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Gender relations in Westeros

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Is almost every marriage in Westeros unhealthy by our 21'st century, modern standards?

Consider:

1. Wives are pledged to obey their husbands.

That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. "Never ask me about Jon," he said, cold as ice. "He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady." She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne's name was never heard in Winterfell again. -AGOT, Catelyn II

Ned Stark has the power to make Catelyn acquiesce to an order of his; as seen she is pledged to obey him, and  when she raised the subject of Jon Snow's origins she was brutally shut down and the entire household was cowed to the point where no one dared speak Ashara Dayne's name ever again.

Let's look at one of the powerful women in the series, Alysanne:

Her Grace had no power to enact laws, issue decrees, make proclamations, or pass sentences. It is a mistake to speak of her as we might speak of the Conqueror’s queens, Rhaenys and Visenya. The young queen did, however, wield enormous influence over King Jaehaerys, and when she spoke, he listened… - Fire and Blood

Losing dragons was a huge drop in the autonomy and agency of the Targaryen women. Even Alysanne had no legal power of her own. Her power comes from her husband listening to her. This is also true of Catelyn, Ned listens to her and respects her and she has power due to that.

See also the issues that troubled Dowager Queen Alyssa Velaryon during her year-long reign as regent for her son Jaehaerys.

2. Husbands are allowed to hit their wives.

Rhaegar Frey: Marriage will soften her, I have no doubt. A firm hand and a quiet word. - ADWD, Davos II

The right of a husband to chastise an erring wife was well established in the Seven Kingdoms and the doctrines of the Faith of the Seven. - Fire and Blood.


Also further illustrating that the husband has authority over his wife.

3. There is no concept of marital rape, and the wife has no sexual autonomy.

"I'd waited long enough. I hated watching Robert stumble to your bed every night, always wondering if maybe this night he'd decide to claim his rights as husband." -ASOS, Jaime IX

Sooner or later there would always come a night when he would drink too much and want to claim his rights. - AFFC, Cersei VII

She wanted to see if it would be as easy with a woman as it had always been with Robert. Ten thousand of your children perished in my palm, Your Grace, she thought, slipping a third finger into Myr. Whilst you snored, I would lick your sons off my face and fingers one by one, all those pale sticky princes. You claimed your rights, my lord, but in the darkness I would eat your heirs. - AFFC, Cersei VII

Queen Naerys begged Aegon IV to allow her to be abstinent and he refused, and that was that. - The World of Ice and Fire.

He wondered what Sansa would do if he leaned over and kissed her right now. Flinch away, most likely. Or be brave and suffer through it, as was her duty. She is nothing if not dutiful, this wife of mine. If he told her that he wished to have her maidenhead tonight, she would suffer that dutifully as well, and weep no more than she had to. - ASOS, Tyrion VIII


As these passages show, a husband has a right to sex with his wife even if she is unwilling. Marriage in Westeros means women are institutionally vulnerable to coercion.

4. Women are not allowed to have sex before marriage or commit adultery, while men are.

The High Sparrow has Cersei punished for having sex outside of marriage, but does not do the same to any man.

Bastards are seen as par for the course in Westeros, meanwhile:

Lysa is seen as damaged goods for having slept with Petyr.

Lollys for her gang rape has be married off to Bronn, a lowly sellsword.

Even Delena Florent, who was deflowered by and had a bastard with Robert Baratheon, the king, had to marry a household knight. 

Princess Gael Targaryen who was seduced by a traveling singer and impregnated; killed herself.

One of the daughters of Alys Arryn and Elys Waynwood was seduced by a sellsword; her bastard died in infancy and she joined the Silent Sisters.

Witness Vargo Hoat’s preoccupation that Brienne “still be maiden” when he was going to ransom her, as though her “virginity” were a commodity, or Arys Oakheart’s concern than Doran find out that he’d “dishonoured” Arianne, as though her consent was not important, this was between two men.

5. And of course, women can't inherit in most cases.

"Separate is the situation with the inheritance of the Iron Throne, where “in the eyes of many, the Great Council of 101 AC thereby established an iron precedent on matters of succession: regardless of seniority, the Iron Throne of Westeros could not pass to a woman, nor through a woman to her male descendants”.

