When people ask me if I consider myself a feminist I tend to shrug and mutter something along the lines of “I don’t know, whatever”. This tends to elicit the follow-up question of whether or not I believe in gender equality, which, of course, I tend to answer with yes. I hold some fairly feminist opinions. Perhaps it’s that people tend to label people to understand the world better, or perhaps the feminist movement is simply desperate for people to champion their cause, because once you admit to believe in gender equality they smack you with their blunt, self-contented logic and declare you a feminist. I’m not unequivocally flattered when this happens to me, partly because I prefer to approach issues without bias, and partly because I don’t want to be counted among the kind of idiots who scream bloody murder at the sight of a Westerosi woman being raped.
Yesterday, I wrote a short, very annoyed rant about this, blissfully unaware that the self-righteous moral outrage over Sansa’s rape would spread like wildfire and flood my Facebook news feed throughout the day. It was all fine and dandy; I thought I’d said (blogged) the last about it until I came upon an article of The Daily Beast, basically my favorite source of news and thinkpieces, called: “The Rape of Sansa Stark: Game of Thrones goes off-book and enrages its female fans“. Aside from the fact that the title is misleading (the outrage is obviously about the rape scene; not about going “off-book”), the article stupidly sides with the female fans it mentions, using arguments that wouldn’t be worth arguing against if 75% of the world population wasn’t made up of idiots. Et tu, Daily Beast?
Making me school people, again.
The author, a certain Melissa Leon, starts her article by donning her Captain Obvious cape:
“Sansa Stark was raped for absolutely no reason during Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones.“
When an article starts with a line like that, you already know you’re about to read the opinion of a person who, judging from the way they reason, should not be allowed to vote or participate in politics at all, lest they’d ruin the world one step at a time. Rape and Ramsey-levels of sadism usually have no reason other than the pleasure of the violator, but all right, this obnoxiously self-righteous opening line must be read within context, so I will not try to be clever.
Sansa is a victim again
The article proceeds with an accurate recap of the events prior to the rape scene:
“The rightful heir to Winterfell wed Roose Bolton’s bastard son in a move meant to help win back her home and exact revenge for her murdered mother and brother. And indeed, Sansa is all self-assured sass and agency in the moments before the wedding. She puts Myranda, Ramsay’s conniving lover, in her place and declares, “I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home and you can’t frighten me.” Then she strides toward the godswood where she exchanges vows with a man she intends to see destroyed—making her, for the first time, a real player in the game of thrones.“
While it is clear that Sansa Stark intends to reclaim Winterfell, we don’t quite know what her plans for Ramsay Bolton are. Of course, knowing Roose Bolton was responsible for the murder of both her mother and brother, it is safe to assume she doesn’t appreciate Ramsay and hopes bad things happen to him. Partly thanks to Littlefinger, Sansa has adopted the attitude that she must do what she must to get what’s hers. She has toughened up and she is most certainly planning something, but her focus has been on Winterfell rather than Ramsay. While it is very likely she intends to see Ramsay destroyed, we have learned nothing about anything she may or may not be plotting and, as we know, anything can take a twist at any time in Game of Thrones.
It is important to remember this because here lay the foundation for the author’s expression of outrage that follows immediately:
“But the newlyweds’ wedding night ends with a scene that goes the opposite way, rendering Sansa helpless and victimized—again.“
Since there was nothing to indicate Sansa was planning on murdering Ramsay on their wedding night, the expectation that she would seems rather gullible, or self-serving given the point the article argues. In Game of Thrones, plots take time to unfold (and this is one of its strengths). Anyone looking for instant gratification should watch an Avengers movie. Additionally, unless Sansa was carrying a knife in her sleeve, there was no way she would not have been helpless on her wedding night, which, in Westeros, is the night where husband and wife consummate their marriage for the first time, alone, behind closed doors, in a bedchamber (not an armory where either one could pick an axe off the wall and hack into his or her new spouse). The rape didn’t render Sansa more or less helpless than she would have been otherwise.
