For those who have followed George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” from printed word to HBO powerhouse, the characters now have the status of family and obsession. The faithful have followed the conflicts through bloody feuds, endless war, frustrated love, unexpected death, and crushing evil, now choosing sides.
The question of who will sit uneasily on the throne once held by Robert Baratheon makes excellent conversation as you consider the size of armies, dragons, and magic that make the players compelling. What no one seems to talk about, however, is that almost all the top contenders for the crown are women. Perhaps because it doesn’t matter.
There’s no need to claim “I’m with Her” to force a loyalty to any one leader based solely on sex. The women poised to fight for the throne are complex, strong women, mothers (even of dragons) who are not at war with their bodies or the demands of work and family. They stand side by side with equally strong men and fight in the battle common to all people: the struggle to take one’s place in the world and to build something that is your unique vision.
Women Who Exemplify Feminine Power
If you’re looking for women who exemplify feminine power, look no further than “Game of Thrones,” now underway with a new season of intrigue. Cersei Lannister sits on the Iron Throne, ruthless, driven by grief for her lost children and ambition that empowered her to get past a father who did not see her strengths and a drunken husband who ignored her at his peril.
Ellaria Sand holds the throne in the island nation of Dorne, driven for vengeance against those who took the man she loved and lost, the father of her children, warrior daughters who could inspire Amazons. Yara Greyjoy fights for the Iron Islands throne, supported by her brother Theon, who lost his way but not his commitment to family.
And of course Daenerys Targaryen, the mother of dragons, is crossing the sea to Westeros. She has a claim to the throne by blood, but also by tenacity, fearlessness, and fire. Her love for her husband, lost along with her first child, led to a palpable grief that fueled her commitment to be the leader his people needed. But she also seized control of all the Dothraki by being a better leader than the men who held power.
Other characters stand strong as well. The fiercest assassin in the land is a woman, the bitter Arya, who brought vengeance against the man who slaughtered most in her family. Brienne of Tarth is now the greatest swordsman. Others women have brought men back from the dead, fought in great battles, and schemed successfully for more power.
Only one man truly holds a throne right now: Jon Snow, who is the king of the North because of his accomplishments in battle as well as his strong, steady, and selfless leadership. Although Euron Greyjoy has a seat in the Iron Islands, having killed his own brother, his time on earth seems short as Daenerys’ army sails with his niece and nephew, promising a death sentence for him.
It’s About Strength, Not Sex
None of the remaining contenders for power is supported by virtue of being male or female. They have forged alliances based on diverse needs and seek to execute a vision with ruthless intensity. These women’s talents and drive makes them compelling. They are not threatened by motherhood or diminished by it. It empowers them, gives fury and force to their efforts. They show no angst as they make relationships and consider alliances.
The feeble feminism of today that makes everything about the battle of the sexes sells women short by separating us from the powerful truth that “two are better than one.” Such isolationist attitudes create the impression of a crippled underclass incapable of multi-tasking as though the only choice is career or family, but not both. And attributing every failure to sexist attitudes ignores the reality that sometimes people—even women—make mistakes.
Martin may be the ultimate feminist today. He has created a world in which women advance to the throne because they have the right, the talent, and the drive to win. Their lives are made richer by relationships and family, though sometimes such things lead to great pain and sacrifice. That is the kind of fierce feminism I want to teach to my two daughters, and those are the kinds of capable feminists I want my two sons to marry.
I am “with her” on the “Game of Thrones” (sorry, Jon Snow). May the best person win.