Even if women do inherit, their inheritance is stolen by their husbands, as in the case of Ramsay and "Arya", Tyrion and Sansa, and the Karstark uncles attempted to steal Alys’s rights as well, also by forcefully marrying her.

Or they end up challenged by other males in the family, as in the case of Asha and Victarion.

Cersei sums it up:

“We were so much alike, I could never understand why they treated us so differently. Jaime learned to fight with sword and lance and mace, while I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood.”— ACoK, Sansa VI

GRRM draws from history, and women were treated this terribly in real life, where they were the actual property of their husbands and fathers.

"One of the things I wanted to do with A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE was to make it a little more "real" than most high fantasy. I drew much of my inspiration from history and historical fiction, and immersed myself in the Middle Ages before I began writing. Patriarchy was as much as part of medieval society as feudalism, faith, or swords. I have created other fictional worlds that are more sexually egalitarian — try my novel WINDHAVEN, written with Lisa Tuttle. With ICE AND FIRE, however, I preferred to stay closer to my historical models." - GRRM

(Note: I haven't read Fire and Blood or The World of Ice and Fire and got those quotes from online sources).

Edited by S. D

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26 minutes ago, S. D said:

Is almost every marriage in Westeros unhealthy by our 21'st century, modern standards?

Consider:

1. Wives are pledged to obey their husbands.

That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. "Never ask me about Jon," he said, cold as ice. "He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady." She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne's name was never heard in Winterfell again. -AGOT, Catelyn II

Ned Stark has the power to make Catelyn acquiesce to an order of his; as seen she is pledged to obey him, and  when she raised the subject of Jon Snow's origins she was brutally shut down and the entire household was cowed to the point where no one dared speak Ashara Dayne's name ever again.

Let's look at one of the powerful women in the series, Alysanne:

Her Grace had no power to enact laws, issue decrees, make proclamations, or pass sentences. It is a mistake to speak of her as we might speak of the Conqueror’s queens, Rhaenys and Visenya. The young queen did, however, wield enormous influence over King Jaehaerys, and when she spoke, he listened… - Fire and Blood

Losing dragons was a huge drop in the autonomy and agency of the Targaryen women. Even Alysanne had no legal power of her own. Her power comes from her husband listening to her. This is also true of Catelyn, Ned listens to her and respects her and she has power due to that.

See also the issues that troubled Dowager Queen Alyssa Velaryon during her year-long reign as regent for her son Jaehaerys.

2. Husbands are allowed to hit their wives.

Rhaegar Frey: Marriage will soften her, I have no doubt. A firm hand and a quiet word. - ADWD, Davos II

The right of a husband to chastise an erring wife was well established in the Seven Kingdoms and the doctrines of the Faith of the Seven. - Fire and Blood.


Also further illustrating that the husband has authority over his wife.

3. There is no concept of marital rape, and the wife has no sexual autonomy.

"I'd waited long enough. I hated watching Robert stumble to your bed every night, always wondering if maybe this night he'd decide to claim his rights as husband." -ASOS, Jaime IX

Sooner or later there would always come a night when he would drink too much and want to claim his rights. - AFFC, Cersei VII

She wanted to see if it would be as easy with a woman as it had always been with Robert. Ten thousand of your children perished in my palm, Your Grace, she thought, slipping a third finger into Myr. Whilst you snored, I would lick your sons off my face and fingers one by one, all those pale sticky princes. You claimed your rights, my lord, but in the darkness I would eat your heirs. - AFFC, Cersei VII

Queen Naerys begged Aegon IV to allow her to be abstinent and he refused, and that was that. - The World of Ice and Fire.

He wondered what Sansa would do if he leaned over and kissed her right now. Flinch away, most likely. Or be brave and suffer through it, as was her duty. She is nothing if not dutiful, this wife of mine. If he told her that he wished to have her maidenhead tonight, she would suffer that dutifully as well, and weep no more than she had to. - ASOS, Tyrion VIII


As these passages show, a husband has a right to sex with his wife even if she is unwilling. Marriage in Westeros means women are institutionally vulnerable to coercion.