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken – and indulgence of victimhood
The author’s following outrage is so void of understanding that it would have been hilarious if The Daily Beast didn’t have such a wide platform:
“Ramsay rips Sansa’s wedding gown apart, bends her over, then forces his way into her as she cries out in pain. (This episode is preciously titled “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”)“
Aw, the girl tries her hand at sarcasm. How precious. Nevermind that the episode devoted, what, 10 or 15 minutes (?) to Jaime Lannister and Bronn sneaking into the Water Gardens to kidnap or rescue Myrcella (depending on how you look at it), and that they spent a while fighting with the Sandsnakes, who are of House Martell, whose words are “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. Sansa is not the center of the Game of Thrones universe. We disregard that now, because rape and feminism.
Should anyone want to connect the words of House Martell to Sansa’s rape anyway, an empowering way to twist this would be to assume that the rape strengthens Sansa’s resolve to kill the shit out of the Boltons. While Sansa has had a lot to endure and her wedding night was horrifying, the expectation that she is now broken is more offensive than the rape itself. I would argue this for real life rape victims as well. Acknowledging hurt and giving compassion is not similar to denying a person’s resilience, strength, and ability to heal. Positive affirmation is way more productive than pity and emphasizing victimhood. Remember: rape victims need empowerment, not victimhood.
Medieval times call for medieval… norms
So, having dumped that bit of life wisdom here, let’s move on to the following mindless statement:
“Theon Greyjoy is forced to watch as Sansa—who is still only around 15 years old!—loses her virginity to a sadist.“
At this point I am just wondering if this woman has been paying attention to the show at all. Has she been watching this show absentmindedly, with a notebook in her hand, waiting for something outrageous to happen so she could quickly scribble it down and rage about it online?
I’m afraid I will have to spell this one out.
Long ago, and I do mean centuries and centuries ago, there was a period of time we now know as the Middle Ages. In that time it was not uncommon – in fact it was very common – to marry off girls when they were around the age of 12. The reasons for these marriages were often political or economical.
If you were uneducated enough not to know this, yet it sounded oddly familiar to you, it must be because you have been watching Game of Thrones. Indeed, the story takes place in a world very similar to medieval Britain. There are a few fantasy elements in it, such as non-existing places, dragons, and sorcery, but there are a few things to give the approximate time period away: firstly, there is little fucking technology (screws and bolts count as technique as well, in case another uneducated fuck wanted to argue there was no technology at all). People ride around on horseback, for crying out loud. Secondly, the people are simple-minded (they’ve come up with geographical names such as ‘the Fork’ and ‘the Sapphire Isle’). Thirdly, almost none of the women wear pants. Fourthly, they fight with swords instead of guns. Fifthly, they fucking marry around the age of twelve!!!
So, of course, if a man wanted to rape his fresh wife she would be around that age.
Do some fucking research. I’ll even help you in the right direction:
One of the strengths of Game of Thrones, as with all good fiction but particularly this story, is that it is realistic. You can’t write a story about a medieval-like time and have people marry at ages that are acceptable to us now. No one would buy into it. Well, no one intelligent anyway.
Whether the rape was or wasn’t pointless (or: clairvoyance at work – or: the utter ignorance about storytelling)
The article goes on to say that the rape scene had no value because it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. The author’s complete and utter stupidity and ignorance of story development is so painfully obvious that you have to wonder if she is truly of the opinions she assesses, or if she gets off on presenting herself as a feminist and uses every goddamn excuse she can possibly find for it. Her opinions are so frustratingly dumb that there should be a petition to banish her to Narnia, where she will never be allowed internet access again, so she can spend her days petting Aslan and vexing the Ice Queen (if she still lives/reigns) with her self-righteousness.
