she spawned from Stannis - which is the only of countless rituals that involves intercourse and giving birth. The root of her power is fire, not sex.

Talisa is a healer and, contrarily to what you say, didn't convince Robb Stark to break his betrothal (to a woman he had never met) with steamy sex. In fact, the steamy sex only happened after episodes of meaningful dialogue between the two characters, and immediately after he declared "I don't want to marry a Frey girl."

I agree the show got a few things wrong with the portrayal of Daenerys (in the books, her first time with Drogo isn't rape, as he asks her beforehand and she agrees). However, saying that her husband only respects her after she takes control in bed is quite reductive. That precise moment was depicted as a cataclyst in the show, but it happens parallel to her becoming more assertive, standing up to her brother, eating a raw horse heart, protecting tribal women from brutal rape from Dothraki warriors, etc. And she's not "forlorn" after her husband and son die. Yeah, she's sad, but she's definitely stronger than your average media-depicted woman after such an event. In fact, she's a vengeful and empowered widow, burning the witch responsible for the death of her loved ones and litterally walking into fire because she knows she's got the dragon's blood of the ancient monarchy. She's most definitely not powerful only because she has dragons, she's powerful because she's the only character in all the series capable of being the Mother of Dragons and bringing back a long-lost species into the world.

I could go on pointing out all the other fallacies about the characters you've described, but I have a feeling I could go on forever. Instead, I'll conclude by pointing out that your post leaves out so many women who have little or nothing to do with sex or sword-wielding such as Catlyn, Arya, Sansa or Missandei and also excludes other interesting female characters who may have sex or fight but aren't limited to those roles such as Ygritte, Meera Reed and, hopefully within the next two seasons, Arianne Martell (and any one of the Sand Snakes). Even prostitutes like Shae (whom I am surprised you haven't mentioned) show versatility, like for example, when she arms herself in case of rape or warns Sansa about the desires of men.

In any case, women don't see sex as a weapon as much as they see it as a man's weakness. They actually find a lot of smart ways to express their power and play the game of thrones despite the patriarcal society in which they're stuck.

This should be the original

This should be the original article! I'm an avid GoT fan (books and series), even with the faults it has. Your post said all I wanted to convey and more. We're quick to jump on conservatives when they don't do their research, so we progressives should raise the bar ourselves. Kudos!

