After reading about the incident this last weekend where a man left an incredibly sexist note for his female pilot, I felt like it was time to channel my anger into this blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. The note left by passenger “David” is, I believe, merely the result of a culture that praises shows where the rape and degradation of women is common-place.
Disclaimer: I have read the first Game of Thrones book and watched the first few episodes of the HBO series.
Some of you are probably wondering why, if I’m so wildly against GOT, would I even bother watching the show after reading the book. One, I love epic fantasy. The world, the story, it’s epic fantasy and I so wished I could be a fan. I’d heard that the show wasn’t “as bad” as the books, and I thought I’d try. I thought, MAYBE, I could squash down the feminist part of myself long enough to enjoy a “guilty pleasure”. Turns out, I can’t. And the more I think of it, the more the show, and its fans, scare me.
Before I get into that, let me first just take care of the most popular argument I hear defending Game of Thrones.
Rape/Degradation of women is just a part of the time period.
Cue me banging my head repeatedly against a wall. For starters, GoT takes place in a land called Westeros. Now, while I know Google is not the answer to EVERYTHING (that’s 42), I plugged in Westeros into Google Maps. There’s a town called WesterosE in Alberta, but unless I miss my guess, they aren’t the same place. As far as I can turn up, Westeros, as portrayed in GoT is purely something out of the imagination of George RR Martin (the author).
So, given that the place the novel takes place has no actual history, rape/degradation of women can not be part of its history.
Well, but it’s set in a medieval period, and that sort of thing happened back then.
UUUUUGH, first of all, we are talking about the rape, sexual assault, and complete degradation of women, not that sort of thing. Refusing to use the words, whitewashing them in ambiguous terms only furthers the alienation and shame of victims. Call it what it is.
A quick Google on creature in GoT’s universe turned up the following:
- White walkers
- Children of the Forest
- Ice Spiders
This is not an exhaustive list, but it will do. These beings, far as I can tell, are made up. Some totally by GRRM, some are accepted mythical creatures appearing in many other works of fantasy. But, the reader is being asked to believe that, in the context of this fiction, these creatures are real. So how then, can removing the commonplace assault on women be too much handle?
Dragons are fine, BUT OMG A WORLD WITHOUT RAPE?! THAT IS JUST PLAIN CRAZY???
So let’s get this straight. The only reason that rape is so commonplace in GRRM’s made-up-world is because he wanted it to be there. Just think on that for a moment.
Every. Single. Time a character in Game of Thrones is raped, sexually assaulted, degraded it was a conscious choice on the part of the author.
That alone is enough that I can not watch the show or read the books. I just can’t. But it doesn’t answer the larger statement, which is that I think the popularity of Game of Thrones is an actual danger to our culture.
Many people watch Game of Thrones, and I am not saying that they are responsible for all the negative aspects of our current society. However, even those who are opposed to the rape and degradation of women, are viewing it week after week, and saying nothing. Imagine, just for a moment, if every person who thought that raping and assaulting women was wrong, just stopped watching? I’d hope the audience would be nothing… and maybe that would send a message… not just to the creators and authors of the show, but to society at large that we will not passively condone what is being done to women in the name of entertainment!
Because let’s get one thing straight, watching it, over and over again, saying nothing, doing nothing… Is passive acceptance. Putting money, time, and attention on something gives it merit. It begins to make it the cultural norm and makes it familiar.
“The more exposure we have to a stimulus, the more we will tend to like it. Familiarity breeds liking more than contempt. Things grow on us and we acquire tastes for things over time and repeated exposure.
This stimulus can be people, commercial products, places, etc. We can get to like most things, given time. We can even get to like unpleasant things, such as when prisoners miss prison.” exposure theory
Again, I am not saying that every person who watches GoT is going to become a rapist. What I AM saying is that by passively condoning the actions of the characters how society looks at and views rape is affected. And not in a good way.
I look at it like this: would I really want my daughter dating a guy who grew up watching, rewatching, and loving a show, where female characters are raped, assaulted, marginalized, and degraded repeatedly?
No, I would not.