Melissa literally writes:
“From a storytelling perspective, this scene is extraneous bullshit.“
“It uselessly regurgitates everything we already know about these characters: Ramsay is a psychopath, Theon/Reek is tortured, and the resilient Sansa will endure whatever it takes to survive. Nothing new was established here. What was the point?“
Five seasons in and the woman doesn’t realize we’re way past the introductory stage. We certainly do already know all these things, Melissa, thanks for noting. You may want to consider character development instead of character introduction.
“The scene certainly wasn’t about motivating Sansa; she already wants every Bolton dead and has concocted a plan with Littlefinger to make that happen. Her plotline was not advanced at all by this scene.“
What? How the fuck can anyone know? Firstly, Sansa and Littlefinger didn’t discuss specifics, but then that’s not even relevant. Sansa married Ramsay Bolton, not knowing what a complete psychopath he was, thinking she would have to endure him until Littlefinger’s return. Judging by the look of shock on her face when he told her to undress and Theon to stay in the room, she didn’t quite expect him to be this cruel. Now she’s found out that he is, and two things can happen: one, she descends back into victimhood, or two, she kills the fucker before Littlefinger’s return. Since she was just dipping her toe into badassery, I’m expecting the latter. I am passionately hoping for it, too, if only for the sake of being a role model to rape victims. (Though not in the least because I appreciate badassery.)
On a very related note, Brienne did tell her to light a candle in the tower window if she needed help. Sansa obviously didn’t plan on lighting that candle, but she might do so now and Brienne might come to her rescue. Advancing the plot line one step at a time.
In any event, unless you’re clairvoyant, or unless the next episodes have been leaked to you, you can’t know if this advances her plotline.
“Was it for Reek then? To spur him out of his mental state and help the poor damsel in distress? Reek has already lost his identity and suffered months of torture, humiliation, and lest we forget, had his cock chopped off thanks to Ramsay; his reasons for hating the bastard are set in stone. No story-bound justification for depicting the rape of an underage girl, then making it all about a male supporting character’s feelings, exists here.“
Oh, so much stupid.
Indeed, there is a good possibility that Theon (or Reek if you will) will want to help the “poor damsel in distress”. And indeed, he already has plenty of reasons for hating Ramsay Bolton. I would say “excellent point”, were it not that this bit completely ignores the more complex parts about Theon’s character. Having been abused so relentlessly and persistently by Ramsay Bolton, Theon not only hates Ramsay but is completely submissive to him. This is not merely out of fear but also from a form of self-loathing that in the real world many abuse victims suffer from as well. You simplify the character by saying all that drives him is fear and hatred for Ramsay, when he is in a perpetual state of self-denial and sometimes more or less believes he deserves what Ramsay is doing to him. Of course this is far more obvious in the books than it is in the show, but since the author of the article refers to the books later in the article I am going to assume she’s read them. (Aside from that, if you’re going to stand up for abuse victims you will want to do some in-depth research into the psyche of abuse victims, lest you say something stupid and misinform thousands of readers.)
The fact that Theon already feels terribly guilty about taking Winterfell from the Starks may have something to do with why he believes he deserves what Ramsay does to him. However, much more importantly, aside from having taken Winterfell, he is partly responsible for Winterfell falling into the Boltons’s hands, which means he is partly responsible for what happens to Sansa. Thus, seeing her get raped would be a legitimate catalyst for him to “help the poor damsel in distress”, not to be brushed off as the old-fashioned chivalry snubbed by modern day misandrists, eh, I mean, feminists.
On that note, where was your outrage when his cock was chopped off? Or was it fine because he is a white male in a white male world? Fuck human suffering, right? Tits unite, because this:
“making it all about a male supporting character’s feelings“.
Because, since we are fighting for gender equality, we would certainly never want to admit that men having feelings as well! How dare they steal the spotlights when we are so busy showing them how much we suffer from their hands! How dare a man come to the rescue of a woman when she is being raped (or in Theon’s case, possibly shortly thereafter)! He should just push a can of pepper spray into her hands and take off! Bitch can deal, right? Why would we need compassion and friendship and love between genders? Why would we, strong and independent women, accept a man’s help at all? We can handle our shit! We’re all ninjas!