4. Women are not allowed to have sex before marriage or commit adultery, while men are.

The High Sparrow has Cersei punished for having sex outside of marriage, but does not do the same to any man.

Bastards are seen as par for the course in Westeros, meanwhile:

Lysa is seen as damaged goods for having slept with Petyr.

Lollys for her gang rape has be married off to Bronn, a lowly sellsword.

Even Delena Florent, who was deflowered by and had a bastard with Robert Baratheon, the king, had to marry a household knight. 

Princess Gael Targaryen who was seduced by a traveling singer and impregnated; killed herself.

One of the daughters of Alys Arryn and Elys Waynwood was seduced by a sellsword; her bastard died in infancy and she joined the Silent Sisters.

Witness Vargo Hoat’s preoccupation that Brienne “still be maiden” when he was going to ransom her, as though her “virginity” were a commodity, or Arys Oakheart’s concern than Doran find out that he’d “dishonoured” Arianne, as though her consent was not important, this was between two men.

5. And of course, women can't inherit in most cases.

"Separate is the situation with the inheritance of the Iron Throne, where “in the eyes of many, the Great Council of 101 AC thereby established an iron precedent on matters of succession: regardless of seniority, the Iron Throne of Westeros could not pass to a woman, nor through a woman to her male descendants”.

Even if women do inherit, their inheritance is stolen by their husbands, as in the case of Ramsay and "Arya", Tyrion and Sansa, and the Karstark uncles attempted to steal Alys’s rights as well, also by forcefully marrying her.

Or they end up challenged by other males in the family, as in the case of Asha and Victarion.

Cersei sums it up:

“We were so much alike, I could never understand why they treated us so differently. Jaime learned to fight with sword and lance and mace, while I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood.”— ACoK, Sansa VI

GRRM draws from history, and women were treated this terribly in real life, where they were the actual property of their husbands and fathers.

"One of the things I wanted to do with A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE was to make it a little more "real" than most high fantasy. I drew much of my inspiration from history and historical fiction, and immersed myself in the Middle Ages before I began writing. Patriarchy was as much as part of medieval society as feudalism, faith, or swords. I have created other fictional worlds that are more sexually egalitarian — try my novel WINDHAVEN, written with Lisa Tuttle. With ICE AND FIRE, however, I preferred to stay closer to my historical models." - GRRM

(Note: I haven't read Fire and Blood or The World of Ice and Fire and got those quotes from online sources).

I wouldn't say so. People still get divorced because of irreconcilable differences.

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The five situations that you identify (Wives are pledged to obey their husbands; Husbands are allowed to hit their wives; There is no concept of marital rape, and the wife has no sexual autonomy; Women are not allowed to have sex before marriage or commit adultery, while men are; and women can't inherit in most cases.) have all been the standard situation in most of the world, for most of history. Sadly, it's still commonplace in many countries.

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4 hours ago, S. D said:

Is almost every marriage in Westeros unhealthy by our 21'st century, modern standards?

Well first you assume there is a general and well accepted notion of what is a healthy relationship in the modern 21st century. There isn't. But I guess I see where you are trying to get, and my answer would be no. Not almost every marriage is 'unhealthy'. Absolutelly all marriages in Westeros are bound to be (by 'our' standards, which aren't very high actually).

Now I ask you, have we as a society overcome gender inequality, sexism and mysoginy?

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51 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

Well first you assume there is a general and well accepted notion of what is a healthy relationship in the modern 21st century. There isn't. But I guess I see where you are trying to get, and my answer would be no. Not almost every marriage is 'unhealthy'. Absolutelly all marriages in Westeros are bound to be (by 'our' standards, which aren't very high actually).

Now I ask you, have we as a society overcome gender inequality, sexism and mysoginy?

If you're saying all of the marriages in Westeros are bound to be unhealthy, I agree actually.

Instead of modern, 21'st century standards, I'll correct myself by saying modern, 21'st century, western standards. By our standards, any romantic relationship that imbalanced is unhealthy, which is what I was referring to. Of course we are far from being an equal society, but today, those obligations women have towards men are largely eradicated. There are laws against domestic abuse, marital rape is recognized as a concept, wives still pledge to "obey"their husbands but it's mostly a show of words and not legally binding, etc. Divorce is also available, when it isn't in Westeros.

