By Eve Mayer of EveMayer.com @LinkedInQueen
I’m standing extra tall today and it is all because of Arya Stark and Game of Thrones.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, there may be a few spoilers in here if you are not caught up to the most recent show of season 8, episode 3. If you do not watch Game of Thrones then as many others have tried, I’m going to encourage you to consider watching the entire series. If you have no interest in the show or feel concerned about graphic scenes (both sexual and violent), I absolutely respect your decision to not watch GOT. But, if you just haven’t had time or haven’t been convinced of the entertainment value of the show, then I think might need to finally reconsider. My own opinion is that this is one of the best shows in the history of television. Also, three important facts - I’m not a massive fantasy fan, I didn’t read the books and no one is paying me to write this article.
I’ve had a few friends over the years hold out on watching the show only to finally give in and fall in love with the series. It isn’t an easy show to watch. There is abuse, betrayal, rape, sex, death and graphic violence. Women (and men) are often treated in the most horrible ways beyond my imagination. It certainly makes for great television and I’m not here to defend everything about the show. I am here to talk about the interesting phenomenon that has occurred personally and I think for so many other women who are fans of the show. I watch the characters and I begin to imagine myself in those situations. This is easier for me to do when the character is a woman because I also happen to be a woman.
Here are my top 6 empowered women from Game of Thrones:
Sansa Stark - In the beginning, Sansa’s only talents were being beautiful and her stitching. Her only wish was to marry and have babies. Now Arya refers to Sansa as “the smartest person she has ever met”. Sansa has survived multiple marriages, an array of physical/mental abuse, the death of family members and unimaginable torment, yet she survives. Sansa relishes ruling with a certain calm assuredness and takes calculated revenge when she is able. She is fiercely loyal and committed to her family but I believe her biggest feat is simply surviving. When Sansa talks about staring the truth in the face being the bravest thing a person can do, I feel the gravity of this line in my own life.
Lyanna Mormont - This unexpected, small physical being turns out to be one of the bravest characters in the show. This child wowed me from the opening scene when she clearly needed to be shown the reason for risking her own people’s lives. Lyanna is a leader like none other. When Sansa suggests that Lyanna might be a great beauty someday, Lynna delivers my favorite line. “I doubt it. My mother wasn’t a great beauty or any other kind of beauty. She was a great warrior though.” Lynna knows who she is and never lets anyone base her value on anything but the strength she has chosen for herself. Lyanna is a brave and relentless leader. She never allows her age, size or gender to determine her ability to lead and conquer. Three people have told me I remind them of this character and it is one of my favorite compliments ever.
Cersei Lannister - Calm down! I know what you are thinking. How can I select Cersei as a woman who taught me empowerment. She is a deceptive, incestuous, evil killer who torments people. Exactly! This is not about women whom I think are morally correct. This is an exploration of women in power. Ceresi has been sitting on the iron throne for a bit now and the way she got there is a horrible tale. However, Cersei is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve ever experienced. I would much rather battle the Night King than Cersei. How many women in tv shows have wielded this much power or craved ruling to this degree? I cannot think of many. The fact that Cersei commits unthinkable violence fueled by her love of her children make the character’s motivation uncomfortably relatable for many mothers.
Daenerys Targaryen - Once or twice when someone who has harmed my friends or family deeply, I just stare at them and think “Dracarys!!” Luckily for them, I do not yet own a dragon. Daenerys is one hell of a heroine! We start out by seeing her basically sold because of her name and beauty. We watch Dany be abused, raped, burned and underestimated. Watching this young girl grow up into a powerful, imperfect woman is intoxicating. I hope for her, root for her and hold my breath for her to survive time after time. I can’t help but want to be her. She gets to fly on a dragon for goodness sake. She attempts to rule the 7 Kingdoms while dressing like a page out of a gothy Neiman Marcus. I’ll admit it. I want to set slaves free, be a queen, rule the world in fabulous outfits and makeup while my hair looks perfect. Yas to all of that!
Brienne of Tarth - What a pillar of physical strength this woman is! I love Brienne. I love her because of her large physical size juxtaposed by her vulnerability and raw emotional feelings on display. What a fantastic, gorgeous beast. Seeing her physically duel with men is thrilling to me and once again not something I have seen much of on tv. Even more rarely have I gotten to watch an honorable woman fight, battle and win against men. It is thrilling and expands the realm of my possibilities. What? Brienne is one of the best with a sword in the world and actually gets to become a Knight. Well, then maybe then a well deserved and accomplished woman can become CEO against all odds! This is how my mind works.
Arya Stark - This character changes everything for women. We watch her as a child who knows from the beginning that her sole purpose is not to be married and have children. We watch Arya lose her parents, escape, suffer hunger, abuse and violence. But we observe Arya transform into a deadly assassin committed to a level of training unmatched by others. She does all of this without losing her humanity or joy. This is an astounding transformation and one that I have never seen done by a female character as a justified killer that I root for and feel protective of. Arya’s youth and small size made her unexpected sex scene surprising for me at first but and almost uncomfortable. But I realized that this discomfort was because I was seeing something I have never seen before. This scene is incredibly important for women in my opinion. Arya, a virgin, takes control of her own sexuality as a grown woman through clear communication with an available partner in an extremely confident and empowered way. I don’t think I’ve seen that portrayed ever before and I’m thrilled about it. Portraying women in control of their choices around sexuality supports the fact that the choice to partake or refrain is theirs to wield. It also shows that sexy comes in all types of women. In other words - tomboys are hot!
After last night when Arya saved the day, she is my new favorite character. I honestly can’t believe it happened. I’m being a bit elusive just in case you haven’t seen it yet but holy smokes, I can’t get over it. Why is it so shocking that a small, young woman saved everyone? Of course she did. When it comes to this particular situation, she had more experience than anyone in a certain way. I need more of this in my life. I need to see women be strong, be smart, and determined in whatever way they have decided to be without apology. I need more women heroes in my life to look up to and cheer on.
Yes, I do realize that Game of Thrones is not real life. I have plenty of women heroes who are not characters in a story. Some of them are my friends who teach me women empowerment everyday. Maria just scored a full time job in technology at a company she loves. Bridgette is in the best shape of her life and proud of her body. Cynthia is about to give birth to her third daughter and started teaching religion classes. Jean is working with dream clients in luxury all while looking like a fashion plate. Lisa’s abs ripple under her shirt after a Crossfit session right before running a landscape biz with her husband, picking up her kids from school and then enjoying a bottle of wine in yoga pants. Connie is pursuing her dream of public speaking after a lifetime of exceptional service in the food industry. Nicole moved to Vegas and bought her own house.
Some of my real life heroes are women that I draw inspiration from doing their thing in an unexpected way. I check Instagram to witness irreverent @ashleylongshoreart dominate the art world, marvel at @ariannahuff CEO like a boss and listen to the entire @Lizzo album one more time to feel all the empowered woman vibes!
As an empowered woman, I will be watching with bated breath to see the female characters in Game of Thrones love, fight, rule, rise up, overcome and slay. I need to see strong women in their own element rise up. I need to see it in real life, on TV, in music, in the news and in books. How else will I remember how essential and expected it is for me to fully become a fully empowered woman myself?
I’ll admit that I would love to see a woman (please not Cersei) end up at the end of the show on the throne. It all seemed so unlikely and impossible in the beginning but as time goes on, I see real and imagined women rising up.