Seriously, this author needs to go fuck herself. Ramsay and Theon are both white males, but Ramsay is not Theon and Theon is not Ramsay. Men are individuals as much as women are. “Rape culture” is a buzz word nowadays (and that’s stupid enough as it is, it’s really just a deeply ingrained sexual repression of which rape is a part, stemming from a time when churches dictated their idea of virtue and decency, but sure we can simplify things), and it’s fine that everyone is making a point out of empowering women, and saying enough is enough. I’m all for that.
But let’s not forget that we are watching a world where women are only valued for birthing heirs. (If this offends you, I refer you to the part above where I briefly explain medieval times.) In Westeros, women are very, very oppressed. (Just ask Cersei.) Rape is not uncommon, and women are often reliant on men. That said, Game of Thrones has many badass women: Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister (say what you will, she is not to be messed with), Olenna Tyrell, the Sandsnakes… just from the top of my head. Game of Thrones doesn’t make a habit out of portraying women as victims, even though it would not be unfitting given the hardly developed world the story is set in. Game of Thrones is this kind of story. It can’t be politically correct. It can’t engage in social debates. It would not do the story justice. It is a world in which women suffer, and, as such, every now and then women are rescued by men. (If this is not your thing you should watch The Hunger Games instead.)
If it served the plot to zoom in on Theon’s face instead of showing us Sansa’s suffering, that’s fine. It should be fine. So Theon may come to the help of Sansa Stark. Brienne of Tarth has slain far too many men to accuse Game of Thrones of portraying women as traditional victims. Of all the hardships Game of Thrones characters have suffered, HBO should not make adjustments because this scene happened to have rape in it.
The Rape of Daenerys and Cersei
The author goes on, though…
“Then again, what did we expect? HBO’s high fantasy epic has always handled rape poorly. Dragon queen Danaerys Targaryen coped with her sexual assault in Season 1 by falling madly in love with her rapist, Khal Drogo. In last year’s episode “Breaker of Chains,” Jaime Lannister forced himself on his twin sister Cersei under the corpse of their dead son, Joffrey.“
Oh. So much stupidity. Oh, fuck.
Okay, here we go. Once again, in medieval times women were married off to men (at a young age). On their wedding night they fucked, as they were supposed to. This probably happened with much reluctance or a complete lack of mutual consent, seeing as neither parties would have chosen each other out of love or lust (often, anyway).
Obviously, Khal Drogo was going to consummate his marriage. Now, Daenerys didn’t have a choice in marrying him and she may or may not have looked forward to their wedding night. She certainly did appreciate Khal Drogo’s gift and gentleness beforehand. While she may not have liked her wedding night, she was well aware that this was expected of her as his wife. My point in case is that within this context you can’t expect mutual consent, especially not explicit mutual consent.
That said, Khal Drogo was rough because, obviously, he was a Dothraki. Perhaps HBO should have done a better job making the viewer aware of this, but Daenerys understood this and Drogo wasn’t bad for her. She didn’t see Drogo as her rapist; she saw Drogo as a husband with the right to fuck her. While this may be hard to fathom now, in a time and world (country) where women have much more freedom and say in their own sexuality, it didn’t occur to Daenerys that Drogo was in the wrong, leaving room for her to fall in love with him.
The books tell it better than the show has done, one must agree to that. In the books, Daenerys mostly suffer from the sex she has with Drogo because of her riding sores and bruises (she doesn’t mention once that she doesn’t want him to fuck her), and because she is lonely (does not speak Dothraki, does not know the area, and so on). But she does fall in love with Drogo eventually.