Vagina horror (not whore) blog

Arianne, could not agree with you more. Have to wonder if the author and some of the readers have ever watched the show. In this she starts off with Queen Cersei's husband dying and omits or doesn't know that Cersei had a hand in her husband's murder and getting Eddard arrested. Then she talks about how she had tight control until her son and Margaery were betrothed. Guess what has not happened and what really did? Almost forgot about Cersei's boy toy, his agenda and how he appears to keep a good leg up.
The sentence about how Margaery "feigns stupidity, sexual innuendos and is subservient", is dishonest and insulting. Agree with what you say about her and would like to add that the only thing I have seen her feign is interest in his weapon and when he reacted like a kid in the toy store and showed her how it worked, she asked to try and declared how thrilling it was. To top it off, she asked if she could go hunting with him. Another great moment was when she stopped the royal entourage, in the middle of the city, jumped out of her carriage, with her ladies following, walking down an alley, and to the baths where she connected with the children, some of their mothers and promised to help them. Meanwhile, Joffrey hid in his carriage and the guards were not sure what to do. She was neither subservient or feigning stupidity. The people love her now, which is brilliant. Her grandmother is an interesting character, too. Think they make a good team. Just as a side note about her marriage to Lord Renly who was happily sleeping with her brother, which she was fine with and offered to get him on their wedding night, hoping he would get excited and maybe her pregnant. Point being that Lord Renly and his lover had to pretend to have a leg up to hide who they are.
On Melisandre the High Priestess, who has magical and prophetic powers and is happy to destroy anyone or thing that gets in her way and your turning her into someone who promises sex and sons in order to get her man. Love to hear how a serial blogger justifies that one. She really believes that Stannis is destined to be the King and when she has him gazing in the fire it isn't sex or sons he sees, it is him on the throne. Another thing you either missed or don't know is that the enemy she killed was Stannis' brother, Lord Renly. ,Arienne is right about Talisa but for some reason, I still feel the need to chime in. Talisa, is a high bred woman who studied the medical arts. When she and Robb Stark met, she was in the field working on wounded soldiers. They have a lot more going on with each other than sex. That steamy night you made sound cheesy was the two of them confirming the inevitable.
Have loved watching Daerynus evolve. She is one of the best characters (male or female) I have read about or seen on television. Daerynus was 13 years old when her sadistic brother handed her over as a bargaining chip and as Daerynus said, "He wouldn't care if 5,000 Dothraki raped me." It is a prostitute Doreah, who shows her how to take control and shows her that she can enjoy sex which helped her and her husband fall in love with each other. When Daerynus' brother hits Doreah, Daerynus lets him have it and reminds him who is in power. She also starts to discover that she has powers that no one else around her does and that starts when she holds a dinosaur egg in her hand and puts it in the fire and it does not hurt or burn her but does burn Doreah. Daerynus has never used sex and does not need to. However, Doreah did while betraying Daerynus which got her and the man who was part of the betrayal locked and left in a vault to die. What is great about her is that despite being exposed to evil people and betrayal, she is compassionate and a champion for the underdog. Forgot to point out that ruling the Targaryens is her birthright and ruling Westeros could be her destiny. What did you say about women ruling?
Tried to stop and can't. You start the next paragraph talking about the lower classes, prostitutes and then bring up Osha who is not a prostitute. Osha, met the Stark's when she and 2 men were caught trying to kidnap Bran Stark. She was the only one that was smart enough to live . She is a mystery and the Starks are lucky she appeared. Osha was using much more than sex the night she got the 4 of them out of there while maintaining her cool. Very clever when she is worries about the soldiers catching up so heads back a different way. On to Shea who carries a knife, is fearless, funny, loyal, loves Tyrion and is protective of Sansa. ove and found out the next day she was a prostitute that they had paid for. This show has a wide range of characters and it shows how people of both sexes survive or don't when they don't fit the mold and how they handle it. The eunuch, Varys, Tyrion, Jon Snow, Renly, Brienne, Arya, Jon Snow's friend, Theon, Petyr the evil pimp, etc...
Here is your description of Yara, "she rides horses, wears pants and yells at her brother when he comes home for the title." If I didn't know better, I would guess she is ten years old. Your assertion that she gets to hang with the boys because she conquers ships is bizarre. She is a fierce, driven, a skilled warrior , intelligent and knows how to lead. Sure those "guys' are happy they can hang around with her. Brienne of Tarth is also a high born who is a highly skilled warrior. She was in Renly's Knightsguard and had to be engage in combat and win in order to serve. No small feat. Your lame comment about her sword being her weapon instead of sex is strange sexual phrasing and takes away from all of the things that make her great. Your claim about why they make fun of her is also (surprise) offf base. She is not made fun of for being unladylike, she is made fun of by men who are usually up to no good and don;t know what to do with her size, armor and her sword. That is what makes her dangerous and them stupid, dead or both. Last but not least, are women or girls you didn't mention. Ygritte, is new on the show but is tough, funny and when Jon Snow captured her, she was the one who was sexually assertive and trying to bait him into letting her have her way with him. Jon Snow was supportive of Arya and was impressed when she demonstrated her ability (which was better than her brothers) with the bow and arrow. She said she wanted to learn how to use a sword and he had one made that was perfect for her size. Her father got her an instructor that was one of the best swordsman. It was funny when she was serving Cersei's father while talking about one of her heroes, (another Targaryen woman) who would ride on a dragon in combat) and he told her she reminded him of his daughter. Not sure what you were after when you decided to slander a great series but will say it is disappointing that Bitch published something that reads like the worst of the gop (palin, limbaugh, hannity) talk.

the author replies to your scathing remarks

it's a 700 word article... a 700 word article.