But I also feel it's not very useful to label all of these relationships as unhealthy, there has to be a grading scale somewhere. Ned and Cat would fall under the healthier side of marriages in Westeros, while Robert and Cersei fall under the more toxic end.

Edited by S. D

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That's a major theme of Cersei's story. Look at what an awful person she is, and yet, look at all of the horrible things that have been done to her simply because of her gender. They aren't the cause of her villainy, or a response to it, they're just independent injustices occurring to her because she's a woman.

This is a woman who murdered her friend over a petty jealousy, plotted to murder her husband, is responsible for thousands of deaths through her own vanity and desire for power, and yet she is tortured and publicly shamed for the crime of having had sex outside of marriage after her husband died.

 

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How many of you are actually married, and have kids? You think you know what a healthy marriage looks like? Our society certainly struggles with that concept, with the media and academia pushing ever less healthy notions and marriage success rates ever falling. #the wisdom of fools

@Lady Dacey, you asked. Certainly not, though you missed a word. And we are headed in the wrong direction. Your profile pic gives a striking example. However current western society has less gender inequality than almost any other human society, now, or ever.

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12 minutes ago, corbon said:

How many of you are actually married, and have kids? You think you know what a healthy marriage looks like? Our society certainly struggles with that concept, with the media and academia pushing ever less healthy notions and marriage success rates ever falling. #the wisdom of fools

@Lady Dacey, you asked. Certainly not, though you missed a word. And we are headed in the wrong direction. Your profile pic gives a striking example. However current western society has less gender inequality than almost any other human society, now, or ever.

Um if you're talking about high divorce rates, that's a good thing. Our grandparents didn't have happy marriages, they had marriages that they had to make work, because they couldn't get out of them. That more people are getting divorced tells me that people are putting up less and less with forms of abuse, not that the institution of marriage is going down the drain.

Frankly your last paragraph is just laughable. You seem like a reactionary.

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7 minutes ago, corbon said:

How many of you are actually married, and have kids?

I don't think we have statistics about the user profile on this forum, but I can answer for myself: I'm married and have son

8 minutes ago, corbon said:

You think you know what a healthy marriage looks like?

It's a given that people may have different opinions on what constitutes a healthy relationship, right?

9 minutes ago, corbon said:

academia pushing ever less healthy notions

what? what? I'm really lost.

10 minutes ago, corbon said:

marriage success rates ever falling

Divorce rates have gone up. This is very, very different than marriage success rates falling. Unless you consider a success to be in still-married in an abusive relationship, for exemple.

 

12 minutes ago, corbon said:

Certainly not, though you missed a word.

I'm curious about what you think I missed?

12 minutes ago, corbon said:

And we are headed in the wrong direction. Your profile pic gives a striking example.

I'm no following, sorry. My pic is an exemple of being headed in what direction? I didn't know my pic would speak for society. 

13 minutes ago, corbon said:

However current western society has less gender inequality than almost any other human society, now, or ever.

 I'm waiting for you reports on gender equality in all societies, all times, ever!! 

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1 minute ago, Peach King said:

Um if you're talking about high divorce rates, that's a good thing. 

So a healthy marriage is a failed one? 

1 minute ago, Peach King said:

Our grandparents didn't have happy marriages,

Didn't they? Mine did. I was fortunate to observe them for a long time. One is still going on around 60years, happily (the others have passed on).
Some did, some didn't. People are people.

1 minute ago, Peach King said:

they had marriages that they had to make work, because they couldn't get out of them. That more people are getting divorced tells me that people are putting up less and less with forms of abuse, not that the institution of marriage is going down the drain.

Thats one part of the data. But if that is all it tells you then ... well, I can't help you much.

The subject is healthy marriages. A divorce is by definition not a healthy marriage. Neither is an abusive one. 

8 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

I don't think we have statistics about the user profile on this forum, but I can answer for myself: I'm married and have son

I can't speak to any individual other than myself, but I'd lay good odds that many who are willing to weigh in on such a subject are not in a successful and healthy marriage.