As for Jaime and Cersei… aside from the world and time these people live in… their relationship is so twisted and inherently wrong that it is such an obvious non-example of healthy human interaction. No one would look at them and think: “well, that seems pleasant, why not give it a go?” Jaime and Cersei are so fucked up that the rape scene could not have come as surprise – and it could not have come as a surprise that it did not have repercussions. You can pull anything out of context this way.
The worst part about this is probably not that the rape scene occurred at all, but that people were truly outraged by it. As if Cersei and Jaime are the epitomes of romance and people wanted to see some sort of tender lovemaking.
Can we please stop screaming bloody murder over everything that upsets us, and just stop to think and interpret for a second? Because once we stop thinking and interpreting, we are seriously dumbing down ourselves and the generations that follow after.
“Higher-profile fans” condemn the show
“But this latest violation has touched a nerve among even the show’s higher-profile fans. Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted this morning that she is “done” with Game of Thrones. “Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable,” she wrote. “It was a rocky ride that just ended.” Geek girl culture site The Mary Sue has resigned itself from all coverage of the show, with editor-in-chief Jill Pantozzi writing in part, “We’re constantly asking for better from those creating the media we love, for them to really think about what they’re putting out into the world. We simply can’t bring ourselves to be excited by a product which no longer meets our needs as fans.” And Deadspin’s headline reflects a growing sentiment among TV critics in the wake of this latest rape scene: “Game of Thrones Is Gross, Exploitative, and Totally Out of Ideas.”“
It is pitiful and disconcerting that a successful politician does not possess the intelligence required to interpret a scene like that, although it must be said she may have a point (somewhat) by calling it gratuitous. The scene did come as a surprise; Ramsay had seemed eager to marry Sansa and he was rather taken by her.
However. Let’s bring the context back in. Yes, Ramsay is a sick fuck, but that’s an easy excuse. What matters here is that Sansa is a Stark and Winterfell is hers. Sansa was fairly sharp at the dinner table with Ramsay and Roose, and Ramsay already did confront her with Theon only to gloat over it. Obviously, Ramsay wants to show Sansa who’s boss. Rape fits into that, as it’s a way of humiliating and submitting her. A bit of pondering (and paying attention) can lead anyone to this conclusion, but there has been research that proved cell phones and social media significantly narrow our attention span, so that must have something to do with it, and I can understand that – if you mainly think in 140 characters – it can be difficult to understand and interpret human behavior.
As for The Mary Sue… what can I say? Surely censorship will greatly improve our global society. It will also serve us greatly, as a species I mean, to remain focused on victimhood and never acknowledge the people who take matters into their own hands and fight and kick ass. We must honor the pitiful before the admirable.
And I’m not even going to start about Deadspin. A sixth book is in the making.
Anyway, good riddance and back to masturbating to your own self-righteousness.
“Rape is not a necessary plot device; it is not a prop or a parlor trick to include for an end-of-episode shocker. On the rare occasion that sexual violence is depicted with a justifiable purpose, it’s the consequences and emotional aftermath—not all the gory details of the act itself—that matter most.“
Consequences and emotional aftermath. Both later. TV series work in such a way that one episode follows the other, so you find out what the consequences or emotional aftermath are bit by bit. Later. I am glad to find the author does have some comprehension of how stories work after all. Now, all she needs is a comprehension of TV shows.
As for the gory details, we saw Ramsay tear her dress and bend her over. One moment it’s not okay to zoom in on Theon, the next we don’t want the details. That’s weird.
Of course I do understand what she’s saying, although given everything she’s said before it’s of less importance and slightly irrelevant. She doesn’t want rape to be the closing scene of an episode, because that would make rape exploitative in the sense that people will want to know what happens next and watch again a next episode. So, in short she is saying that rape benefits HBO.
But it’s just so fucking hypocritical given the kind of show that we’re talking about. One of the currently written books ends with a scene where one of the characters gets stabbed with knives, possibly to death. Bad things happen, and they make you want to know what happens next. Stories need conflicts and plot twists and awful stuff to empathize with (or relate to) the characters. This is not just true for Game of Thrones. It is true for nearly every TV show and book series out there.
