Game of Thrones certainly has its share of controversial moments, especially when it comes to its female roles. Ever since season 5 came to its heartbreaking end – don't even get me started on that one – I find myself asking the question: Is the show pro-feminist or anti-feminist? (Also: Does George R. R. Martin secretly hate his entire fanbase? The world may never know.)
The former is a question that has come up often among GoT's fans, especially considering the amount of female nudity and the easily manipulable and utterly miserable female characters on the show. So why are the Game of Thrones girls all so easily controlled by their men? Or are they slowly turning the tables by working within this, yes, chauvinistic, medieval, but nonetheless magical world in order to finally get theirs?
We realize that many of the female characters start out in extremely negative, even dire situations, and at the mercy of the men in their lives who ruthlessly control them. But don’t they also, more often than not, rise to the occasion? It’s the character development that makes all the difference: As each important female character starts to establish her own sense of agency within the patriarchal system, they must work within the order to find themselves (or get power or revenge, depending on who it is). We see them begin to transform from mere pawns into undeniable and righteous queens in a series of seriously amazing #GirlPower moments.
Here are a few of our favorites:
When "Dark Sansa" enters the game. You go, Dark Sansa.
Ooh, girl. Everything else that happened after this last season aside, this moment made it clear that Sansa Stark has come a long way since her days of serving as, for lack of better words, Joffrey Baratheon's little b***ch. We were so happy to finally welcome her to the game! (Took her long enough.) We just wish she hadn't put her trust in the slimy and traitorous Littlefinger, but what can you do. This is Game of Thrones, after all.
Side note: Arya and Sansa's mother, the late Lady Catelyn Stark, is also most deserving of an honorable mention when it comes to powerful female characters who damn well do their own dirty work.
Cersei's ruthless manipulation of anyone who tries to cross her. Ever.
Oh, Cersei, how we love to hate you.
Feminism in King's Landing, anyone? (I'm going to go ahead and forgo mentioning the ringing of a certain "SHAME!" bell here. It's still too soon to discuss the trauma of that moment.)
Melisandre's unfailing belief in herself and her power.
Say what you will about Melisandre, but you can't deny that she's got style. (And perfect hair. And a stunning amount of determination.) Though she might have started out as Stannis Baratheon’s closest advisor and love interest, the Red Priestess certainly doesn’t let that, or anything, stand in her way — if the sexual promiscuity she uses in her favor is a sign of that.
In fact, she manipulates her own her body and cult-like religion as she sees fit, and drops the late Stannis as soon as he is no longer of use to her. All in the name of the Lord of Light! Right…? “The night is dark, and full of terrors,” she once told Stannis. Yes, and it’s pretty clear that she’s one of them.
Arya Stark's quest for vengeance.
Okay, now let’s talk about Arya Stark. There’s no denying that Arya has had to face much more than other girls her age, starting from way back when in the first season when she was present at her father’s beheading. (RIP, Ned. #NeverForget) And it's definitely no small feat that she's even survived this long – outliving most of the rest of her family (including, sadly, her father, mother, and her brother Robb) long enough to turn down Brienne of Tarth's help.
In fact, Arya Stark is nothing short of my own personal hero. Now, after she's finally found her way to the mysterious home of "Valar morghulis," we as viewers have seen her begin to come into her own. It would be impossible for the three-dimensional characterization here – as well as the fantastic acting that undoubtedly makes that possible – not to make us really feel for her as she seeks vengeance for all that she's lost.
Also, there was that minor detail of Arya murdering the first name on her revenge list. Though the Many Faced God wasn't too happy about her taking matters into her own hands, we have a feeling this isn't where the story ends for her. Well, it better not be...
If there's anything we've learned, it's not to mess with Arya Stark.
Brienne of Tarth's fierce loyalty and generally nonconformist attitude.
Back to the above-mentioned Brienne of Tarth – we can't talk about feminism and awesome girl power moments in Game of Thrones without discussing Brienne, the lady knight who has battled her way valiantly into what is perhaps one of the strongest female roles on the show. The unerringly loyal knight has galloped all over Westeros in efforts to offer her help to the two errant Stark girls after she promised their mother she'd protect them, though the long-separated sisters just can't seem to take her seriously.
Until, perhaps, it's too late for Sansa Stark (after that long jump at the end of season 5)... but if you ask me — or Jaime Lannister — Brienne has always been a woman you want on your side.
Daenerys Targaryen's entire existence.
The Mother of Dragons has always been a force to be reckoned with, and that's never been more obvious at this point in the show. From the moment Daenerys first became the Mother of Dragons, to freeing the slaves of Astapor...
...and finally, to battling a rebellion brought on by the Sons of the Harpy in the last couple episodes of season 5, it's safe to say any fan of the show's got a whole lotta love for Khaleesi. I mean, can you say girl crush?!
But speaking specifically in terms of her character, watching Dany take on a powerful sense of agency is undoubtedly a beautiful thing to behold. As her character development unfolds in finding herself as a woman, lover, and above all else, an unstoppable Targaryen queen, we all know who I'm rooting for to win the Game of Thrones.
Whatever you say, Khaleesi.