I was going to write my post on something else completely, but then my fellow Spellbound Scribe, Emmie Mears, tweeted this awesome Game of Thrones tribute video. Go. Watch. You won’t regret it. You may even find yourself watching it over and over as Emmie and I have.
Now, I don’t even like GoT and I thought it was really powerful. What I couldn’t get out of my head were the women in the video, especially Daenerys. I found myself wondering, “If I’m not a fan of the books or show, what is it that I’m reacting to? It has to be speaking to me in some other way.” This is my answer to that question, setting aside all mythology associated with the book/show.
The first part of my answer is we’re seeing women that history has not allowed us to have and that we desperately need. The second thing we see in the video is Daenerys freeing the slaves of her people, effectively becoming a savior/mother-figure to them. While there have always been and will always be women who do not fight for good, for the most part women have risen up against injustice in the world, from the abolitionists, to those who went on hunger strikes to get the right to vote, and those who set up schools today in countries where the education of girls is considered pointless, or even immoral. But we have always had to do it from the sidelines or the background. Only a rare few, like Benazir Bhutto, have been granted the power to do so from an official standpoint. And look what happened to her – when she became too controversial, she was killed. Silence the ones who speak out, the story goes, and others will be afraid to raise their voices. Oh, how wrong that theory is.
Daenerys’ declaration, “I am the dragon’s daughter and I swear to you, those who would harm you will die screaming,” is so powerful it gives me chills. This is the kind of fierce love of a queen for her people that calls to mind the warrior queens of old like Boudicca and Macha. (Interesting that I could only name one historical queen and had to revert to mythology for the other.) I firmly believe that if we had more female rulers throughout history, we would have seen this kind of protective determination time and time again. After all, even Queen Elizabeth I considered herself married to her country and did all she could to defend her people, her only children by choice, from the Spanish. She may well be the closest modern equivalent we have to Daenerys.
Cersei is the wisdom in this video, stating the stark truth that a queen such as Boudicca or Guinevere would have known, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Say what you will about their politics, but this strikes me as something Margaret Thatcher or Hilary Clinton would have said, a straight-shooting wisdom borne from years of experience and a desire to not play the sugar-coated games of flattery that male politicians usually engage in. I firmly believe that a woman in power would be less likely to go to war than a man. Women tend to try to solve things diplomatically, using violence only as a last resort or a form of self/loved one/country/tribe defense. I’m not saying we’d have a utopia, but I think our world would have less violence with more women ruling things.
I find it interesting that one of the most compelling lines of the whole video is delivered to a young female character: “There is only one thing we say to death, ‘not today.'” That is a message that women the world over, like this young girl, need to be told. If we were told from little on that our answer to oppression – whether it be religious, political, sexual or economic – should be “No, not today,” what a stronger, more balanced world we would have. I propose that we all adopt that as our slogan and sing it loud in our lives. We may not be queens, but we can show in our lives that we will not be subjugated, forced to endure a thousand tiny deaths at the hands of men.*
I know I’ve taken this all out of context of the book/show, both of which have done their fair share to perpetuate violence against and oppression of women, but I think this video strikes an important nerve in the female subconscious (or at least in mine). We need more women like we see here: queens/presidents willing to stake their lives on protecting their people and doing what is right, women who speak the hard truths people may not wish to hear, and those to accept the message that no, it’s not okay to bow down to societal forms of death – not today, not ever.
Until our world changes and we can have these women in power in reality, it is our duty as female writers to create them in fiction. These are the characters to whom women young and old will relate, to seek to emulate, and we need more daring Daenerys. Otherwise, when winter comes, and we know it will as it has so many times before, we will find ourselves unprepared.
*I by no means believe that all men are oppressors. I know there are many who willingly champion our cause. And yes, I am a feminist, but I am not a man-hater. I was fortunate enough to attend an all-girls high school that taught me how to stand up for myself. And now that is why I write stories of strong women.
PS – I’m seriously considering getting “I am the dragon’s daughter,” tattooed on me to remind myself that I am strong and have a duty to my foremothers to stand up against oppression.
What are your thoughts on the video or the opinions I’ve shared? How/why does the video speak to you? Am I way off base?