8 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

It's a given that people may have different opinions on what constitutes a healthy relationship, right?

Yes.
And yet the only two replies that addressed the question were willing to say that no marriages in Westeros are healthy. Apparently not only do they have the only definition of what a healthy marriage is, they also no what every marriage in westeros is like.

8 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

Divorce rates have gone up. This is very, very different than marriage success rates falling. Unless you consider a success to be in still-married in an abusive relationship, for exemple.

Thats actually a reasonable point. Marriage success rates is not equivalent to non-divorce. And no, I do not consider being in an abusive relationship to be a healthy one, in general.
But I don't think successful marriage rates have gone up (and do think they are falling). A healthy relationship, a successful marriage, requires some give and take, some sacrifice, and some acceptance of differences. Also some work and effort. None of these things are growing in society. Some of the increase in divorce rates is attributable to people exiting abusive relationships. Some is also attributable to people just not putting in what is required any more because the culture around them is very much more selfish, and teaches them thats a good thing.

8 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

I'm curious about what you think I missed?

Mysandry. There is way more of it than there used to be. Not necessarily as much as mysogeny, though thats a lot rarer than it sed to be, but its very absence in your list shows that accidental sexism is alive and well.

8 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

I'm no following, sorry. My pic is an exemple of being headed in what direction? I didn't know my pic would speak for society. 

You don't think its a useful marker for societal changes in the last generation or two?

8 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

 I'm waiting for you reports on gender equality in all societies, all times, ever!! 

How many can you report on that come closer than current? 

 

I do apologise, but I think I'll be bowing out of this thread. Its going to take too much time, for too little value, otherwise. Thank you for remaining polite, though its obvious we have different views on many things. 

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Westeros is a shitty world, period.

There are not marriages in this world that deserve anyone's respect, aside from the very few that are made in defiance of the rules of the fundamental constants of their culture (something like Duncan and Jenny, perhaps).

Anything else - especially those royal and noble marriages we see is twisted to the core. Any marriage where the wife didn't actually choose her husband is pushed into an abusive relationship - Cersei, Lysa, Dany, Walder's wives, etc. were all either raped in their marriages, or at least sexually abused because they had to consent to allow a man fuck them who they wouldn't have so much as looked at had the decision to marry been their own.

But the really disgusting thing is the casually and over-the-top misogyny one cannot really take seriously - the First Night as an actual practice, husbands beating wives to death without facing any consequences until the rule of six (and them later getting around them by slowly beating them to death), women getting ugly 'special punishments' like their private parts being washed out with lye (hello there, Randyll Tarly) or partial dismemberment (Serala of Myr), not to mention the treatment of Tysha, Tytos' nameless mistress, or Cersei.

And then there are the pointless 'deaths in childbirth' for far too many crucial female characters even in FaB - which are not realistic in relation to the unrealistic low child mortality (no child of Cat's, Tywin's, Cersei's, etc. died in infancy).

It is one thing to privilege men in relation to inheritance and political power, but reducing them to, essentially, to the status of chattel where technically only widowed or unmarried women have a legal right to be in charge of themselves is taking things deliberately very far.

Any woman exerting power in Westeros does so by defying conventions and law. And in that sense Westeros is not as misogyinistic as the real middle ages - it is actually worse. What exactly the narrative point of that is I really don't understand. The world is a fantasy world - George wanted it to be exactly like that. Nobody forced him to base his world on a (ridiculously over the top) medieval setting.

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That is the Andal culture.  Valyrian culture is a lot different.  Targaryen women are warriors.  A Valyrian woman who can ride a dragon is higher up their rankings than a male who cannot. 

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2 hours ago, corbon said:

So a healthy marriage is a failed one? 

Didn't they? Mine did. I was fortunate to observe them for a long time. One is still going on around 60years, happily (the others have passed on).
Some did, some didn't. People are people.

Thats one part of the data. But if that is all it tells you then ... well, I can't help you much.

The subject is healthy marriages. A divorce is by definition not a healthy marriage. Neither is an abusive one. 

I can't speak to any individual other than myself, but I'd lay good odds that many who are willing to weigh in on such a subject are not in a successful and healthy marriage.

