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Angel Eyes

Tolkien vs. Benioff and Weiss: Portrayals of women

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This grew out of a post of mine (now deleted) on the Rant and Rave. 

Many of Tolkien’s women are in positions of power and forces in their own right without going mad with it or being sadistic. To give examples, Galadriel is the dominant partner in ruling Lothlorien, is tempted by power and rejects it, Eowyn is a shield maiden who is trusted to defend the weak by her uncle, Luthien helps humiliate Sauron in combat and knocks the devil himself out cold with a spell, and Idril masterminds an escape plan from her city in case it’s attacked and fights like a tiger when her cousin tries to rape her and murder her son.

JRR Tolkien gets flak nowadays for his lack of portrayals of women. But it’s interesting to note that of his portrayals of women in political power they’re typically not power-mad and often forces in their own right. To give examples: Melian creates a barrier to protect her people and counsels her husband to reason when their daughter Luthien falls in love with a mortal, Luthien plays an instrumental role in acquiring one of the Silmarils by humiliating Sauron (yes that Sauron), freeing her husband-to-be along with a bunch of prisoners, and knocking Morgoth out, Feanor’s wife Nerdanel chooses to leave her husband when he goes mad with vengeance (technically he leaves her, she chooses to remain behind at their home), Idril creates an escape plan in case her city falls and fights like a tiger when her cousin comes to rape her and murder her son, Galadriel is the dominant power in her realm of Lothlorien and when tempted by power (the One Ring) she rejects it, and Eowyn, a shield-maiden, is trusted to defend the weak at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. 

So how is it that there are more positive portrayals of women in Tolkien’s work written at least 50 years ago than in the entire Game of Thrones series?

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1 hour ago, Angel Eyes said:

This grew out of a post of mine (now deleted) on the Rant and Rave. 

Many of Tolkien’s women are in positions of power and forces in their own right without going mad with it or being sadistic. To give examples, Galadriel is the dominant partner in ruling Lothlorien, is tempted by power and rejects it, Eowyn is a shield maiden who is trusted to defend the weak by her uncle, Luthien helps humiliate Sauron in combat and knocks the devil himself out cold with a spell, and Idril masterminds an escape plan from her city in case it’s attacked and fights like a tiger when her cousin tries to rape her and murder her son.

JRR Tolkien gets flak nowadays for his lack of portrayals of women. But it’s interesting to note that of his portrayals of women in political power they’re typically not power-mad and often forces in their own right. To give examples: Melian creates a barrier to protect her people and counsels her husband to reason when their daughter Luthien falls in love with a mortal, Luthien plays an instrumental role in acquiring one of the Silmarils by humiliating Sauron (yes that Sauron), freeing her husband-to-be along with a bunch of prisoners, and knocking Morgoth out, Feanor’s wife Nerdanel chooses to leave her husband when he goes mad with vengeance (technically he leaves her, she chooses to remain behind at their home), Idril creates an escape plan in case her city falls and fights like a tiger when her cousin comes to rape her and murder her son, Galadriel is the dominant power in her realm of Lothlorien and when tempted by power (the One Ring) she rejects it, and Eowyn, a shield-maiden, is trusted to defend the weak at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. 

So how is it that there are more positive portrayals of women in Tolkien’s work written at least 50 years ago than in the entire Game of Thrones series?

Tolkien's views were old-fashioned for their time, but it's evident that he respected women in positions of leadership.  He was a medievalist and no doubt based his women leaders on Queens and noblewomen in the middle ages.  A woman had to rely more on soft power than a man would have, but she couldn't be a pushover, either.  People like Kettricken and Ronica Vestrit in Robin Hobb's stories seem quite similar to Tolkien's women, IMHO.

D & D's attitudes towards women are those of the average 12 year old boy.

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, SeanF said:

Tolkien's views were old-fashioned for their time, but it's evident that he respected women in positions of leadership.  He was a medievalist and no doubt based his women leaders on Queens and noblewomen in the middle ages.  A woman had to rely more on soft power than a man would have, but she couldn't be a pushover, either.  People like Kettricken and Ronica Vestrit in Robin Hobb's stories seem quite similar to Tolkien's women, IMHO.

