1. 01:45 26th Mar 2014

    Notes: 55

    Reblogged from stannisisthefury

    The Much Anticipated Esquire project.

    stannisisthefury:

    Hello Followers, as many of you noticed, I recently passed 1000 followers. (Currently sitting at 1013).

    What this offers is a pretty sizable statistic pool. So, if you’d like to help, here’s a survey for you. Please either reblog this post, or if you prefer, just message me your answers in my ask box. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this project, I can’t accept Anonymous answers. After a week of taking answers, I’m going to write up an analysis for Esquire. If I enjoy your answers enough, I may quote you by URL in the article!

    Thanks in advance,

    Thomas

    Read More

    Would you watch Game of Thrones if you didn’t read the books?

    Or

    Would you consider Game of Thrones a skilled enough adaptation to make you read the books?

    I read the series because I enjoyed Game of Thrones so much.

    How long have you been a fan of the series?

    I read the books in September and October of 2013. I’ve been (casually) watching the show since just before the second season aired, but I didn’t get serious about it until the last few episodes of season three.

    Just for fun:

    Which of the Five Kings was/is your favorite?

    1. Robb Stark
    2. Balon Greyjoy
    3. Renly Baratheon
    4. Stannis Baratheon
    5. Joffrey Baratheon

    Robb Stark … though I’m not really huge on any of them.

    Did Robb deserve to win the war?

    1. Yes, he was a skilled commander, and would have won if he hadn’t been betrayed by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton.
    2. Yes, if only because he was fighting for his family/the Riverlands sake.
    3. No, his lack of people skills with Edmure and others was the cause of his undoing.
    4. No, revenge is never a good reason to fight, and he should have done everything he could to keep the peace with the Lannisters.

    I guess I’d have to say 4, with the specific note that I feel weird talking about what characters deserve. It’s not like I think the Lannisters deserved to win, I just think Robb made a lot of mistakes and could’ve ensured safety for his family and people if he took other paths.

    What’s your opinion of Dorne?

    1. Dorne is completely awesome, and I’m glad they’re finally entering the series.
    2. The Dorne arc is boring, and takes screentime from other, more interesting storylines.
    3. Oberyn Martell is cool, but I’m still not sure about the rest of the cast.

    1

    It was a little frustrating at first just because I was so invested in the characters I already knew, but once you get to know the new characters, it’s wonderful. (Do people really think Oberyn Martell is the coolest Dorne character? Really???)

    Are you tired of waiting for Daenerys to return to Westeros?

    1. Yes, it’s getting ridiculous.
    2. No, her arc is progressing at a justifiable speed, and the payoff will be worth the wait.

    2

    But also I honestly don’t care about the payoff in that I love Dany so much I just want for her to be happy (she could just move to the wilderness with her dragons and her handmaidens and just build a life, and I’d be like TOTALLY WORTH IT). I think a “payoff” others would think is “worth the wait” will not result in peace and happiness for Dany; I don’t expect for the series to end in her favor. Anyway, her storyline is among my favorites, so I think the pace at which it’s unfolding has been perfect. Since I read the series while avoiding all online commentary, I was genuinely blown away with the apparent consensus that Dany’s storyline is somehow boring, treading water, or whatever. 

    Which Storyline do you feel has suffered the most in the adaptation?

    1. Stannis’ and Team Dragonstone
    2. Robb Stark and Catelyn
    3. Jon Snow and the Wall
    4. Bran Stark and the Fellowship

    Hmmmmmm. 2.

    I’m sympathetic to 1, but Stannis’ larger role is coming up. Unlike others, I don’t think they’ve ruined Stannis beyond recognition, but I understand why it’s frustrating for Stannis fans, as he comes across as far less … Stannis. But I think Stannis is uncharismatic in both versions — those qualities have definitely been translated to the screen. Perhaps with the coming season and coming events, Stannis on Game of Thrones will collide with Stannis in A Song of Ice and Fire.

    Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark were definitely altered distastefully to me. Mainly I just wish Catelyn Stark had gotten the respect she deserves. It’s unfortunate that the show appeared to legitimize common fan perceptions of her book character, perceptions that I honestly believe are rooted in unfairness.