Yes.
And yet the only two replies that addressed the question were willing to say that no marriages in Westeros are healthy. Apparently not only do they have the only definition of what a healthy marriage is, they also no what every marriage in westeros is like.

Thats actually a reasonable point. Marriage success rates is not equivalent to non-divorce. And no, I do not consider being in an abusive relationship to be a healthy one, in general.
But I don't think successful marriage rates have gone up (and do think they are falling). A healthy relationship, a successful marriage, requires some give and take, some sacrifice, and some acceptance of differences. Also some work and effort. None of these things are growing in society. Some of the increase in divorce rates is attributable to people exiting abusive relationships. Some is also attributable to people just not putting in what is required any more because the culture around them is very much more selfish, and teaches them thats a good thing.

Mysandry. There is way more of it than there used to be. Not necessarily as much as mysogeny, though thats a lot rarer than it sed to be, but its very absence in your list shows that accidental sexism is alive and well.

You don't think its a useful marker for societal changes in the last generation or two?

How many can you report on that come closer than current? 

 

I do apologise, but I think I'll be bowing out of this thread. Its going to take too much time, for too little value, otherwise. Thank you for remaining polite, though its obvious we have different views on many things. 

If it makes you feel any better, my understanding is that actual statistics on divorce rates suggest that they have gone down since the initial flurry of divorces after the easing of restrictive divorce laws. That's certainly the case in my country, Australia, where the rate has gone down from an initial surge of 4.6% per 1000 people to 2% per 1000 people. A quick google of American rates suggest that they have declined as well, with a current rate of 3.2% per 1000 people. Marriage rates are declining as well but those who do chose to marry are probably better prepared economically, are older and have lived together before taking the plunge. I think where greater gender equality comes into it (in the west at least), is that earlier generations of women had less options other than marriage and few options but to stay in an unhappy marriage.

'Unhealthy' might not be the best word but things that trouble me about Westerosi marriages (as a 21st century woman) are the subtly coercive nature of many marriages - where individuals don't get to chose whether to marry or who to marry - as well as the power imbalance inherent in a patriarchal society, where men have more power and opportunities than the women they marry. Cat and Ned had a reasonably healthy marriage but Cat would probably have had a much different experience if she had been married to a player like Brandon Stark or an abusive drunk like Robert Baratheon.

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1 hour ago, Jeeves said:

That is the Andal culture.  Valyrian culture is a lot different.  Targaryen women are warriors.  A Valyrian woman who can ride a dragon is higher up their rankings than a male who cannot. 

No this is Planetos culture. From Westeros to Essos all women are beneath Men. And I wouldn’t doubt the same goes for Valyria. Yes they ride Dragons and they do give you a lot of power, but this isn’t so different to women whom ride horses.

It is based on a medieval setting and all over the known world women have always been treated like second class during this period. 

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Well, I'd say it's definitely some form of slavery, as there are many forms of slavery during the middle ages. The real difference between men and women during that time period is that women are not really regarded as people, but as the property of a man. 

First she is the property of her father, than she is the property of her husband. The only real big difference between husband and father is, that there's a sexual relationship with the husband (and when she is lucky maybe a romantic one as well and maybe he values her opinion before he finally makes his own decision). She basically is forced stays a child forever.

This thinking, that women in the end don't really matter ( except to be used as pawns) is deeply ingrained in the society of Westeros.

When they are talking about bearing children, they only ever refer to it as "bearing sons", the other ones are not even mentioned, because they don't matter.

And just look at Robb, he seems to be a great guy, who loves his family and sisters dearly, but the moment he becomes Lord he is immediately willing to sacrifice his them for his war. "They are not worth the kingslayer" His own sisters! He very well knows that this could mean their death or could scar them psychologically beyond repair, but he just doesn't care enough.

So if you compare that to 21. Century european (where I live) ideas of healthy relationships and modern concept of equality - No, there is absolutely no healthy relationships possibly. Just try to translate what Robb did into modern times: If I was kidnapped and those kidnappers had just murdered our father and my brother had the means to get me back, but didn't - there would be no way to ever repair our relationship afterwards.