D & D's attitudes towards women are those of the average 12 year old boy.

There's also a tragic heroine in Morwen. In The Children of Hurin (chapter 21 of The Silmarillion expanded into a 350-page book); her iron will enables her to survive the occupation of her lands without being bothered by the invaders but ensures that she would not leave even for her son Turin's sake, which winds up being one of the first steps in the cruel fate invited upon him due to the defiance of her husband. If GRRM could write a screenplay for any part of Tolkien's work, The Children of Hurin would fit quite well.

Edited by Angel Eyes

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Posted (edited)

I think GRRM maybe tried to make only grey characters in contrast to Tolkiens black or white ones, so thats probably part why.

We have the She-Bears and Asha for a lighter shade of grey, Brienne pretty much white... Granted none of them has a great deal of power en par with Cersei and Dany.

 

I really hope for book-Dany to have a less horrid  road than show-Dany but it does feel like grasping for straws in doing so.

Edited by Sigella
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Posted (edited)

Tolkien has strong women but they don't veer into dangerous moral territory. It's somewhat of a pedestal effect, but not annoyingly so. I like how GRRM doesnt portray women as morally good just because they are women. He doesn't handle women with kid gloves, and that's pretty feminist in my view. I liked how the risk of power corruption can be universal, and how some women in a fantasy medieval society who want to be on top will have to be just as violent, or in some cases, even more ruthless than men. But still, other women can rise only by their wits. I think GRRM implied one time, that he can get away with writing some women as awful, because he has so many diverse female characters, it will protect him from accusations of sexism. We have to get the ending first to see if that's true.

I don't think it's D&D's fault if people only associate Dany's ending with a be-all, end-all statement on "feminism." It's not their fault if audiences fail to appreciate Brienne, Sansa, Cat, and Cersei's characters. Some criticism of the show ending seems to come from a shallow liberal white feminist lens, i.e. to only focus on gender at the expense of disability, or to only focus on "women at the top." Bran's achievement is just as important as a woman's. At the same time, just because a woman is in charge doesn't necessarily mean things are great. I guess I'm an intersectional feminist and maybe GRRM is too? 

The main thing GRRM needs to work on is female friendships. He loves writing about these for men, building scenes and plots around bro bonding and all that, but women have scaps. Sansa had Jeyne, and he separated them early on. Arianne and the Sand Snakes don't feel as fleshed out as say, Ned and Robert or Jon and Sam.

Edited by Rose of Red Lake

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3 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

The main thing GRRM needs to work on is female friendships. He loves writing about these for men, building scenes and plots around bro bonding and all that, but women have scaps. Sansa had Jeyne, and he separated them early on. Arianne and the Sand Snakes don't feel as fleshed out as say, Ned and Robert or Jon and Sam.

Dany and Missandei is pretty nicely depicted friendship to me.

But other than that I think the closest thing we get is Arya and book-waif and Arya and the whores at the happy port.

 

I do get why - Cersei and Taena/Cat and Lysa-types of friendships has a greater entertainment value than a nice and ”pure” friendships that only amounts to giggling and hugging and supporting each other through thick and thin.

 

The male friendships arent entirely pure either imo, Ned lying to/ arguing with Robert and even some fake breakups along the way. Jon and Sam might look pure at first glance but Sam is pretty sour about the baby swap plus there’s room for drama when Jon learns about Bran going beyond the wall.

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9 minutes ago, Sigella said:

The male friendships arent entirely pure either imo, Ned lying to/ arguing with Robert and even some fake breakups along the way. Jon and Sam might look pure at first glance but Sam is pretty sour about the baby swap plus there’s room for drama when Jon learns about Bran going beyond the wall.

I think that anger and sourness shows how much depth is put into it. They have complexity but stand by each other. It's hard to find that with the female characters. Instead of Lysa and Cat, Brienne and Cat are more interesting but it's so short lived.

12 minutes ago, Sigella said:

Dany and Missandei is pretty nicely depicted friendship to me.

