Do you think "A Song of Ice and Fire" is sexist?

Discussion in 'Women's Issues' started by Guy-jin, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. Guy-jin

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    Here's something a bit different for this forum: A discussion of literature. I'm posting this in "Women's Issues" because, well, I'm interested in women's honest opinions on the matter without an army of men saying, "oh please, that's not sexist!"

    Anyway, assuming I'm not the only one who has read A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. (R. R. R. R.) Martin (aka "Game of Thrones and its sequels"), I was wondering what some of you women of the group think of the series and its portrayal of women.

    For years now, there has been quite a bit of debate about whether or not Martin and/or his books are sexist. A quick Google search of "Song of Ice and Fire sexism" will bring up quite a few results. Sufficed to say, I see both sides of the issue. I enjoy the books (though the last two are not as strong as the first three), but some of its character portrayals are over the top to say the least.

    In lieu of posting my own opinion and thereby skewing the thread before it even starts, I ask for the opinion of others if they have one. Do you find this series of books sexist? If so, why? And if so, does it offend you given the context (medieval fantasy)?
     
  2. pcghabsy

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    You could argue that the characters in the book are sexist, yes. I don't know how that implies the books or George R. R. Martin himself are sexist. It's a cruel, cruel (and over the top, as you say) world out there in Martin's fiction, how do you expect the characters to behave?

    I don't see how this is a Women's Issue.
     
  3. Guy-jin

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    So much for that idea? :rolleyes: Let me be more clear on why it's posted here: Because a lot of women don't even feel they can express an opinion regarding sexism in literature or media online without getting jumped all over by men disagreeing with them. Because a lot of men will use the, "well of course you think that--you're a woman" stance to nullify anything a woman says on the issue of sexism. Because the very discussion of whether books like these are sexist in and of themselves is a women's issue. If the verdict is that I put this in the wrong forum, move the thread, but I put some thought into where I was going to post it.

    To your other point: The world of Song of Ice and Fire is indeed cruel, but does that mean nearly every woman in the book need be either a whore, a crazy mother, a victim of rape, or mannish? One might argue (and many do) that the books are sexist precisely for that reason. The only women characters that aren't penalized with death, rape or disfigurement are ones that act like men. That's sexism in a nutshell--idolizing masculinity and punishing femininity. Isn't it?

    You might argue back that the world Martin's created is so cruel that only the strong would survive in it (without being raped or disfigured or murdered). Okay, but why then are there numerous major male characters where that's not the case (Davos, John, Bran, etc.) but no female?
     
  4. dolfette

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    1, never heard of the book
    2, of course it's a women's issue
     
  5. pcghabsy

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    You are absolutely spot on and I completely agree with you. But you are only comparing relative to what is thought of as masculinity and femininity in urban civilization Planet Earth in 2011. And that is what SoFaI is really about - questioning what is this and what is that? Perhaps if you would ask the people of Westeros, you would get a different answer.

    I don't see how anything else would fit Martin's fiction though. It's not just sexism, really, things like racism and all forms of inequality are even more rampant. And guess where Martin gets his inspiration from - human history.

    So, my stance is simple - "the characters from Martin's books are 'morally incorrect' according to our reference of 'morally correct' but it fits his 'morally terribly incorrect' world just perfectly".
     
    #5 pcghabsy, Sep 24, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  6. MickeyLee

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    acceptance of sexism/misogyny in popular culture.... women's issue.

    couldn't get through the first book because of the writer's clear issues with women.
    might try reading them again. bit older now *still waiting on wiser to catch up* so, maybe i'll have a different reading experience this time around.

    i suspect is a failing of Sci-Fi/Fantasy nerds.. y'all are scared of girls :tongue1::wink:
     
  7. B_subgirrl

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    Robert Jordan (fantasy) writes women EXTREMELY well, in my opinion. Haven't read the books this thread's about. Should I? Are they worth the read if you can overlook the sexist bit?
     
  8. MickeyLee

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    i don't like the dude's style.. and having read heaps from the genre, is too easy to recognize the bits he pilfered from better writers.

    sample.. from his site
     
  9. dolfette

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    terry pratchett has great women!
    they're as flawed and lovable as the men.
     
  10. ManlyBanisters

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    Yeah, Susan rocks.

    I haven't read the books in question so further comment from me is kinda daft.
     
  11. MickeyLee

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    yeah.. i was jokin 'bout that whole afraid of girls thing.
     
    #11 MickeyLee, Sep 24, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  12. Guy-jin

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    Okay, I'm sorry if I'm throwing out spoilers for those who haven't read the books but are interested. I'll try to be more vague. Fair warning: This first response may have spoilers.

    I tend to agree with you in fact. It's actually hard to find a character in the series in general that isn't dismantled for being morally good by our modern standards. But there are a few.

    I think the statement that the world of Song of Ice and Fire is a terribly dark one is quite astute. Yeah, most of the world is into the slave trade. The "noble people" trod all over the "smallfolk" constantly. Evil behavior is basically rewarded, and typically only penalized by even more evil behavior pointed the other way. And yes, Martin set us up for that in the very first book with Ned Stark.

