Don’t tell her it’s a man’s world

Since Game of Thrones has been brought up here before back in the heady days of realism i thought it appropriate to return to the theoretical lens of the Stark family with this commentary from a feminist perspective: http://feministfiction.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/in-defense-of-sansa-stark/

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2 comments on “Don’t tell her it’s a man’s world

  1. sarahchan30 says:

    Hmm, I don’t know much about these Starks but perhaps the young subject of the post is suffering from what has been termed “adaptive preferences” – in which one’s behavior is formed in response to rather limited options, but without acknowledgement (or even cognizance) of the limitations of said options. Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have plenty of interesting things to say about adaptive preferences if anyone wants to follow that up. Ideally I think it would be better to see more analysis of ‘people’ and individuals and less analysis of gender (and all the attendant weight that carries) since it only seems to confirm divisions between the sexes. In this case though the critics for whom the original post was intended (at least one advocated the rape of the poor subject!) seem completely moronic and hardly worth countering via “feminist” or any other argument.

  2. roblaurs says:

    The world George R.R Martin portrays conforms largely (fantasy elements aside) to medieval times, which could be charitably described as “nasty, brutish and short” and are not noted as being a ‘golden age’ for gender relations. Although, GoT may look very much like a man’s world, I don’t think Martin undervalues the role of women even if it would be stretching the definition to call him a feminist.

    In terms of characterisation, Martin densely populates his stories with memorably-drawn, fully-formed characters (of both sexes) as well as once-over-lightly ciphers – as you’d expect over several thousand pages of text, nuanced individuals share the page with many familiar ‘types’.

    Martin’s female characters may inhabit an unreconstructed, patriarchal society but that doesn’t mean they are devoid of power (or hope). Or that feminine qualities are necessarily de-emphasised. In fact, I was struck by the broad range of female characters in GoT. Without having a wide basis for comparison in terms of fantasy novel gender politics, the female cast of GoT is extensive and representative of a wide variety of femininity from “girly” young ladies like Sansa to protective matriarchs such as (her mother) Catelyn to the assertive, would-be queen, Daenerys (armed with GoT’s nuclear equivalent: dragons) as well as plenty of others. In contrast, LOTR seems almost an exclusively male realm – literally, the ‘Fellowship’.

    GoT’s female spectrum definitely contains some “strong female characters” who adopt more masculine traits (the warrior Brienne, arch-schemer Cersei and the tomboy, Arya, spring to mind) but they’re countered by the more traditionally female characters like Sansa.

    As Sarah points out, critical readings, such as this particular feminist lens, tend to confirm the bias they’re seeking to analyse. I get the sense that while gender is obviously a salient factor in GoT, Martin’s interest lies more with the individuals and their ability to “play the game of thrones” as best they can using both their natural resources and whatever advantages they can marshal along the way. Might, status and cunning may enhance an individual’s survival prospects but cozy narrative arcs (and Manichean simplicity: good vs evil) that tidily resolve matters in favour of the ‘good guys/gals’ are conspicuously absent. Indeed, a large part of GoT’s appeal is the inversion of conventional expectations that good always triumphs. A case of sobering realism over utopian idealism/liberalism?

    Our class discussion touched on female political leadership and how (unfair) societal and media expectations are imposed on female leaders from Margaret Thatcher through Madeline Albright and Condoleeza Rice to Helen Clark and Julia Gillard. There is a lack of similar gendered scrutiny of male leaders although the hyper-masculinised ‘hard man’ persona of some leaders (eg. Putin the action man) is often ridiculed by international audiences while it plays to nationalist sympathies at home.

    Can anyone think of examples when female leaders were explicitly praised for demonstrating ‘feminine’ qualities? Hilary Clinton crying on the campaign trail? ‘Mutti’ Merkel and Hannelore Kraft in Germany? Aung San Suu Kyi as the ‘Mother of Burma’?

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