The problem of Misogyny in GAME OF THRONES
"... They are nothing more than props. Interchangeable, nameless, faceless orifices that men enter at their convenience, because they’ve paid the price - in coins not connection. They are décor. Part of the scenery. As important to them, as the cup that holds their wine. Their worth valued only as a constant reminder of their own male authority. Their abasement, being the way with which their masculinity is perpetually stroked and their one-sided orgasms assured..."
Art & Words, by Fanitsa Petrou
When asked by The New York Times to comment on the reasons why his series of books “A Song of Ice and Fire” (upon which “The Game of Thrones” was based) is so heavily shaded with sexually violent plotlines, George R. R. Martin, argued that "rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day”. He went on to say that omitting to refer to such things “would have been fundamentally false and dishonest.”
Even though he is of course right, we can’t help but add that there are better ways of doing that. Like exploring the lasting repercussions rape has on a woman’s life for instance, rather than presenting it as a casual affair, or using it as a plot device to showcase a man’s authority, or worst, fetishising it. (And while we are at it, trivialising, normalising, even romanticizing incest as well!) This is not about historical accuracy! This is about men who enjoy fantasizing about this stuff, writing this stuff, directing this stuff, or producing this stuff a little too much, and who are also well aware of the commercial appeal this stuff has as well… This is about sexploitation. This is about eroticizing and normalising brutal violence against women, because for many men out there it feels “right”, it is a source of actual pleasure and they just wish they lived in a world that still allows it (or allows it more)! And that’s the bottom line! If the author of the books (and the many authors of the TV series) were so keen on NOT being“fundamentally false and dishonest” about the realities of rape, they would have considered mentioning in some way or other that two thirds of women who are raped suffer serious mental or emotional problems as a result, while most of them can’t trust people in all their future relationships, or that one in ten attempts suicide, and so on…
As arguments go, the “historical accuracy” one, is a suspect one for another reason. This is hardly a documentary! This is a TV show (and a series of books) that is above all else, firmly rooted in the fantasy genre! This is a show that gave us fire spiting dragons, and ice zombies and fairies, and time travelling, three-eyed prophets, and giants, and message-carrying crows that fly on demand around the world faster than FedEx, and a woman who cannot be burned, and has dragons for babies, not to mention a witch who is as old as time, and who is giving birth to demons and resurrecting the dead… This is in short, a story that is not exactly reality based! When you strive for “historical accuracy” ONLY when it comes to the devaluation of women, then there’s something else going on. Then this is about misogyny and not realism. This is about PERPETUATING prejudice and violence against women, rather than merely recording it… And this is about soliciting pleasure from their pain too, rather than condemning it!
What adds the “adult” angle to this story, is NOT the plotline, but the violence and the objectification of women. The funny thing is, GoT has the makings of a very good YA story that plot-wise at least, falls in the same category as The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter, or the darker “I shall Wear Midnight” Don’t you wish you could watch this with your kid? That there was a "clean” version of it available? One you can enjoy without feeling angry as hell, sick to your stomach or having to watch from behind your fingers? This is one pretty well crafted saga about loyalty and courage and family honour, and dragons and giants and magic after all.... If only it was not also about torture and incest, and brutal murders and men buying and selling and humiliating and raping women….