Isn't that more mother/daughter in the books?

13 minutes ago, Sigella said:

But other than that I think the closest thing we get is Arya and book-waif and Arya and the whores at the happy port.

For Arya who has never had women friends I guess this is good. They seem like a collection of side characters, that feel more like acquaintences.

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On 4/11/2021 at 12:02 AM, Rose of Red Lake said:

I think that anger and sourness shows how much depth is put into it. They have complexity but stand by each other. It's hard to find that with the female characters. Instead of Lysa and Cat, Brienne and Cat are more interesting but it's so short lived.

Isn't that more mother/daughter in the books?

No friendship is ever completely equal, nor any two individuals/characters either so that isn't a reason to disregard them. 

 

Cat and Lysa (granted they're family/related more than friends but right there we have one of the  highest sourness-scores in the entire story, Cat's disastrous visit to the Eerie is soooooo good) is way more fascinating to me than Cat and Brienne. Cat takes pity on Brienne, Brienne comes to respect Cat's "womanly courage". Yawn. ;)

On 4/11/2021 at 12:02 AM, Rose of Red Lake said:

For Arya who has never had women friends I guess this is good. They seem like a collection of side characters, that feel more like acquaintences.

I wouldn't call the waif an acquaintance nor rate a relationship's worth based on how many pages they get. My interpretation on why Arya doesn't have female friends earlier is based off two things; Sansa and Jeyne bullying and a strong internal feminism. Girls don't play with swords, go on adventures etc, why would she want them around when those are the things Arya wants to do? The waif is finally another girl who trains to be an elite assassin.

Compared to Cersei's bitter dead end-feminism ("if I had been born male") or Dany's Aspacian piedestal (same such as Sansa is well underway onto as well) - Arya's feminism seems to grant her more freedoms than the other. Still however Cersei and Dany has been way more power-succesful while they aren't at all free.

Edited by Sigella
spelling ofc

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Posted (edited)
On 4/10/2021 at 12:20 PM, Sigella said:

I think GRRM maybe tried to make only grey characters in contrast to Tolkiens black or white ones, so thats probably part why.

We have the She-Bears and Asha for a lighter shade of grey, Brienne pretty much white... Granted none of them has a great deal of power en par with Cersei and Dany.

 

I really hope for book-Dany to have a less horrid  road than show-Dany but it does feel like grasping for straws in doing so.

Oh Tolkien can do grey characters. The Silmarillion is full of them, particularly The Children of Hurin. Turin for example is directly based off of Kullervo from the Finnish epic poem the Kalevala. His pride and his temper cause him to exile himself from his foster father King Thingol after killing one of his counselors by accident in a feud (Thingol is no saint himself due to racist tendencies) and even after Thingol pardons him, Turin refuses to return. He cares for no other way of resisting Morgoth than force of arms, and this mindset is the direct cause of the destruction of the city of Nargothrond by the dragon Glaurung.

Edited by Angel Eyes

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2 hours ago, Angel Eyes said:

Oh Tolkien can do grey characters. The Silmarillion is full of them, particularly The Children of Hurin. Turin for example is directly based off of Kullervo from the Finnish epic poem the Kalevala. His pride and his temper cause him to exile himself from his foster father King Thingol after killing one of his counselors by accident in a feud (Thingol is no saint himself due to racist tendencies) and even after Thingol pardons him, Turin refuses to return. He cares for no other way of resisting Morgoth than force of arms, and this mindset is the direct cause of the destruction of the city of Nargothrond by the dragon Glaurung.

I’ve only read lotr and the Hobbits tale, I’m not big on fantasy generally, so it might well be Tolkien was more nuanced than he gets credit for.

But isn’t there an ssm that says that thing about Tolkien? And what Tolkien was or wasn’t isn’t so much the question as what Grrm thinks of Tolkien.

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2 minutes ago, Sigella said:

I’ve only read lotr and the Hobbits tale, I’m not big on fantasy generally, so it might well be Tolkien was more nuanced than he gets credit for.

But isn’t there an ssm that says that thing about Tolkien? And what Tolkien was or wasn’t isn’t so much the question as what Grrm thinks of Tolkien.