There is no possibility for a healthy relationship, because of the power dynamic. The husband can basically do with the wife whatever he wants and that that's even a possibility already makes the relationship abusive. Of course maybe you are lucky and marry an man like Ned, who treats you with respect and values your opinion (but still it's not equal and he can command you to do whatever at any moment and is therefore by modern standards still abusive) , but if you marry Gregor Clegane... you marry Gregor Clegane.

George once said in an interview that this was a specifically horribly time for women, because if a father wanted to inherit the lands of his 75 year old neighbor, and he had a 12 year old daughter, he could just marry her of to him and there was no problem whatsoever with this scenario.

That's why I sometimes don't get, when people get so upset about certain potential romantic couples, because of age difference or power dynamic - there is already a power dynamic and always will be, because that's what society dictates.

I can understand most of the female characters very well- even Cersei (but I obversely strongly dislike her) 

I totally understand why Dany fell in love with Drogo and loved him so fiercely - even though I hated him and was so happy, when he finally died. He is her protection. The world looks very differently, when you are so utterly depended on someone else. After the difficult/horrible beginning of their marriage he treated her lovingly and cared for her opinion and through him she also gained some leeway and power herself (freeing the slaves..). And all of this after a lifetime of abuse. But without him she is totally powerless and without protection again. So no wonder she falls in love with him. But is this some kind of Stockholm Syndrome? Would this love have developed under different circumstances- there is absolutely no way for us to ever know. And since this is so common, maybe we shouldn't even ask ourselves those questions and just accept that there is always an element of "abuse" present in all medieval relationships (of course we can rate the abuse subjectively for ourselves), since it was a specifically inhuman time period. And as others have said before, sadly in a lot of countries that's still the case.

 

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6 hours ago, S. D said:

wives still pledge to "obey"their husbands but it's mostly a show of words and not legally binding,

Wait what? :stunned: Where do they do that? I mean in modern western society of course. And does the husband also pledge to obey the wife?

And I agree, when it comes to the rating scale, but I guess it can be very subjective. You can see that with Sansa's example, ppl have vastly different opinions, who's the most abusive to her.

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5 hours ago, Lady Dacey said:

My pic is an exemple of being headed in what direction? I didn't know my pic would speak for society. 

I love your profile picture :D I think it's so funny!! Wanted to comment on it before!

Edited by Nagini's Neville

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6 hours ago, Peach King said:

They were saying that by today's standards, the legal and institutional power the husband held over the wife rendered their marriages unhealthy (even Ned and Cat, in this case). I don't know if I agree, but it's a fair view.

EDIT: And apparently you also think that "mysandry" is something that exists...  in that case I'm glad you're bowing out of this thread.

I guess the problem is that even in a seemingly healthy relationship like Ned's and Cat's, the husband can still "turn on" the wife at any given moment. And even Ned commands Cat to do certain things or forbids her stuff. He has to rule his household. If Cat tells Ned to do something - it's advice. He is in no way ever bound to do want she tells him to. With her that's not the case.

When Cat told Ned he had to become the hand of the King and go to KL, it was council. ( he basically already knew he had to, but didn't want to imo) When he told her she had to stay in WF with the boys it was a command.

I studied Psychology and if a man did that today to his wife/gf/relative we would call that classic controlling/abusive behavior. the other way around of course as well.

It was the same, when Robb became Lord. She had no say in what would become of Jaime even though, her children's lives were at stake.

I think if we are going to judge anything at all in this world as abusive, we can only do it by our modern western standards, because if we are trying to determine what would be abusive within world, it would become very tricky and subjective. 

In Westeros it would probably not be considered rape if it happened to a prostitute, but for me a prostitute is a human-being like Sansa or Brienne and the crime would be just as great.

 

Edited by Nagini's Neville

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4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Westeros is a shitty world, period.

There are not marriages in this world that deserve anyone's respect, aside from the very few that are made in defiance of the rules of the fundamental constants of their culture (something like Duncan and Jenny, perhaps).

Anything else - especially those royal and noble marriages we see is twisted to the core. Any marriage where the wife didn't actually choose her husband is pushed into an abusive relationship - Cersei, Lysa, Dany, Walder's wives, etc. were all either raped in their marriages, or at least sexually abused because they had to consent to allow a man fuck them who they wouldn't have so much as looked at had the decision to marry been their own.