Back when HBO was planing to adapt for TV George R.R. Martin’s fantasy books, was there I wonder, at least one executive / writer / director / producer among the bunch, who actually said in that pitch meeting something like: “OK I have an idea about this that you may find a bit shocking, but hear me out. What if we created this thing WITHOUT the gratuitous violence? And what if we toned down the misogyny and we said NO! to the rapes? What if we did not glamorize the selling and buying of women as well? I know! I know! It’s too much. It’s practically revolutionary, but what if we did it? What if we dared to be trailblazers? What if we made this show about dragons and witches and ice zombies actually be suitable for kids and teens? And (OK, hear me out before you start throwing your i-phones at me), what if we actually considered feminists as an audience (they do love a good revenge story after all!) and actually gave them something that won’t make them feel sick, disgusted, appalled, depressed, and very, very angry? Or cause them to feel like they are worthless pieces of shit? And what if we came up with actual plotlines about the female characters of the show that were not centered around their rapes?” But I guess nobody dared to go there…
In GoT, rape is after all, habitually used as a plot-device for female characters, because apparently the fertile minds of the creators of this show could not come up with anything more complex, more innovating, less degrading or less obvious when dealing with the female cast. Rape is also used to advance the storyline of male characters, to showcase their power and / or indicate their depravity. Women in GoT (even queens) are also habitually being given like goods, or sold to strangers by brothers or fathers. Likewise, we are reminded in every episode by one male character or another that women are insignificant. Either property to be passed on from one man to the next without even asking them, (for all the old fashioned reasons: in order to secure alliances, to unite houses, or in order to tame a woman’s ambition), or else as spoils of war to be taken by invading soldiers who measure their victory by how many of them they will get to violate. Sure, it has been happening in real life for thousands of years, but the reason why it is replicated in modern-day fiction and pop culture, is not for reasons of historical accuracy! It’s because there’s obviously a nostalgia about the time it was still universally allowed!
excessive sexual violence depicted in GoT, is – let us be honest - mostly about men who love writing / directing this stuff, and being in an environment that gives them licence (and the authority) to boss around naked female actresses, and giving male actors directions on how exactly to abuse them, while they are filming them. Calling it Art. Many female actors empowered by the #MeToo movement have come forward and revealed the indignities they suffer by directors - which are reenacted via proxy, by male actors - some examples here:1**2, *3, *4, *5, *6). Female actors are not merely asked to inhabit a role, but also to play out the fantasies of male writers, directors, producers and viewers. It’s THAT simple, THAT basic actually. The reason why we get to see most sex scenes in movies... Jason Momoa (the actor, who played Khal Drogo on GoT) was at least honest about the whole thing. His comments from 2011, put things nicely into perspective. “… as far as sci-fi and fantasy, I love that genre because there are so many things you can do, like rip someone’s tongue out of their throat and get away with it and rape beautiful women,” (see 6*) This is what it’s all about. It is about men doing what they are well aware they ought not to be doing, and “getting away with it”. And in the end, it’s also about the men who are watching them on screen, and identifying with them, fantasying they are doing the same to women they daily meet!
This is not about prudery! Not all depictions of sexual violence are questionable or unnecessary - though lets face it, most ARE! You see, context matters! Intention matters! Choices matter! The way things are being said, as well as WHY they are being said, matter! Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” for example, is an equally terrifying show (especially if you are a woman!). It too presents a fantasy world that is deeply misogynistic, in which women are dehumanized and sexual violence against them is commonplace and allowed - in fact legal and sanctioned by the government of a (barely) fictional United States. Graphic depictions of violence against women, are still present and equally (if not more) disturbing, but it makes the world of difference that are used as a way of condemning it, NOT glorifying it, or use it as a way of celebrating male “supremacy”! They are meant to showcase how the dehumanization of women by men is actually a bad thing! The Handmaid’s Tale as much as it is heart-wrenching to watch, acts as a warning about things to come if humanity allows itself to regress into Medieval-like attitudes towards women (like the ones portrayed in The Game of Thrones) And more importantly, it focuses on the ramifications of rape in the victims’ s lives as well society at large, rather than use it as bait to keep male viewers interested and to groom women viewers to be complicit in their own real-life abuses.