Martin is not definitive on Tolkien.

Even in LOTR, there is more nuance in the main characters than a lot of people claim.  Frodo is ultimately a failure;  Sam has a temper and is unjust towards Gollum;  Pippin is a twit to begin with, Merry has to overcome his fear, Aragorn can be quite full of himself at times....

And, yes, the Silmarillion is bascially the unexpurgated version of Tolkien's world. 

Martin certainly writes nuanced characters.  D & D did not, at least once they left the source material behind.

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Tolkien's women are never active characters, they are just helpers/supporters of their men and act on their behalf. Mothers and wives protecting their male kin and acting on their behalf if necessary is tolerated ... but independent thinking/actions not so much. Which is why both Galadriel and Aredhel have to pay for being viragos - Aredhel by being raped and eventually killed by the man who becomes her husband, and Galadriel by her continuous exile in Middle-earth (if we go by that version of the story).

Even the Ruling Queens of Númenor are all dreadful women: Ancalime is poisoned against men by her mother and when she rules she no longer grants Gil-galad any help in Middle-earth; Telperien was proud and self-absorbed and never married; Vanimelde was lazy and disinterested and allowed her husband to rule her and her kingdom. Even in the days when everything was pretty well in Númenor ... the fact that there were women ruling over the kingdom wasn't well, and it shows.

It is wrong to assume that Galadriel or Melian rule Lórien or Doriath - their husbands do. They may be wiser and more powerful on a magical/spiritual level but this doesn't interfere with the legal authority they wield. If it were different, then Thingol would have never been allowed to ruin himself and his family and kingdom with his stupid decisions. His wife would have told him to back down and obey her commands, and there would have been eternal peace and prosperity in Doriath.

This also extends to Lúthien who is just a supporting character in Beren's story. He wants the Silmaril, not she, he insists on the quest and later on the return to Doriath. Lúthien wields great power but she never uses it to do what she want, only to get Beren what he wants. And the power she has - like the power Galadriel - is one wielded through physical beauty, not something she actually does. Galadriel as the Dark Lord would enslave the world through beauty, just as Lúthien used her dance and the desire her beauty created to put Morgoth and his court into a trance.

That is the woman as the companion/servant of the man, not as an active person herself. We also see that with the Valier where they are all restricted to the traditional role of consort/companion (Varda, Yavanna) or caring spinster (Nienna) whereas the men are the ones who leave the home and go out into the world (Ulmo, Orome).

There are countless other examples - the fact that pretty much every woman showing up has nothing better to do than to offer the men something to drink, that women usually stay behind when the men do the really important business (evident in most of the Noldor wives who remain behind ... or the interesting fact that Elwing does not accompany Eärendil when he meets the Valar).

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On 4/12/2021 at 4:48 PM, Lord Varys said:

Tolkien's women are never active characters, they are just helpers/supporters of their men and act on their behalf. Mothers and wives protecting their male kin and acting on their behalf if necessary is tolerated ... but independent thinking/actions not so much. Which is why both Galadriel and Aredhel have to pay for being viragos - Aredhel by being raped and eventually killed by the man who becomes her husband, and Galadriel by her continuous exile in Middle-earth (if we go by that version of the story).

Even the Ruling Queens of Númenor are all dreadful women: Ancalime is poisoned against men by her mother and when she rules she no longer grants Gil-galad any help in Middle-earth; Telperien was proud and self-absorbed and never married; Vanimelde was lazy and disinterested and allowed her husband to rule her and her kingdom. Even in the days when everything was pretty well in Númenor ... the fact that there were women ruling over the kingdom wasn't well, and it shows.

It is wrong to assume that Galadriel or Melian rule Lórien or Doriath - their husbands do. They may be wiser and more powerful on a magical/spiritual level but this doesn't interfere with the legal authority they wield. If it were different, then Thingol would have never been allowed to ruin himself and his family and kingdom with his stupid decisions. His wife would have told him to back down and obey her commands, and there would have been eternal peace and prosperity in Doriath.