But the really disgusting thing is the casually and over-the-top misogyny one cannot really take seriously - the First Night as an actual practice, husbands beating wives to death without facing any consequences until the rule of six (and them later getting around them by slowly beating them to death), women getting ugly 'special punishments' like their private parts being washed out with lye (hello there, Randyll Tarly) or partial dismemberment (Serala of Myr), not to mention the treatment of Tysha, Tytos' nameless mistress, or Cersei.

And then there are the pointless 'deaths in childbirth' for far too many crucial female characters even in FaB - which are not realistic in relation to the unrealistic low child mortality (no child of Cat's, Tywin's, Cersei's, etc. died in infancy).

It is one thing to privilege men in relation to inheritance and political power, but reducing them to, essentially, to the status of chattel where technically only widowed or unmarried women have a legal right to be in charge of themselves is taking things deliberately very far.

Any woman exerting power in Westeros does so by defying conventions and law. And in that sense Westeros is not as misogyinistic as the real middle ages - it is actually worse. What exactly the narrative point of that is I really don't understand. The world is a fantasy world - George wanted it to be exactly like that. Nobody forced him to base his world on a (ridiculously over the top) medieval setting.

:agree: wow, you said that all perfectly!! I really should have just read you post and agreed, before I tried to to explain my complicated thoughts in my bad english :laugh: 

I really don't know enough about the middle ages. Do you really think it wasn't that bad at that time? That never even occurred to me. I feel like George did a lot of research on that subject. If that wasn't the case maybe he just thought it was (usually you also read more about the "sensational cases"), the same thing with the marriage age. We know now that very early marriages weren't even that common.

Usually I don't really mind the description of severe violence (even though it's hard for me to read), when I know it reflects the reality (a medieval reality in this case), but than I also think, that the writer should inflict the reality of what it's really like to live with the psychological consequences of severe violence on the reader.

There is a lot of sexual violence against women in the series, but we never stay inside a woman's head to find out what life is like for her afterwards.

And that upsets me a bit, because the violence then mainly serves the to show how cruel the world is and how evil a villain. It can start to feel voyeuristic, when only ever the violent crime is shown, but never the psychological consequences. We are never really forced to feel the amount empathy that the victim would deserve. A rape becomes a very physical act (we see the victim only from the outside). But in reality the rape itself is not necessarily the problem, the problem is what comes afterwards- and when it comes to that the reader is allowed to walk away again and forget about it.

Therefore really only half of the reality gets portrayed. 

George missed some great opportunities to show this other part of the reality of violence. Dany imo would have been an excellent character for this. In reality she'd likely have experienced some PTSD or other trauma- induced symptoms from the beginning of her marriage with Drogo.

With male characters he does that a bit better: Theon, the hound, the broken men come to mind...

But in general I think George tried very hard to not be sexist ( create complex multi-layered male and female characters, that's not so common sadly). I don't think he did that on purpose. Writing is hard and I've noticed the same trend with other writers. 

Would be cool though, if more writers would start to show violence and its consequences in a more complex and realistic way.

 

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8 hours ago, Nagini's Neville said:

That's why I sometimes don't get, when people get so upset about certain potential romantic couples, because of age difference or power dynamic - there is already a power dynamic and always will be, because that's what society dictates.

That's part of the reason why I brought this topic up. People criticize relationships with uneven power dynamics in the series, which is fair, but seem to have cognitive dissonance when it comes to married couples which aren't transparently awful like Cersei and Robert.

7 hours ago, Nagini's Neville said:

Wait what? :stunned: Where do they do that? I mean in modern western society of course. And does the husband also pledge to obey the wife?

And I agree, when it comes to the rating scale, but I guess it can be very subjective. You can see that with Sansa's example, ppl have vastly different opinions, who's the most abusive to her.

I just meant the traditional Christian wedding vows:

"Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth."

-Wikipedia

And no, the husband doesn't pledge to obey the wife.  But what I mean is these vows aren't taken literally and seriously anymore (at least I think they're not).

Edited by S. D

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