As much as GοT boasts to be a sexually liberated show that has no hang ups when it comes to sex or inhibited depictions of, it is actually almost comically juvenile in its approach: this is not an adult’ s layered world of anticipation, longing, sensuality, vulnerability, intimacy, connection or even regret. This is sex as imagined by a pubescent boy with a one-truck mind and absolutely no idea about the real thing… (let alone women’ s needs or actual natures!): this is a black and white world of naked women and brothels. A world populated by happy, eager prostitutes (instead of, you know, broken, damaged, depressed, addicted to substances so that they can endure their lot, ones), who insist on pleasing every stranger they meet! Often without payment… This is a world in which women are flashing men just because they asked them to, or give sex lessons to each other. A world in which a pimp is teaching prostitutes how to simulate lesbian sex. And also, a world in which the relationship between brothers and sisters is sexualised in some form or other (see Daenerys and her brother, Theon and his sister) or brothers and sisters are having sex (see Cersie and Jamie). A world in which women insist on breast-feeding ten year old boys, a world in which women walk around fully naked (aka ready and sexually available in case they are needed), while fully clothed men are discussing politics and war and business, and whenever they meet an old guy, declaring (with no sense of irony!) that they are “Partial to older gentlemen”… (Talk about a Fantasy genre!) A show in which women get naked not just in sex scenes, but for a multitude of totally random reasons: when they are having an empowering moment, or when they are killing their enemies (see: Daenerys), or when they are being the victim of religious fanatics (see: Cersei), or when they are showing indignation (see: Brienne), or simply when in the company of powerful men… (see: the entire cast of female extras. And they must be hundreds of them. How many young, out of work actresses have added “Naked whore, partaking in Game of Thrones brothel orgy” to their resumes, I wonder?)
This is in short, a young boy’s (or an adult’s who has remained a boy) daydream of an “ideal” world, in which access to swords and women (both of which are of course seen as objects) is inexhaustible… In which women have no power or even desire to say NO to alpha males, and their humiliation and abuse when it happens (and it happens a LOT!) is both expected, and it remains unpunished. For people who are so good at spinning a pretty complex yarn when it comes to politics or war, the writers responsible for the series have an approach, that is in short, pretty simplistic in its depictions of sexual relations.
Even the constant references to castrations are part of the same kind of juvenile approach to sexuality, gender roles and manhood in particular. GOT is a seriously phallocentric world after all. At the end of the day, it’s basically a story about alpha males and their penises: their need to conquer, intimidate, control (find things to which they can stick them so to speak) is celebrated and glorified in every plotline, and every scene. Even when they are faced with challenges, they are - compared to women - all powerful, the rulers of that which they desire. Their only real fear, the only thing that makes them feel threaten, is the loss of their masculinity - which they imagine as actual castration!
Unlike men, women get acquainted with pain, with danger, with fear, from and early age. Not just because their body monthly changes and because they are the creators of life, but also, because they live in the same world as men, who habitually use violence (or at the very least, the threat of it) against them. Men have trouble understanding about pain, self-sacrifice, or the need to empathize with others, not only because they are not forced by their biology to know such things, but also, because they are not required to, by our culture. That is why most of them remain unaware of what real vulnerability means. That is why men’s sense of loss, sense of fear, sense of danger, is (in Art or real life) invented. That is why they seek pain (and by that validation of their maleness) in fist fights, violent competitions, competitive physical activities, extreme sports, gun use, “heroic” adventures, or war. They go looking for danger, close calls, hostile collisions, brushes with their mortality. Their experience of danger is more often than not, a choice, while ours is a constant and inescapable condition that is forced upon us, just because we are living in the same world as them.
Men's relationship with their body is centred around pleasure after all, not pain, not fear, not shame, not vulnerability, not a sense of loss or inadequacy, (whether they are tall or short, thin or fat, young or old, geniuses or inarticulate half wits, they always feel they are “enough” don’t they?! And they always believe they deserve to have the prettiest and youngest girl in any room...) so when they attempt to picture the worst that can happen to them, they just picture the loss of pleasure! Women can imagine countless horrific things that can happen to them - which is to say that men can do to them - and the loss of sexual pleasure does not even make their list, but given that men are safe from similar horrors, when they try to think about something horrible, they come up with impotency, or even the actual loss of their penis! It’s kind of comical actually! That is why there are so many eunuchs in GoT (Varys of course, then Theon, Tyrion also has some close calls, but also the “unsullied” - an entire army of them!) because they are the manifestations of the worse nightmare scenario of alpha males! A metaphor of that, is also seen in the characters of Tyrion and Bran. The first is repeatedly being called “half-man”, because he is a dwarf, and the second is being called “Broken”because he is a cripple: he is a prophet who Time-travels between worlds but when he is crowned king of Westeros he is not called “Bran the Prophet”, or “Bran the Third-Eyed Raven” or similar, but “Bran the Broken”! His bodily disability being the thing that defines him, NOT his extraordinary abilities!