    Final thoughts? (This can be anything show related)

    I really love so much about Game of Thrones. I have my qualms, but they’ve brought a beautiful series to life and sometimes it is just so wonderful — the scenery, the acting, the relationships. It’s a joy to watch. As an adaptation, I think the good far outweighs the bad.

     
  2. Becoming Hodor

    I think we need to take a moment to remember that children are children. Children should not be held to the same standards to which we hold adults. A child who does something awful will not necessarily grow up to be an adult who does awful things. A child who does something awful does not necessarily understand what he or she is doing. This is something people usually agree with in American society (though there are always the bloodthirsty when a child does something especially awful): children are not small adults, and they deserve far more grace when they commit acts we view as morally wrong.

    There is no one age that marks when somebody is better equipped to make decisions and understand consequences, but I’m not sure I know anybody that thinks that a 9 or 10-year-old’s actions faultlessly dictate what sort of person he will be … which brings me to Brandon Stark.

    More than once, Bran skinchanges into Hodor for survival, but Bran also skinchanges into Hodor for his own enjoyment.

    I think it’s important to point out that Bran’s intent isn’t relevant when it comes to Hodor’s experience. Hodor is clearly deeply negatively affected by the skinchanging experience.

    "Like a dog who has had all the fight whipped out of him, Hodor would curl up and hide whenever Bran reached out to him." ADwD, Bran III

    Even when Bran does it seemingly automatically to help fight off the wights outside the cave, Hodor is traumatized.

    "Deep inside, he could hear poor Hodor whimpering still…" ADwD, Bran II

    It doesn’t matter if Bran does it automatically, for purely good or purely selfish reasons — Hodor does not understand skinchanging, and it scares him every time. Ideally, there would never be a situation in which Hodor would have to deal with skinchanging. In the instances where Hodor’s own life depends on it, I’m more willing to say Bran did what was necessary. The same way the Hound knocked Arya out to get her away from the Twins safely, Bran invades Hodor’s body to save him and the others. It’s an awful thing, but it’s understandable given the circumstances, even as the person being saved bears the scars.

    But what about Bran’s willingness to skinchange into Hodor when there isn’t any danger? What does that say about Bran?

    It’s probably Bran’s biggest flaw. Bran is a lovable character. He’s the youngest point-of-view character, unable to walk from early on. He has big dreams and misbehaves in what seems like wholly innocent and boyish ways. He even appears to be Catelyn’s favorite child. Bran is a sweet, innocent boy. But he’s more than that. He’s not a stock magical character, a lovable hero whose only problem is that the world is unfairly against him. He’s a complex character, a real character, in the vein of the rest of the series.

    Bran has a plethora of issues that surround the loss of his ability to walk. He feels helpless and incapable throughout the entire series. He must rely entirely on other people to get to where he’s being told to go. As a boy in Westeros society, this is especially shameful — he often thinks of himself as “almost a man grown,” yet he must be carried like a baby.

    "Of late, Bran wore Summer’s body more often than his own; the wolf felt the bite of the cold, despite the thickness of his fur, but he could se farther and hear better and smell more than the boy in the basket, bundled up like a babe in swaddling clothes.” ADwD, Bran I

    His embarrassed thoughts occur throughout the entire series, but even in Bran’s scant A Dance with Dragons chapters, it’s clear how insecure and unhappy he still is as he continues to deal with the fact that he lacks physical ability, one of the things his society tells him is among his most valuable assets.

    On the other hand, Hodor is commonly acknowledged as the strongest person in their party, and Bran admires Hodor’s strength.

    "No one was as strong as Hodor, no one." ADwD, Bran I

    When Bran skinchanges with Hodor, he does so to remember what it felt like to be physically independent, he does so to feel big and strong, something he will never be.

    "And suddenly he was not Bran, the broken boy crawling through the snow, suddenly he was Hodor halfway down the hill, with the wight raking at his eyes … Deep inside, he could hear poor Hodor whimpering still, but outside he was seven feet of fury with old iron in his hand." ADwD, Bran II

    Bran’s trauma does not give him a right to victimize Hodor, but it does make his act far more understandable. The situation is extremely sad. Bran does not fully understand the implications of what he’s doing, and he’s doing it because he yearns for a body that (to him) works. He laments the loss of his skills, which were a huge part of his identity.

