Sansa Stark/Daenerys Targaryen Picture: HBO

If you do not want any spoilers for Game of Thrones, you might want to stop reading right here (although I’ll do my very best to not go into detail). But I’d really love for you to take a moment and think about why you admire–or hate–the strong, independent female GoT characters.

Caralena Peterson wrote a brilliant article explaining why she thinks it’s time we learned all the important lessons from GoT and started to admire real-life female politicians as much as we admire our fantasy heroines from the Seven Kingdoms. And I’m so with her, in general. Peterson is correct when she highlights how much hate women face in politics and how they are confronted with misogynist nonsense during their campaigns. But is the portrayal of brave, independent women in the series really going to help us value female leaders more? I think the opposite is true.

Most of the female lead characters are shown as intelligent, but stubborn. The stronger they get, the more limited their choices of personal freedom. They are not considered normal due to their actions, and more than one doesn’t exactly fit into society very well. While we should strive to overcome the clichés that Peterson rightfully cites in her article—for example women are more emotional and therefore unfit for diplomatic careers—most of the female characters in GoT have been emotionally crippled or broken before they achieve their goals. Their will to power stems purely from emotions, while men are mostly “doing the right thing” and dying for virtues such as loyalty, friendship or fulfilment of their duties. That doesn’t exactly help modern feminism a lot. Adding to that, Sansa, Arya or Cersei literally walk over dead bodies to get what they want, and it somehow becomes their signature thing. Murder by a woman is, even in bloody GoT, still way more emphasized than the thousands of corpses dropped by heavily armed men. And of course, the more powerful those women get, the more lonely and obsessed with their power they become (um, hey Daeny…).

You could boil it down to one sentence: There only seem to be two kinds of women – those huddled together in the Stark family crypt, unable to do anything despite their wits and brains, and those willing to butcher whatever crosses their path, and be it their own family. The only characters without any hidden agenda that we know of are Sam, Tormund, Jon Snow and Brienne (who, again, tries to act and look like a man as much as she can possibly manage). Ok, that might make them a little less interesting–but hey, at least we know what we’re at, right?

And that’s my main point of critique when it comes to GoT, which I admittedly binge watch and looove. This series perpetuates a cliché that deserves to die more than the Night King: any woman in power will stop at nothing to survive and must be a Machiavellian, conniving, cold-blooded, disingenuous witch. It’s this, or death. And now think of the nasty backlash Hillary Clinton faced. Does that ring a bell?

Please, George R. R. Martin, can your next book feature a heroine that is not broken, brutal or bonkers? Much appreciated. Thank you.

-Kristina Kraemer
Junior Editor
Girl News International

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