Interestingly enough, a woman’s nature cannot ever be taken away from her. And it is not debatable, it is not a matter of interpretation, it cannot be undone (Or in its essence really be adopted. Only masqueraded.) In a world that defines women merely by their body parts, how interesting is it, that the essence of what they are, is so complex, and inimitable and so much more than merely that?! A woman is still a woman if she has gone through hysterectomy, through mastectomy, clitoridectomy, or if she has not given birth, but a man’s masculinity is obviously a pretty fragile thing (literally as well as metaphorically). Men’s sexual organs (and mysteries…) are overt and uncomplicated. Men do not centre their sense of self around who, what they are (not really), but literally on their equipment. A knife can then un-man them, take away from them that which defines them. Diminish them, turn them into lesser beings (which is to say, feminize them) A notion that implies not only what they really think of women (aka as penis-less, and therefore lesser creatures), but also of themselves as well: there’s nothing much else to them, other than their penis… Minus that, they become that which they loath: women! That is why in this particular Man’s World, there are so many eunuchs, and so many, MANY references and jokes about castration.
The eunuchs in GoT also serve - on a subconscious level - as a metaphor for men’s worst archetypal fear. Their worst imaginable “what if?”: what if they lose the ability to feel pleasure obviously, but also: what if they lose the ability to enter things and by that, conquer, possess and control them? Which means castration is also in symbolic terms, perceived by men to be the result of accepting the reality of female emancipation: a world in which women are set free from financial, political, social dependancy on men, is a nightmarish one, in which women are no longer weak and so perpetually sexually available to all men, and therefore not conquered, possessed and controlled by them on demand. A woman freed from the restrictions imposed to her by Patriarchy, is a woman who is free to choose a mate based on her OWN emotional, sexual, spiritual needs, rather than financial / social ones. She is not just passively chosen by a man, and forced to succumb passively to his authority due to her socioeconomic / political powerlessness. (And where would that, leave most men?) She is in short, a most dangerous creature, who is automatically perceived by such men as their "castrator"! GoT is after all, a world obsessed with the powerlessness of women and fearful of their power. No wonder all the powerful women had to be cut down to size in the end: the ferocious Catelyn early on, Cersei, Daenerys, Melisanthe, were all too ambitious, too powerful for their own good, so needless to say, they had to die in the end; likewise, Brienne, had to loose her power by a male (be humiliated and betrayed), and Arya had to symbolically leave this particular world of men entirely... She was after all getting too strong, too unbeatable by the whole lot of them - because she was a skilled assassin, but also because she needs no man to validate her worth by making her his wife. What could she do in that world anyway, since she was a woman who could not be used by men? She could neither be raped or forced into submission in marriage, or eventually be killed. She of course had to leave! Only Sansa remained in place. Only she, was rewarded in the end. But then again she was always passive, weak, and eager to marry even the worst of psychos, (even when escape roots were given to her) because she wanted to be a "lady", did't she? So it makes perfect sense... She belonged in that world because she accepted its rules.
Similarly, all those prostitutes in the countless Game of Thrones brothels, are there to underline a man’s power. Women are after all the ultimate subordinate class in GOT (or real life). No eunuch, no “unsullied”, no servant, no peasant, no prisoner of war, no slave is ever lower than each and every one of them. Even the queens! And men love being reminded of that. (And reminding all of us of it, too – in real life or in their artistic creations. (Makes them feel more men obviously. Their power being defined by nothing more than our own physical powerlessness…) All those young girls who were required in every episode of all eight seasons to jump eagerly atop any man, as well as all those who parade fully naked in the company of fully clothed men who are discussing politics and strategies and war, are less than human to their eyes. (And by association, to the eyes of the viewer as well. That’s the whole damn point!) By being naked, they retain their vulnerability, and by that, they constantly (and reassuringly for men) exhibit their lack of power. They are nothing more than props. Interchangeable, nameless, faceless orifices that men enter at their convenience, because they’ve paid the price - in coins not connection. They are décor. Part of the scenery. As important to them, as the cup that holds their wine. Their worth valued only as a constant reminder of their own male authority. Their abasement, being the way with which their masculinity is perpetually stroked and their one-sided orgasms assured.