    "Bran remembered a time when no one could climb as good as him … Part of him wanted to shout at them for leaving him, and another part wanted to cry." ADwD, Bran III

    His frustration with his body is not limited to feats of strength or agility. When Meera is crying, Bran reflects upon what Bran could do with a “working” body compared to his own.

    "He wanted to put his arms around her, hold her tight the way his mother used to hold him back at Winterfell when he’d hurt himself. She was right there, only a few feet from him, but so far out of reach it might have been a hundred leagues … I could put on Hodor’s skin, he thought. Hodor could hold her and pat her on the back." ADwD, Bran III 

    This moment explains what goes through Bran’s mind when he skinchanges into Hodor for non-survival purposes. He recalls a moment with his mother, and he wants badly to give that to somebody else. He wants to be the strong one, the supportive one, someone able to care for herself and others, like Catelyn was. But just as he’s unable to walk, he’s unable to comfort Meera. The hurt that Bran still feels permeates the last chapter of his, and I understand, in that moment, why he does something so invasive. He’s a frightened little boy who’s still dealing with hugely traumatic events while learning how to manage confusing and unique powers.

    Bran is also completely lacking information that the reader has by the time we’re reading his chapters in A Dance with Dragons. While the reader understands from the prologue that skinchanging into another human is viewed as deplorable, Bran cannot know this; however, he does clearly understand that there’s something wrong with it. Not only does he keep the secret from everyone around him, but he can sense Hodor’s response. He knows that it frightens Hodor; this cannot be debated.

    "The big stableboy never understood what was happening, and Bran could taste the fear at the back of his throat." ADwD, Bran I

    Again, there is no question that regardless of Bran’s side, Hodor is suffering. It is clear that this is no blameless act and that Bran is doing something selfish here, something that hurts Hodor just so he can have some time in a body that is strong, that can walk, the body of a man that Bran will never be. But Bran does not do this carelessly. He tries to tell himself that Hodor is getting less frightened, and he tries to soothe him.

    "He knows it’s me, the boy liked to tell himself. He’s used to me by now." ADwD, Bran I

    Bran is clearly a deeply empathetic child. When he skinchanges into Hodor, he is taking liberties with somebody else’s body, liberties he doesn’t fully understand, because he’s so sick of hating his own. It’s wrong, but not detestable. Traumatizing to Hodor, but not intended to be by Bran. He makes a mistake. 

    There’s a passage in Bran’s second chapter that stuck out to me as relevant to this conversation, regarding Bran’s reaction to the slaughter of Coldhands’ elk:

    "Bran wept like a little girl when the bright blood came rushing out. He had never felt more like a cripple than he did then, watching helplessly as Meera Reed and Coldhands butchered the brave beast who had carried them so far. He told himself he would not eat, that it was better to go hungry than the feast upon a friend, but in the end, he’d eaten twice…" ADwD, Bran II

    Throughout Bran’s story, there are many indications that other people’s sacrifice is necessary for him to continue. There’s the vague suggestions that the group may have eaten human meat (even if it didn’t actually happen) and Jojen and Meera’s misery, which they are undergoing strictly for him. If the morbid “Jojen paste” turns out to be true, this message is even more strongly sent.

    When Bran sees the demise of the elk, he weeps “like a little girl,” feeling that familiar helplessness because of all the elk has done for them. His feelings toward the elk are strong, and he promises not to eat the elk. But then he does, because he needs to eat. He’s not strong enough to continue to survive on acorn paste, and he succumbs to the temptation of succulent meat, even as it makes it him uncomfortable.

    Bran clearly struggles between doing what will make him feel good and doing what he feels is right. This is not a struggle that only a few people ever deal with: it is deeply human, and I’m skeptical that there’s a human alive who has never accepted the first by giving up the latter.