This also extends to Lúthien who is just a supporting character in Beren's story. He wants the Silmaril, not she, he insists on the quest and later on the return to Doriath. Lúthien wields great power but she never uses it to do what she want, only to get Beren what he wants. And the power she has - like the power Galadriel - is one wielded through physical beauty, not something she actually does. Galadriel as the Dark Lord would enslave the world through beauty, just as Lúthien used her dance and the desire her beauty created to put Morgoth and his court into a trance.

That is the woman as the companion/servant of the man, not as an active person herself. We also see that with the Valier where they are all restricted to the traditional role of consort/companion (Varda, Yavanna) or caring spinster (Nienna) whereas the men are the ones who leave the home and go out into the world (Ulmo, Orome).

There are countless other examples - the fact that pretty much every woman showing up has nothing better to do than to offer the men something to drink, that women usually stay behind when the men do the really important business (evident in most of the Noldor wives who remain behind ... or the interesting fact that Elwing does not accompany Eärendil when he meets the Valar).

At least Tolkien’s women don’t subscribe to bad is good and good is bad.

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On 4/12/2021 at 4:48 PM, Lord Varys said:

Tolkien's women are never active characters, they are just helpers/supporters of their men and act on their behalf. Mothers and wives protecting their male kin and acting on their behalf if necessary is tolerated ... but independent thinking/actions not so much. Which is why both Galadriel and Aredhel have to pay for being viragos - Aredhel by being raped and eventually killed by the man who becomes her husband, and Galadriel by her continuous exile in Middle-earth (if we go by that version of the story).

Even the Ruling Queens of Númenor are all dreadful women: Ancalime is poisoned against men by her mother and when she rules she no longer grants Gil-galad any help in Middle-earth; Telperien was proud and self-absorbed and never married; Vanimelde was lazy and disinterested and allowed her husband to rule her and her kingdom. Even in the days when everything was pretty well in Númenor ... the fact that there were women ruling over the kingdom wasn't well, and it shows.

It is wrong to assume that Galadriel or Melian rule Lórien or Doriath - their husbands do. They may be wiser and more powerful on a magical/spiritual level but this doesn't interfere with the legal authority they wield. If it were different, then Thingol would have never been allowed to ruin himself and his family and kingdom with his stupid decisions. His wife would have told him to back down and obey her commands, and there would have been eternal peace and prosperity in Doriath.

This also extends to Lúthien who is just a supporting character in Beren's story. He wants the Silmaril, not she, he insists on the quest and later on the return to Doriath. Lúthien wields great power but she never uses it to do what she want, only to get Beren what he wants. And the power she has - like the power Galadriel - is one wielded through physical beauty, not something she actually does. Galadriel as the Dark Lord would enslave the world through beauty, just as Lúthien used her dance and the desire her beauty created to put Morgoth and his court into a trance.

That is the woman as the companion/servant of the man, not as an active person herself. We also see that with the Valier where they are all restricted to the traditional role of consort/companion (Varda, Yavanna) or caring spinster (Nienna) whereas the men are the ones who leave the home and go out into the world (Ulmo, Orome).

There are countless other examples - the fact that pretty much every woman showing up has nothing better to do than to offer the men something to drink, that women usually stay behind when the men do the really important business (evident in most of the Noldor wives who remain behind ... or the interesting fact that Elwing does not accompany Eärendil when he meets the Valar).

Personally, I've begun to take more of an issue with how Tolkien portrays women in his stories. It's not just the passivity which is a problem for me. It's the way that Tolkien looks down on women who try to be in charge of their own fates. 

The two biggest examples are Aredhel and Eowyn. In "The Silmarillion," Aredhel is a headstrong elven woman, sister to a king, who wants to explore Middle-Earth and go wherever she wants. She ignores her brother's warnings and commands, then orders her escort away so she can do exactly as she likes. As a result, she's seduced by the dark elf Eol, wedded under dubious consensual circumstances, and she produces his son Maeglin. When she tries to go back to Gondolin (which she doesn't do until her own son persuades her to leave), she draws Eol after her, which leads to his finding Gondolin, killing Aredhel, and cursing his son for betraying him. Maeglin is thus a cursed being, lusting after his cousin, and ultimately betraying everyone by helping Morgoth destroy Gondolin. All because of a wilful woman's wanderings.