That is why men – in real life, or in hypothetical worlds - are fascinated by prostitutes and porn stars. Because their desperation, their powerlessness, their lack of options, and because of all of that, their lack of self-worth, are key components in the fulfillment of male fantasies. Because they can’t afford, or are allowed to say “NO!” To anything! That’s the whole allure of them. They are not seen as human. There’s no need for connection, reciprocity, compassion, pity, or empathy when they are dealing with them. Money exchanging hands takes care of that. Incidentally, it comes as no surprise that real life brothels see GoT as very beneficial for their business. In the words of a real life madam who runs a brothel in Nevada: “I would definitely say that 'Game of Thrones' has had a considerable and positive impact on Nevada’s legal sex work industry through the shows enticing and salacious showcasing of prostitution. In fact, it's like a free ad”,she says. Got has that to be proud of then, in terms of leaving a cultural mark on the world: mainstreaming the buying and selling of human beings!
The rape problem in Got is actually so perversive that there are people who have done statistical analyses of the phenomenon, who have kept the tally of televised female pain and humiliation, if you like. One example – which however was done in 2015, so hardly including all of them - has come up with these numbers: Rape acts in the book series: 214 /Rape victims: 117, (see *). Likewise, there are statistics showcasing how much (or rather how little) do female characters actually speak in GoT, compared with the male characters (see chart below). A show that boasts (hilariously!) to be about “powerful” women, it only allows them to speak 26% as much as men - 22% in the last season, by the way. Someone ought to check the finale episode as well, in which women never said more than a few words each - and some of them, not even that!
But of course it is not just the nameless prostitutes or the nameless villagers who are abused throughout the series. Most major female characters are raped, many tortured, all of them humiliated in one way or another. Daenerys Targaryen the mother of Dragons herself, and the supposedly future ruler of all seven kingdoms (or so we were led to believe for 8 seasons!), was of course sold to a barbarian by her own brother. Her brutal abuse by her husband was needless to say, trivialised. Her reaction to that horrifying experience is interpreted through a man’s view of the world (and vocabulary of sexual fantasies obviously): instead of being gutted by the fact that she was treated like a piece of meat, and instead of trying to escape, as any woman in her shoes would do, she makes sure to become a proper little wifey to him: she decides to take sex lessons from a prostitute on how to please him! And once she does, lo and behold, she falls in love with him. (Yeah, you can’t make this shit up. Unless you are a man…)
On the other hand, Gilly, the young girl who was (like all of her many sisters) raped by her own father (who is also her husband…) ever since she was a child, (actually she is STILL a child) is on top of that, attacked by a bunch of other men. (Because why not, right? That’s what women in Game of Thrones are there for, after all!) After she is saved by the love struck Sam, he of course silently - but unmistakably - asks her to show her “gratitude”. And she does, poor girl. Not a single minute is spent on her recovery! Because that’s what women who were almost gang-raped do apparently... Climb on top the very next man they see and get on with it… Speaking of Gilly, how interesting is it that Jon Snow – the hero of the piece - only wants to help her escape when he finds out what happens when she or one of her sisters give birth to a son: the baby boy is offered to the Night King. He is not equally moved by the knowledge that baby girls follow the same road as their mothers: they too are abused by their father / grandfather / husband to be! Helping Gilly (or any of her sisters) escape the vicious cycle of incest and abuse was seen as “interfering”! It was only when the fate of boys comes to light that he and Sam decide to help her… Because, to quote Varys, in this world (as in ours) “Cocks matter”…
Sansa, after she narrowly escapes getting married to the sadistic teen king Joffrey, (and then the wisecracking – but lets face it, degenerate – Tyrion) is forced to marry Ramsay, who ALSO happens to be a sadist. (What are the odds of that you ask? Very VERY high actually…) On top of being a psychopath, Ramsay is also the one who stole her ancestral home, and the son of the man who had a hand at murdering her mother, brother and sister in law. On their wedding night, he tortures and rapes her (of course!), adding the particularly sick twist of doing it in the presence of her childhood friend Theon (the man he tortured and castrated earlier). The emphasis is of course given on Theon’s pain, as he is forced to watch all this, instead of Sansa’s own, who happens to be the actual victim. And this says quite a lot!