Perhaps the rape scene had no justifiable purpose, but this is something to conclude after we know what happens next. And if or when we do, that’s when we start criticizing. Right now, everyone is getting their panties in a twist simply and only because the scene had rape in it.
And if depiction of sexual violence is rarely justifiable, it should be similar with any sort of violence. I didn’t hear anyone weep when the skin was flayed off Theon’s finger, or when Jory got a dirk in his eye, or when Ros was tortured and killed by Joffrey, or when Joffrey’s guards went around killing babies (even though it wasn’t explicit), or when the Red Viper’s eyes were pushed into his skull by the Mountain. Or are these things all justifiable because it’s a different sort of violence? Or because most of them were men, perhaps?
Never change, Game of Thrones
“We don’t want to quit watching; we’re pleading with the show’s makers to fix how they depict this awful, very real thing.
It’s your move, Game of Thrones. We’re watching.”
Such is the closing plea of the author of this horrible article. I’m not quite sure what she wants HBO to do. Make it more awful? More realistic? Surely that would not make these scenes any more pleasant to watch. Make it less realistic, then, perhaps, and more pleasant? Surely that would be more offensive (I think so, anyway). Not depict it at all then? What kind of strange reasoning does one need to believe that censorship does not lead to taboos, and will in any way contribute to a healthier attitude towards sex and victims of sexual violence?
Was this scene insensitive to rape victims? Perhaps, yes, if they would truly bother to wonder why the episode ended with such a scene. It could be reason for being upset with HBO. However, it is not our job to wonder why HBO decided to have that scene at the end of the episode. While we could be right when we make an educated guess, you can’t know what goes on behind the scenes, why decisions are made when they are made, so it is technically just speculation. It is our job to watch and judge the content; the characters, the way the story develops, and so on. Besides, HBO is not here to heal us. If we would ban exploitation of human suffering all together, we would have very, very, very little entertainment to choose from. The worst part is probably that the story of Game of Thrones (and definitely of A Song of Ice and Fire) is one of the best, most complex, most intriguing, well thought out stories there are out there. If you’re going to complain about the things we accept as entertainment, then please start with Adam Sandler movies.
Game of Thrones is hard, violent, intruiging, twisted, and, at times, controversial. It has role models and victims and villains and everything in between. It exploits human suffering, as well as human depravity, like there’s no tomorrow. That is the kind of show you’re watching. If it’s not your cup of tea, fucking please leave the show to the real fans and watch Pretty Little Liars instead.
This “woe is me” attitude is not feminism. People need to learn the difference between feminism and victimhood. People need to learn that feminism is about equality by means of empowerment, not about pointing fingers and feeling sorry for ourselves.
Let’s blame rapists (and the church if you must), instead of throwing our enemies one heap and refer to them as the “white male”. That’s not even feminist, that’s misandry and slightly touches on racism. There’s a difference between acknowledging what caused the current state of the world, and being angry with half the population of the western world because you feel misunderstood.
And yes, we do need acknowledgement for the suffering of rape victims, and yes, we do need more awesome female role models, and yes, we do need to drop Miley Cyrus in a sink hole and close it with cement. Yes, we need all these things. But we are not going to get there if we sit here feeling sorry for ourselves each time we feel slighted for being a woman. Stop complaining, avoid the things you don’t like (just treat Game of Thrones like the irresistible but bad boyfriend), don your cape (not the Captain Obvious one), and go out and conquer the fucking world and lead by example. Focus on what you do want and not on what you don’t want. That’s when you change something. (And yes I am aware of the irony.)
Because this version of feminism is just appalling, and it is definitely not in my name. Indeed, as a woman I distance myself from it.
Sorry ladies, but you need to man the fuck up.
You have been schooled.
Oh, and yes, I was sexually assaulted as well. Thanks for asking.