Meanwhile, "The Lord of the Rings" gives Eowyn her big hero moment, but it's framed in a story of a wilful emotional woman finding her proper place in life. It's not just that she settles to live the domestic life with Faramir, what gets me is the scenes she has with Aragorn just before he takes the paths of the dead. First she talks about being bitter over being left behind and Aragorn mansplains about her responsibilities to her people and more importantly, her uncle and brother. Then, when she begs to take the paths of the dead with him, Aragorn condescends her again, saying that even if he did want to bring her along, he'd have to ask her brother and uncle's permission first, and he won't wait for them to ask. It's a truly undignified moment for Eowyn, and it's not like Aragorn is ever made to feel foolish for denying Eowyn's desire for self-agency; Tolkien even implies that her desire to be a warrior is just an excuse to be with Aragorn and win his heart. I'm really glad the movies reshaped Eowyn and Aragorn enough that it wasn't so cringey.

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And then there is Susan Pevensie as ultimately described by C.S. Lewis. It’s all okay, if the characters are asexual. I loved Narnia stories, until the Last Battle. Misogyny is deeply ingrained.

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11 hours ago, James Steller said:

First she talks about being bitter over being left behind and Aragorn mansplains

I mean, he's absolutely right that she wants to abandon her responsibilities. It doesn't have anything to do with gender to point this out.

Quote

Then, when she begs to take the paths of the dead with him, Aragorn condescends her again, saying that even if he did want to bring her along, he'd have to ask her brother and uncle's permission first, and he won't wait for them to ask.

If it was Éomer who had been left in charge of the defense of the people, and he wanted to abandon them to follow Aragorn, Aragorn would say the exact same thing. He'd also say he'd need Théoden's permission. This has nothing at all to do with gender. 

Quote

It's a truly undignified moment for Eowyn, and it's not like Aragorn is ever made to feel foolish for denying Eowyn's desire for self-agency; Tolkien even implies that her desire to be a warrior is just an excuse to be with Aragorn and win his heart.

The implication is the actual fact of the situation. Aragorn goes into great detail about this in RotK when he heals her. She believes she loves him because she saw in him a means to escape a life that had become poisoned by tragedy and by Gríma Wormtongue, not because of genuine feeling.  She doesn't fully recognize these feelings in herself, but the despair she must have felt is later acknowledged when she and Faramir have their meeting of minds.

I'll note that Éowyn not only is shown to have self-agency to the same degree that Éomer has, she shows more agency than Éomer ever does within the pages of LotR. He is raised as his father's son, expected to live up to his duties as the third Marshal, and then is expected to be heir to his uncle, doing his bidding. The only moment of actual choice he ever exhibits is his (correct) decision to lend the Walkers horses and let them pass by on their mission. Otherwise, he does exactly everything that's expected of him without fail. He's more "trapped" than she is in the construction of familial and personal obligations and duties. 

 

Edited by Ran

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On 4/12/2021 at 6:58 PM, Sigella said:

No friendship is ever completely equal, nor any two individuals/characters either so that isn't a reason to disregard them. 

 

Cat and Lysa (granted they're family/related more than friends but right there we have one of the  highest sourness-scores in the entire story, Cat's disastrous visit to the Eerie is soooooo good) is way more fascinating to me than Cat and Brienne. Cat takes pity on Brienne, Brienne comes to respect Cat's "womanly courage". Yawn. ;)

I wouldn't call the waif an acquaintance nor rate a relationship's worth based on how many pages they get. My interpretation on why Arya doesn't have female friends earlier is based off two things; Sansa and Jeyne bullying and a strong internal feminism. Girls don't play with swords, go on adventures etc, why would she want them around when those are the things Arya wants to do? The waif is finally another girl who trains to be an elite assassin.

