On A Song of Ice and Fire
Power and Feminism in Westeros
The use and abuse of power is the one constant theme of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Power, large or small, inevitably corrupts in Westeros, no matter who wields it and no matter the righteousness of their cause. Even as the disenfranchised women of Westeros seize the autonomy they need for power, once they begin taking it, they inevitably fall prey to the same potentially corrupting influences the men experience.
Feminism is, at its heart, about the empowerment of women. This power takes the form of both political power (e.g., suffrage) and personal power. Holding power in the political realm allows women the same influence in society men have. Personal power affords women their own agency to make choices for themselves regarding their lives, whether it’s whom they marry, the ability to consent to sex, the right to choose a profession, or just the right to choose the life they wish to live without being coerced by others.
Both men and women are oppressed by the existing power structure in Westeros. This is especially true for characters failing to conform to the prevailing gender standards, such as Brienne, a “masculine” woman; Varys, a “feminine” man; Samwell Tarly, a man who confounds his masculine role by being gentle and kind; and Asha Greyjoy, a woman who is a powerful leader of men. But it is the women who are most obviously in need of their own agency. This is not to say that women don’t have power, but by …