“I swear to you, sitting a throne is thousand times harder than winning one.” – Robert Baratheon
As many of you know, I wrote my Masters dissertation on political space in Star Trek. Or in layman’s terms, I analyzed the differences between politics in the stationary space of Deep Space Nine, and the moving space of the Enterprise.
My conclusion was about twenty pages long, so I’ll just boil it down to this: When a space is stationary, the politics (and therefore the economics and social structures) were messy. When a space was moving, it was much cleaner. That’s why Deep Space Nine is rife with war, assassinations, and occupation, and The Next Generation is about a ship going out and fixing problems.
I also wrote a little bit about it on ScienceFiction.com, using Worf as an allegory for the difference, so check that out for a bit more of an in-depth analysis.
I bring it up, though, because while I was at Starfest, I went to a panel entitled “The Women of Westeros”, which was hosted by Ginny from Not Literally. In that panel, I had the very sudden realization that the politics of women who must stay in one place were very different from the women that moved. We as fans also have a lot less sympathy for the stationary women (Sansa, and Cersei being the ones that come very easily to mind) than we do for the women that are moving from place to place (Arya and Daenerys being clear fan-favorites). One doesn’t need to look further than a panel at Dragon Con where “I want Sansa to die” was the main topic of conversation, or pretty much any conversation at a bar about Game of Thrones where the highlight is congratulating each other on liking Arya.
This dichotomy begs all sorts of questions, and it’s hard to know which one to start with. But I think the two big ones are:
- Do we like the women who move because they are able to exert more control in their lives than the ones at King’s Landing?
- Why the women who work and live in existing political structures are so derided?
I struggled with the first question for a long time, trying to understand the division. I think both characters like Sansa and Arya control their fates as best they can in the spaces they are given. But that is when I realized the truth is a lot more unwieldy than it should be, and the answer for the first question is the also same for the second:
Arya derives power from traditionally male spaces, whereas characters like Sansa become powerful through traditionally female spaces.
In my paper on Star Trek, I note that there is an inherent imperialism in how the Enterprise operates. It moves around. prescribes morals and fixes problems for other people then moves on. It is essentially a traditionally male space if you take colonialism into consideration. Which, if you follow Daenerys white-savior narrative of freeing the slaves, it’s not really hard to draw a similar comparison.
However, the station Deep Space Nine, due to its stationary existence is actually able to be pushed and pulled into many different configurations, each creating spaces and bubble of power that react and change when confronted with another bubble of power.
That’s the world of Sansa,and Cersei. They may live and move in a male-dominated place, but they are able to gain power through feminine space (i.e., being a wife or a mother).
And I wonder if that is why we fans, as a group, despise them.
I do not have the answers. All I can do is ask rhetorical questions and hope to foster enough debate that we can look at these issues critically. For my part, I have loved Sansa Stark from the day her dad was beheaded, and I continue to love her now. Every time she carves out room for her to get a jibe in at Joffrey, or to play games against Cersei is a triumph for me. I also love women in more traditionally male roles, such as Brienne. She is not typical as other women who are put into fighting roles. She does not hate or despise other women for being “weak” and feminine, but knows that she does not have or want those qualities. I love women who are in undefined spaces, such as Osha, whose role is undefinable because she comes from a culture so separate from our own.
But I know that is not the common tenor of the fandom. I know that there is love for the moving women, and dislike for the stationary, and I think we need to start evaluating space and movement when thinkings about the roles of gender.
This may seem like it exists only in fiction, but I guarantee, you will see this narrative of moving women and stationary women in not just in the media, but in real life.