Compared to Cersei's bitter dead end-feminism ("if I had been born male") or Dany's Aspacian piedestal (same such as Sansa is well underway onto as well) - Arya's feminism seems to grant her more freedoms than the other. Still however Cersei and Dany has been way more power-succesful while they aren't at all free.

I haven't read the entire thread, so I don't know if someone else has said it already, but - Cersei's feminism?! Cersei is not a feminist in any shape or form. On the contrary, she is a misgynist. It is an excellent  portrayal of internalized misogyny. She despises her gender and despises other women, and hates the fact that she is a woman. She is bitter because of the lack of opportunities in Westeros relative to males of her social standing, like her father and Jaime, but that's not because she feels it's wrong to discrimiante against women. It's simply because she thinks she is better than everyone else, she is not like other girls, and should have been born a man, so she would have all those opportunities. All other women are weak and despicable and either stupid or malicious, according to her - and she treats other women like crap. 

You might maybe try to compare Cersei to what is pejoratively called White Feminism - but even people who can be said to be White Feminists (those who see feminism only in terms of the rights of women of their class, race and social standing and simply assume all women have the same issues, without thinking about their own privilege as white middle class Western (usually US) women and the fact that women of other races, classes etc. face different issues) at least think of other people besides themselves, even if those are just people of the same social standing as they are,  or think that they think of all women but never stop to understand the difference of experience.

Cersei, on the other hand, only ever cares about herself and her rights. The only time she felt some empathy for anyone else was for Myrcella - because she sees Myrcella as an extension of herself.

Of course, D&D never understood that and seem to have really viewed Cersei as some kind of feminist, giving her statements like "everywhere they hurt little girls"... while giving heroines like Arya and Brienne misogynistic statements that they do not have in the books ("Most girls are stupid", "You sound like a bloody woman" - instead of "craven").

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It’s hard to fight on all fronts at once. I did have a lot of experience with gender and class discrimination. I did original research around gender. It is hard to understand an attitude towards skin color that I did not / do not possess, and I thought was antique and obviously idiotic( to me). Pignent. I had to redraw my experience to include color because I didn’t classify people like that in my mind.I am constantly shocked these days.

My privilege was very hard earned, but sort of possible.  I had a round of gender issues on Friday. No actually, on line last night.

 

 

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12 hours ago, James Steller said:

The two biggest examples are Aredhel and Eowyn. In "The Silmarillion," Aredhel is a headstrong elven woman, sister to a king, who wants to explore Middle-Earth and go wherever she wants. She ignores her brother's warnings and commands, then orders her escort away so she can do exactly as she likes. As a result, she's seduced by the dark elf Eol, wedded under dubious consensual circumstances, and she produces his son Maeglin. When she tries to go back to Gondolin (which she doesn't do until her own son persuades her to leave), she draws Eol after her, which leads to his finding Gondolin, killing Aredhel, and cursing his son for betraying him. Maeglin is thus a cursed being, lusting after his cousin, and ultimately betraying everyone by helping Morgoth destroy Gondolin. All because of a wilful woman's wanderings.

Aredhel's story basically is the story of the woman who gets raped and killed as punishment for overreaching herself, i.e. trying to think for herself and do what she wants.

And as you say, in the larger context it is also quite clear that a woman is at the heart/beginning of the Fall of Gondolin. If she hadn't been not that unnatural/chaste/more restrained, etc. she wouldn't have left, there wouldn't have been a Maeglin, and Gondolin wouldn't have fallen.

12 hours ago, James Steller said:

Meanwhile, "The Lord of the Rings" gives Eowyn her big hero moment, but it's framed in a story of a wilful emotional woman finding her proper place in life. It's not just that she settles to live the domestic life with Faramir, what gets me is the scenes she has with Aragorn just before he takes the paths of the dead. First she talks about being bitter over being left behind and Aragorn mansplains about her responsibilities to her people and more importantly, her uncle and brother. Then, when she begs to take the paths of the dead with him, Aragorn condescends her again, saying that even if he did want to bring her along, he'd have to ask her brother and uncle's permission first, and he won't wait for them to ask. It's a truly undignified moment for Eowyn, and it's not like Aragorn is ever made to feel foolish for denying Eowyn's desire for self-agency; Tolkien even implies that her desire to be a warrior is just an excuse to be with Aragorn and win his heart. I'm really glad the movies reshaped Eowyn and Aragorn enough that it wasn't so cringey.