    But at issue here is more that it seems he's incapable of including a believable feminine female character. If the world he's created can include major male characters that are morally good (without being weak or punished for it) by modern standards, why not female? That seems to be sexism to me. There are side characters--Margaery Tyrell for example--that fit that mold, but they are not yet major or overly important characters. Maybe Martin thinks such stories would be boring. Personally, I'd love to see how a decent female character would perceive and deal with a psychopath like Cersei.

    Spoiler alert over.

    Don't touch me with your cootiehands! Ew!

    Seriously though, try reading the first one. It's actually very good. The sexism is there, but not all of the "good" women characters have been murdered, raped or disfigured yet, so it leaves one with less of a sexist vibe at the end (at least it did for me). In the first book, Catheryn Stark doesn't yet seem like a crazy mother, Sansa Stark is actually a believable prepubescent princess, Arya Stark is a believable tomboy, et cetera.

    Actually, I'd say the whole Stark family in the first book and subsequently is what really held the books together. Once Martin started shifting focus mostly away from them, that's when the books lost cohesion. Still, that doesn't take away from the first book (nor the second and third, in my opinion).

    Robert Jordan does write women well. But he also can't end a story and has a plethora of other problems with his books. Honestly, I couldn't make it through "Wheel of Time" if I were forced to at swordpoint. It's just too much.

    Unfortunately, George R. R. Martin is starting down that path with this series as well. Where the first three books of this series were pointed and well formed, the last two have meandered endlessly. The first three had very clear climaxes with major events concerning characters that were highly interesting while the last two have brought in an army of characters of meager interest and a series of minor events that aren't very compelling.

    To be frank, I think the original "Game of Thrones" is one of the best fantasy novels I've read (not sure that's saying much, but there it is). I also think the first three are up there with the best series in fantasy. I was hopeful this most recent book would get things back on track, but perhaps he's lost his touch with this series.

    It would be great if Martin took at least a little nod from Jordan with regards to writing some good women figures and perhaps also learned from him that a good series needs a proper middle and ending. Because endless meandering is what killed Jordan's books for me, and it's looking like Martin's heading down that path as well.
     
  13. helgaleena

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    Nearly nobody in GRR Martin's world is lovable, male, or female. If you read the latest, he's killing off characters left and right. I personally think it's addictively gruesome. The women have it no worse than the men, and they are all food for the undead plague from the north, starting now. The premise of the universe is that humans either find a way to ally in the face of possible extinction , whether they have symbitotic bonds with other species or not, or they will continue to be divided and conquered.

    I find that he can write what I consider to be believable females, and strong ones too, though like the men they have more scope for their personal fulfillment if they are in the ruling class.
     
    #13 helgaleena, Sep 24, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  14. MickeyLee

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    rereading *finishing* might be a good idea? 15 year old Hothead Paisan wanna-be isn't the best mind set for some books.

    *runs off to find series*
     
    #14 MickeyLee, Sep 24, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  15. D_Hillary_Clitton

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    It has been rumored that George R.R. Martin is sexist, as well as many other sci-fi/fantasy authors. In one sense, I think he is not. He has a handful of strong female characters who do not display typical feminine setbacks, such as Deanerys and Arya. But one might argue that because these women portray masculine qualities, they are not true women. I think, considering the setting of these stories, it might be NECESSARY to develop in such a way, kind of like how today's women work, raise children, have fun, etc, all at the same time. Then there are characters such as Melisandre and Cercei. Both are at the height of beauty, and power, but both are also cruel, horrible, and for all intensive purposes, evil. This could show that Martin thinks all beautiful women are a no-good. I think the only exception in the series is (surprisingly) Sansa; she remains as lady-like as ever, but has learned to over come her traditional high born lady syndrome in order to survive.
     
  16. Hand_Solo

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    At least it's slightly less sexist than the Gor novels.
     
  17. Guy-jin

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    Well, I find no argument with what you've said. However, I do think the lack of a well-written main female character is a flaw. Dany is great, but she's still really just "a young girl". My feeling is that perhaps Martin doesn't find such a female character interesting enough for his fiction. Given most of his main characters are a few coppers short of a dragon, it's not out of the question. Still, he managed to fit at least one male character who's very believable and, frankly, about what I'd expect "normal" to be like in such a world, and that is Davos.

    The issue, ultimately, is that the women seem to be penalized for doing feminine things, and that the feminine quality that drives them is taken to the umpteenth degree to make them dis-likable. Meanwhile, those women main characters displaying masculine traits are often rewarded.

    Indeed, I agree with you. I don't actually think Martin is sexist, but I do think his world is absolutely depraved. I think he loves to write off-kilter (even evil) characters a great deal. I also think you're right about Sansa, although I would say she's been abused quite a bit due to her beauty. Still, she is not portrayed as psychotically feminine in some way. That said, she does seem to be quite dim as characters go (but then again, so does most of the Stark family).
     
  18. helgaleena

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    Have you got to the squid princess yet? She's my favorite. But also she's a starving POW at the end of the latest book.
     
  19. Guy-jin

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    Oh, I finished it a few nights ago. Great ending! I actually want to talk about the Jon chapter with someone.

    Asha is a great character, but again, female rewarded for acting masculine. She gets caught, yes, but clearly escapes scott-free.

    Did you finish it? I so want to chat about the end (in particular Jon).
     
  20. TheBestYouCan

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    In my opinion, these books blow Robert Jordan out of the water. Do yourself a favor and pick up the first book, "A Game of Thrones" ASAP
     
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