Not only does GoT not show the damaging ramifications of rape / torture, psychological and physical abuse, but it presents them as banal everyday occurrences, or worse, as precious and needed life lessons for women that lead to their maturity and power! For example, in one of the last episodes of the series, the character of Sansa is being reminded that she used to be a “little bird” before she met Little Finger and Ramsy (the men who manipulated and abused her). To which she replies that without them she would have stayed a little bird all her life. Hurrah! for abusive men then... Where would women be without them? (Talk about a male perspective of things…)
Even the mighty Cersei is not spared from the rape epidemic. She is raped by her brother/ lover Jamie. In the middle of a church! On the day of their son’s funeral! With the dead body of their son in a casket next to them! (Yeah. It’s THAT kind of a show…) After this particularly disturbing scene caused an outraged from many viewers, the director of the episode defended it by saying (to the website Hitfix.com) that it was “consensual by the end”. Such a claim is quite ridiculous (not to mention damaging, and an insult to all the many women around the world who have been raped) The theme of the “NO! that means Yes!” is of course prevalent throughout the entire series of books, and very much in accordance with the popular porn scenario (and one assumes, male fantasies) that puts men’s mind at rest that they are not in fact, rapists! Even if it was “consensual by the end” (and this is most definitely NOT what we saw!) it was so, because a bunch of guys WROTE it like that! (And they do tend to write it like that in most shows these days!) How is that a valid response? And how does this writing choice the (male) writers made (that would conveniently release them from the responsibility of being accountable for yet another horrific rape scene) is a good excuse when faced with outrage from viewers? It’s a comforting thought I guess, to think that women love pain and want to be raped. In the same way that women are depicted in porn (and pop culture) as willing to go to any lengths to serve male sexual desires, regardless of how extreme or degrading they are. It keeps men from having to see them as human beings, from experiencing compassion, empathy, or simply mercy towards them so that they would stop using violence against them. It frees men from the apparently unbearable for them, burden of a having conscience… Creating literature, TV shows, movies, music that systematically push this agenda, creates a culture that allows men to continue to do just that: cause women pain for their sexual gratification and do it undisturbed, unchecked, unpunished. And on top of that, blame it on the women. Who secretly “want” it!
I find it quite telling that the tomboyish Arya, is the only one of the main female characters who’s been spared from being raped, and then also the only one who turns into a little monster. Sure she ended up killing the Night King but also she’s been merrily gutting her enemies, slicing their throats without a second thought, or cooking pies with the body parts of their loved ones, which she then serves to them! As if to imply that there’s a correlation between the two facts: As a female, you can either be a passive victim, or a monster. Similarly, the other female (supportive) character that was spared from being raped (though she did have some close calls) is Brienne. The female warrior who is - as we are being told over and over again – too “unfeminine”, too tall, too strong, too much like a man. Implying again, that being feminine / pretty is a dangerous business that should come with an unavoidable (and justified) cost… Not to mention that the only two women who take revenge on their rapists are villains themselves (Cersei, who kills her husband, and the witch / Priestess who kills Khal Drogo and Daenerys’s baby) implying again that there’s a correlation between the two: “good girls sit and take it. It’s only bitches that make a fuss” This show is so drenched in old-timey misogyny it’s downright biblical!