All that shows that the place of women is behind that of men, that they ruled and controlled by them. There is no place for female warriors among the Rohirrim and a woman's desire to fight and win glory like a man is unnatural. A woman defending other women and children in the absence of men is a joke because, as is pointed out in the book, you won't win glory doing that. And what's not explicitly said there is that fighting this last fight is only something that has been done in a fallen world where evil triumphs and the heroic men died in battle earlier. Only if they fail are the women and children back home forced to defend themselves against the very enemies the men failed to defeat.

3 hours ago, Ran said:

I mean, he's absolutely right that she wants to abandon her responsibilities. It doesn't have anything to do with gender to point this out.

But it is something that is connected to gender because nobody lectures Éomer in this manner in the book that's published. We don't know how the author would have written a similar conversation involving only men. And it is quite clear that Éomer as a man would have never had to ask the permission of his sister to do anything.

Also, Celeborn or Thingol would never ask the permission of their wives to do anything. They might ask them for their counsel but them being the men they decide what to do.

3 hours ago, Ran said:

The implication is the actual fact of the situation. Aragorn goes into great detail about this in RotK when he heals her. She believes she loves him because she saw in him a means to escape a life that had become poisoned by tragedy and by Gríma Wormtongue, not because of genuine feeling.  She doesn't fully recognize these feelings in herself, but the despair she must have felt is later acknowledged when she and Faramir have their meeting of minds.

This is also gendered because we get a man describe the inner mind and desires of a woman ... rather than seeing the woman explain her own desires herself. We also get that earlier with Gandalf giving us insight into Éowyn's mind.

3 hours ago, Ran said:

I'll note that Éowyn not only is shown to have self-agency to the same degree that Éomer has, she shows more agency than Éomer ever does within the pages of LotR. He is raised as his father's son, expected to live up to his duties as the third Marshal, and then is expected to be heir to his uncle, doing his bidding. The only moment of actual choice he ever exhibits is his (correct) decision to lend the Walkers horses and let them pass by on their mission. Otherwise, he does exactly everything that's expected of him without fail. He's more "trapped" than she is in the construction of familial and personal obligations and duties.

Éomer is a good character. He is not defective. Éowyn is. She doesn't understand herself and has delusions about her place in life and has to learn the hard way that she is sick and needs to be healed - not just physically (which is a result of her defiance) but spiritually/mentally.

People are kind of confused that being a complex character is something good in Tolkien's works. It isn't. Complex characters don't do the right thing at once or at all. Saruman, Gollum, Boromir, Denethor, Éowyn etc. are all more interesting than most of the good characters because they are conflicted. But being conflicted means they are all defected in some manner. They either do not understand naturally what the right thing is - like Aragorn or Faramir do, say - or they are not able to do it at once.

The standard Tolkien character is completely in line with the values of the world - doing good comes naturally to him. At best he makes minor mistakes. But he always knows what's the right thing. All the tragic heroes are tragic because they are, fundamentally, flawed. They are not yet villains but they are flawed to the point that only death can absolve them - that's why they all have to die, starting with Feanor and down to Denethor.

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Tolkien writes Aragorn, Eowyn, and all the characters, the call and the response. He could have said through Aragorn,” wow you are wonderful, spirited and I love you” or “I like you and your accomplishments, you deserve my love” Instead he goes for Arwen, because it is written that way, as she is the Evenstar, and  he is not immortal. Tolkien has complete control over the story that he tells. Tolkien does not lecture Eomer, he lectures us. There are a lot of problems with the story if you think about it critically. ( glossing over Tom Bombadil...groan) It doesn’t hold up to the the kind of scrutiny we give other writers. As far as ticking all the modern boxes, it doesn’t. Enjoy it if you can. I did. I was disappointed in the female characters at the time, but at least there were some! The movies were fun, too.

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