Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rants of Ice and Fire: Oh, HELL No

Hey Sorsha, remember when I recommended that podcast to you, Podcast of Ice and Fire? Yeah, well, I'm rescinding my recommendation. I enjoyed the first episode and part of the second one I listened to (I texted you a quote) but immediately after that, one of the women on the 'cast treated the listeners to a lecture about Catelyn Stark and how she's not a strong character because she's a wife and mother.

...No, really. That was it. I'm on record as not being a huge Catelyn fan. Mostly because I find her boring and think she was a bitch to Jon Snow, whom I adore. (Though I can sort of understand her reasoning. Well. As much as I can understand why anyone would be mean to a little kid, even if he IS your husband's illegitimate kid of TOP SECRET maternity.) But I certainly don't think she's weak. And I think she left "traditional" femininity behind when she hopped on her horse to go rally the Tullys and gather evidence against the Lannisters for booting her son out the window. And then arresting Tyrion. And the way she handled the arrest was pretty fucking masterful. And she seems extra tough when you compare her to her miserable sister. Ugh.

Yeah, she raised five kids. Hell, six, if you count Jon Snow. (Are we to think she completely ignored him? I'm unclear on this. I guess it doesn't matter much.) She was a dutiful and loving wife to Ned and mistress of Winterfell. None of these things make her weak. Motherhood's a fucking tough job, I'm pretty sure. Especially when you don't have things like, you know, epidurals, antibiotics, diapers, pacifiers and soap. And unlike that gorgon Cersei (To whom she was being compared unfavorably), she doesn't: 1. Fuck her brother 2. Murder her husband 3. Have any Damien-Omen kids.

I'm mostly just really offended by the notion that if you don't try to act like a man, you're weak. Like I said in my ridiculously impassioned defense of Sansa: not everyone can be Arya or Dany. If you put a sword in my hand, I'd probably be all, "Um. This is heavy. I'm just gonna put this down over here before I drop it on my foot" and then I'd go read a book. Or knit something. Or bake something. In fact, I'm looking up brownie recipes as we speak. ...Type. And I'd (GASP!) like to get married and have babies someday. !!!!!!!!! Whatever. I GUESS I'M JUST TOO WEAK/BORING/USELESS TO LIVE.

So, back to the podcast...I'll be unsubscribing. Which sucks because I loved being able to listen to something Westeros-related at work. It's the NEXT BEST THING to reading the novels. But I don't need that kind of misogynistic bullshit.


ETA: Oh, there was other stuff, too. This was just the bit I was ranty about.


EGT said...

This is like how I've had people criticize my female characters for being too "feminine" in that they like pink and sparkly glitter. And I'm like, "Why can't we focus on the fact that they like pink and sparkly glitter and oh, yeah, SAVE THE UNIVERSE?"

My biggest pet peeve in the entire universe is how male characters get to be whoever they are but female characters have to stand in for the entire gender.

Dan Mac said...

There is something interesting going on in the series with how many women explicitly, deliberately try to act like men. I'm not saying this podcaster's argument has any merit--as you say, there are different ways of being strong, and anyway strong person and strong character are two very different things--but there is some kind of dynamic at work when you look at the ladies of ice and fire as a group.

Consider: Arya passing as a boy. (Apologies, again, the rest are characters developed later in the series.) Asha Greyjoy dresses like a man and is deliberately confrontational over traditional gender roles. Cersei has that thing where she needs to prove herself better than the boys, and then has that episode where she fucks that woman whose name escapes me and fantasizes about what it's like to be on top. (It's penis envy so explicit it's almost comical, and as much as you like seeing Cersei get her dues, it did carry a whiff of character assassination.) Brienne of Tarth is repeatedly noted for how manlike she is.

It seems like on this page at least we agree that having characters like Sansa and Catelyn (and Margery and the Tyrell matriarch show potential), who aren't necessarily asskickers in the Sarah Connor mold is important to the overall integrity and context of the story, but there is a trap in the pages that suggests it's Dany's way or the highway. Nearly every 'traditionally feminine' character we've seen has been punished for being so. Does that mean they shouldn't be that way, or should the men in the series not be sister-selling, raping, baby-killing (looking at you, Gregor Clegane) assholes?

But, y'know, intelligent, critical readers (like us) don't fall into the trap. Catelyn's about as ruthless as any other character in the series, and she's far better suited to operate in this world than her husband was. It's hard to picture Catelyn getting outmaneuvered by Cersei like Ned allowed himself to be. And whatever her issues, being a woman is a very large part of what Cersei's about.

Bea said...

@EGT - Yes. Agreed. "Feminine" is not an insult! It's ok to be girly! It's ok to be NOT girl! It's ok to be both! It's DEFINITELY ok to save the world while wearing glitter.

Sorsha Ni said...

Bea-Here's my view. This chick in the podcast must be blind and/or nuts! Cat is a SUPERWOMAN (generally a woman, wife or no, that is raising kids with or without a partner, is educated, managing a household, is important in her community, has hobbies/interests and has stong ties with other in her life outside of home to make her well rounded) MODEL for this time period of this book! She was a mother, wife/widow, educated Lady, protector of loved ones and played the game of thrones. I agree with Dan that she was more savvy than her husband, poor Ned. This podcast chick is entitled to her own thoughts and I respect that. It's ashamed she isn't on her meds to see where she is wrong with Cat, let alone with her general view on women. PS: Told you Cat ROCKS! *satified smile* It was good to hear you defend her and her choices as a woman.

Dan-You're right about the women in this book either fighting against or embracing the male role in their lives. But the time period they are in is like looking at our past with royalty, before democracy. We have come a long way, but we can see and feel their struggles. He simply mirrors the human condition of that time.

EGT- I'm cool with feminine role models in pink and sparkly glitter that save the world! Bring it on! It's stupid people in general I can't stand. LOL

Sorsha Ni said...

I would TOTALLY save the world in pink and glitter, damn it.

Cat is NOT lame cuz she's a lady and a mother. I'm glad you came to her defense, Bea, even tho you find her annoying and boring. She is an undercover bad-ass Lady playing the game of thrones with her and her families' lives after Ned signed their death warrant by telling Cersei he knew her kids were not Baratheons. Really, Ned? REALLY? I love him for his inner need to be so damn honorable. We know where Sansa gets some of her slightly dimmer witt from and where Arya gets her bitchy tendecies from now. :>)