No doubt your scathing criticism as to how I obviously never watched the show (have seen ever episode & eagerly await the next) or feminism are off-base, and incidentally more than 700 words.
yes, Cersei killed her husband and slept with her brother, but that has nothing to do with what I was writing in such a short piece.

Maegery is awesome, yes but had done very little in the show when this article was submitted. Notice I say she "feigns" stupidity because, as we note from Geoffrey, he thinks women aren't smart and should be quite and listen to her man. She didn't offer to have Lord Renly and her brother shag together on their wedding night- it was 2 weeks later- as we know from her brother's comment about how he hadn't attempted to consummate the marriage in weeks. Just to attest to my love of the show.

I totally mentioned Daenerys and her history has no place in such a short article. Like I said, she has a legitimate claim to the throne, outright, unlike the others.

The show is amazing, and I'm not trying to slander anyone, unlike your response above.

uh huh

Love the way you point out Margaery''s wedding night but fail to mention that you were wrong when you said that she was betrothed to Joffrey and painting that as the time that Cersei lost her power. If Margaery had done "very little" by the time your article was submitted, what was it you based your "feigns stupidity" remark on? When she was with Lord Renly (which was before Joffrey) I did not see her feign stupidity, sexual innuendos, etc...
Your saying I am off base and then saying Cersei killing her husband and sleeping with her brother has nothing to do with writing such a short piece is bologna. How do you justify depicting her as someone who has to keep a leg up? I said that her brother was the father of her children, which is important. I also said she had a boy toy and that that is who she is sleeping with. Have to say that you are as good at ducking the point as you are at assassinating the characters of the women on this show. Using 700 words as an excuse is lame, especially when there was never any reason to write this blahg.

Ick. Any chance of me

Ick. Any chance of me watching that show went down the tubes with that between your legs comment.

I think nobody here has read

I think nobody here has read the book. Minor spoilers: Cersei is incredibly stupid and incompetent. She's brutal and actively misogynistic. Seriously, she hates women, and refers to herself as 'the only true son Tywin Lannister ever had."

I have more analysis below, but the reason GRRM's series is, if not pro feminist, at least ripe for feminist discussion, is because of the power women have in the series. Women in Westeros are utterly marginalized, yet the central female characters, Daenerys, Cersei, Ygritte, Asha, Olenna, Arya, Catelyn, Osha, Meera, and maybe more than anyone Sansa, far out match the correlating male characters terms of power and plot relevance.

So Cersei isn't a good role model nor an example of an empowered intelligent woman. She cruel, emotional and blinded by her love of her children. The other great female characters in GoT and the book series it's based off are marginally better. Arya is amazing, but she's also just masculine. She's a fan favorite, because she spends most of her time dressed as a boy and doing boy things better than all the other boys. So awesome, but no feminist hero. Daenerys is a better example. A commented below refers to her arc as a rape fantasy. It should be noted, in the books, Daenerys is sort of into Khal Drogo from the start, and while it's by no means perfect (she's very afraid of him) it was by no means the brutal rape the television show has. In the end Daenerys is a powerful queen who runs shit while being a very proud of her woman hood. "All men must die, Khaleesi." "But we are not men."

Better still is Sansa, who's at the beginning of her arc where she is constantly brutalized and under threat of assault, both sexual and just violent. If she succeeds it will not be because she acted like a guy. It will be by using her intellect and power, while being well dressed and clean and being what Westerosi society views as 'a proper lady', to destroy her enemies in a way that no man in the series has accomplished.

Sansa is something no high fantasy has ever seen. She's the damsel in distress doing the hero's job, better than the hero.