Whenever the subject of violence against women is also raised to anyone involved in Game of Thrones – including the actors - they usually answer (On cue! almost like they were coached…) that violence is not specific to women and that men are also killed on the show. So they are. None of them as the result of (or punishment for) their sex though. Not to mention none of them were raped either, not to mention none of these murders were sexualised... Given that women are STILL the oppressed class, watching so many of them on the show being publically shamed, and tortured and raped and killed as a result of sexual (or sexualized) violence, is frankly not the same thing as watching men being killed in battle or swords-fights. And if you have trouble understanding why this is unacceptable, or why it is different than men being killed on the same show, try imagining a show that depicts people from a particular ethnic group that has been historically oppressed (say black people, or Native Americans, or Jews) Try to imagine a show that bases its appeal on their humiliation and pain. Try to imagine an HBO show for instance, that lasts eight seasons in which black people, Native Americans or Jews or other minorities, are sexually assaulted and tortured by white people (white men obviously!) on a regular basis, for no other reason than they are not white. Now try to imagine a show that shows all that, NOT in order to condemn the fact (in manner of say “Roots”, “Aguirre. Royal Hunt”, “Schindler’s List” or similar), but as entertainment! Because such a sight would satisfy a certain type of White viewers’ s “needs”! Can you imagine such a racism-fest? (Even in this post-Trump climate, and the global rise of Far Right political parties?) Can you imagine this happening and not causing protests from said ethnic groups, (or from most of us?) Can you imagine HBO (or any other major player in the entrainment business) backing up such a show? NO! Because as much as racism is BY NO MEANS eradicated from our culture, it is at least, generally speaking, frowned upon. Or at the very least, checked by political correctness. We have become "cultured" enough to at least superficially acknowledge it as a BAD thing, recognise it when we witness it, and also not use it for voyeuristic purposes. Which is of course, more than we can say about misogyny!
Could the argument “well white men (white supremacists, skinheads, slavers, conquistadors, Nazis, and so on) are also being killed” on such a show, suffice as an excuse that would make the televised abuse of blacks and Native Americans and Jews OK? It wouldn’t. Because black people, Native Americans or Jews have a specific history of being an oppressed class, and a show that approves, glamorizes or even fetishizes their suffering (instead of condemn it, by showing for example the impact it had on their life and for generations) would not simply point towards their disenfranchisement, but actually encourage it, normalise it, and even help duplicate it! And showing a few Nazis, or a few plantation owners getting killed as well, would NOT make such shows acceptable! Yet the argument “well men are also being killed in Got” or “men are also being tortured, now take Theon for example…” are always being used as arguments to excuse the countless acts of gender-specific violence against women in GoT.
When it comes to women, we are culturally wired to seeing them being tortured and raped, and we are also being brainwashed from countless sources, to not only think that it is allowed, but to also actually buy it that it is desirable by them! (The victims!) Can you imagine a TV show that assumes that black people enjoyed being slaves? A TV show that tells us that Jews found the Holocaust a fun experience? Or an enriching one? And want nothing but to repeat it? Native Americans thinking that the genocide of their people was a hoot? NO! Not even Nazis assumed that what they were doing was pleasant to their victims! Yet, when it comes to women, it is their oppressors who control the conversation, who define what they like, (or ARE like), what is accepted, allowed, "normal", "desirable",etc, based on their own (the oppressors’ s) needs for women’s pain which they have sexualized. By satisfying their own need for images of objectified and humiliated women in pornography or pop culture, they both perpetuate the phenomenon and create a world in which it is justified, and seen as perfectly OK. As OK as selling slaves, gassing Jews or mass murdering Native Americans once was.
When it comes to women, finding a way to present them as actual human beings in pop culture, is where we are at! When in comes to Women’s Rights, despite the progress that has been made, this is still the time when the conquistadors were obliterating entire worlds and “claiming them for Spain”. This is still the Sand Creek Massacre; this is still the American North of the 1700s; this is still Alabama in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement; this is still Germany in the mid 30s/40s. The entire world is still a cotton plantation, or the bloody Holocaust!
When it comes to women, this is a fight (the fight for equality, dignity and the right to count as actual humans, the right to exist without fear or threat) that is still going on! (And with very bad odds too!) That is why a TV show that objectifies women in such an extreme manner is seen - by some of us at least - as offensive. Equally offensive, as a show that glorifies racism or slavery would be seen by most of us!
"The Misogyny in Game of Thrones - part II". Art & Words Copyright © Fanitsa Petrou. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorised use – copying, publishing, printing, reselling, etc – will lead to legal implications.
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