Alyssa Rosenberg on ‘A Game of Thrones’ and that Sady Doyle piece
Alyssa has the best response up yet to Sady Doyle’s critique of George R. R. Martin. I realize that we’ve done this to death over the past few days, but I do highly recommend you read Alyssa’s take, if only because it’s a good feminist critique of Sady’s position. A taste:
A world where women are perfectly safe, perfectly competent, and society is perfectly engineered to produce those conditions strikes me as one where we can’t tell any very interesting stories about women’s struggles and women’s liberation. If we tell ourselves stories in order to live, it doesn’t strike me that we do ourselves any favors as active feminists by leaching depictions of sexual violence, women making bad decisions, and institutionalized sexism from our fiction, or by dismissing entire swaths of consumers or modes of consuming fiction.
What I draw from this whole debate is this: if Martin hadn’t included rape or sexual violence or a sexist society, if he’d sanitized Westeros, if he’d written a world where sexual equality was the norm, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all. I’m thrilled that a fantasy series can spark this much serious discussion about women’s rights. Fantasy doesn’t have much of a tradition of this, though certainly there are feminists reading and writing the genre.
Sure, Tolkien included one strong woman in The Lord of the Rings. Good for him, as a traditionalist Catholic writing in post-war England, to make Eowyn a strong, disobedient female hero warrior. But by and large, from Tolkien on up, we don’t grapple a lot with women as second-class-citizens that much in fantasy. So we should, whatever mixed feelings we may have about the violence in these stories, at least celebrate the fact that they’ve sparked conversation about these issues. And, as Alyssa notes, “if we want the nerdosphere to be a more progressive place, I think it’s important to mount critiques that will actually be effective, rather than ones that can make the critics feel self-righteous.”
Read the whole thing.