Gender Roles In Westeros
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Between the fire breathing dragons, wights walkers and witches, Westeros stands tall governed by a king and noble houses who have mesmerizing beauty and wealth. The first book of A Song of Ice and Fire introduces us to many characters. They are noblemen who govern the realm and their women, who are not allowed to make decisions about their own lives. The book introduces us to Daenerys Targaryen from a noble family who is married to a man against her will. For this short essay, I am going to focus on her character to draw a comparison between her and women in our own society. As the novel progresses, she takes control of her life and starts making decisions for herself. Characters like Daenerys Targaryen resonate well with today’s female audience because they too fight for justice and equal rights.
The novel introduces her as a victim of men’s greed. She is sold to a horse lord to help her brother take their lost Kingdom back. Men in this fictional realm do not consider women as active members of society; therefore they treat them as objects that can help them move their agenda forward. For so long, women in our world have been treated as objects similar to characters of Game of Thrones. Women have been treated as second class citizens whose voices do not matter. Daenerys soon becomes popular with the fans because of the way she overcomes abuse and humiliation and rises to the top.
In his book Understanding Popular Culture, John Fiske reflects on a study of Cagney and I.Acey fans who find help in fictional characters to make sense of their society. To quote Fiske; “fans found (different) ways that the show helped them to understand their experiences as women in male-dominated institutions-particularly workplaces and schools-and for some this understanding led to more assertive ways of behaving within and against such subordination.” (Fiske, P105) Daenerys also plays such a role for Game of Thrones fans. Fans often say that the reason why they love Daenerys so much is because of the way she overcomes obstacles on her way.
Game of Thrones deals with a huge amount of negligence against women. Their authority is simply neglected because of who they are. Even if they are fully qualified to play a role, they are refused the right. In Daenerys’ case, even though her husband falls madly in love with her, he refuses to acknowledge her claim to the Iron Throne. William Clapton and Laura J Shepherd raise this issue in their research Lessons from Westeros: Gender and power in Game of Thrones; by pointing out to the chapter where Khal Drogo promises to with the Iron Throne for his son. Clapton and Shepherd point that Daenerys’ claim to the throne is easily ignored because Drogo does not think that she might have her agenda and might want to occupy the throne. Instead; he promises to win the throne for his son and refers to it as “the chair that his mother’s father sat on”. (Clapton and Shepherd, P11) This is very much like our society where women’s authority is simply denied because of their gender. Women in our society are paid less than men are and are referred to as being hard to work with if they ask for more.
Moreover, after her husband’s death, Daenerys has to prove that she is capable of leading his Khalasar. She rises as a powerful leader when she realizes that is her only chance to survive in a male-dominated society. When compared to our world, we see women of our society are also rising to the top because they know that is the only way for achieving greatness in our male-dominated society.
Furthermore, the gender roles in Game of Thrones are very much like our society, and that is because George RR Martin took inspiration from medieval times to write the novel. Clapton and Shepherd bring up the argument that Men in Westeros are “political actors” and they make important decisions. In contrast, women are seen as sexual objects and mothers of children with no real power or authority. (Clapton and Shepherd, P11) Although we are fighting these types of “traditional gender roles” we have not been able to fully overcome them yet.
In conclusion, the struggle of women in Game of Thrones for their authority resonates well with today’s female audience because they also struggle to find their place in a male-dominated society. Women today also want to overcome the negligence and abuse like Daenerys Targaryen. George RR Martin writes a beautiful character who slowly becomes an active agent in deciding her destiny. We see similar gender roles in the novel and our society. Although we are making progress, women are still not fully in control of their destiny. Daenerys’ journey inspires the fans to be strong and fight for what they deserve.
Clapton, William, and Laura J Shepherd. “Lessons from Westeros: Gender and Power InGame of Thrones.” Politics, vol. 37, no. 1, July 2016, pp. 5–18., doi:10.1177/0263395715612101.
Fiske, John. Understanding Popular Culture. Routledge, 2011