    Bran slips into Hodor to aovid feeling helpless. As a result, he makes Hodor helpless. The exchange is not fair or equal, and I would hope that had Bran been informed how other skinchangers feel or were Bran older — even a little older — he wouldn’t do it. He would be able to be comforted in other ways, he would better understand how invasive the practice was. But Bran is a child. To make lifelong judgments based on what he does here is unfair. Bran is a child who yearns to feel physically whole, and the heartbreaking way he goes about satisfying that urge does not signal some irrevocably selfish person; it merely signals the uncomfortable things a sweet and kind child will do in the face of intense sadness and strange powers.

     
  3. 09:10 25th Feb 2014

    Notes: 252

    Reblogged from joannalannister

    Tags: tywin lannisterasoiaf

    chicknalfredo asked: Hi there! Okay, so, I love Tywin as well. He's one of my favorite characters and I feel like he's being misjudged by the fandom. First of all, I think he's really strong to have seen his wife die and still not kill Tyrion (in that respect, he isn't much worse than Catelyn is towards Jon Snow, and Jon didn't kill Ned). Also, I think that his morality is great. I'm a big fan of Bentham and I think that Tywin really has that cost/benefit way of thinking. Thank you so much for making this blog!

    joannalannister:

    I don’t think the fandom is misjudging Tywin at all. Tywin Lannister is a complete asshole, and he is most definitely not someone with “great” morality.

    • He had an innocent 14 year old orphan peasant girl gang-raped and he forced his disabled 13 year old son to participate, to give him a “sharp lesson”. If Tywin hadn’t done that, he would probably still be alive right now.
    • As a teenager, long before his wife died, he killed all of the men, women, and innocent children in two whole houses. 
    • When his father died, again long before Joanna died, Tywin had his father’s mistress stripped and paraded naked through the streets of Lannisport - for the crime of being a social climber. Funny, because Tywin is also a social climber, on a much grander scale. 
    • Tywin orders the deaths of Rhaenys & Aegon Targaryen, who were innocents. I don’t think Tywin ordered Elia’s rape & murder, but he is still responsible for it as a military leader, so let’s list that too.
    • In the aftermath of the Red Wedding, we see that Tywin believes “killing saves lives,” which I understand is a very controversial real world political topic, let alone a controversial topic on tumblr. But ASOIAF is a very anti-war text, and the text is telling us it is wrong, that killing is murder. We as human beings aren’t meant to read about a bunch of people being slaughtered under a flag of truce and then read about Arya and Sansa crying in despair afterwards and say, “Wow, look at Tywin’s amazing cost/benefit analysis,” I don’t care how hard-core a Lannister-stan you are.
    • Tywin helps Robert send assassins after Dany throughout her childhood. (If “killing saves lives” was the “right” moral philosophy, Pycelle’s advice in book 1 would have been followed, and Dany would be dead and Westeros would be fucked. There are definitely right and wrong answers to the moral questions in ASOIAF, it is not a text free of morality.) 
    • Tywin started a war to get Tyrion back, burning out the Riverlands (including all the crops!! When winter is coming!! Excellent cost/benefit analysis on Tywin’s part!!!). When instead!! Instead!!!!! He could have gone to King’s Landing to petition for the King’s Justice, and then Tywin would have been there when Joff assumed the throne, and then Tywin might have been able to stop Ned being executed!!!!!! And then there wouldn’t have been a war!!!
    • "I’ve lost a hand, a father, a son, a sister, and a lover, and soon enough I will lose a brother. And yet they keep telling me House Lannister has won this war"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • Everything that happens to Tyrion between his arrest by Cat and his getting out of the Vale is independent of Tywin’s actions, which means Tywin’s war was absolutely unnecessary!!!
    • Tywin wants a thousand year Lannister dynasty, but he disowns both of his sons before he dies!!! That’s not even logical!!!!
    • Tywin only cares about Lannisters, and doesn’t give a fuck about anyone else in the world, and I sympathize, I only care about Lannisters too, Tywin, but that’s a really bad world view to have!!! There are so many non-Lannisters in the world!! 
    • Tywin surrounds himself with family members in his war councils, his political maneuvering etc, but he even treats his family members like shit!!! Brilliant!1!!
    • Bullet point for Tywin’s general dickishness, because Tywin is just so much of a dick that I can’t keep track of it all.
    • Tywin Lannister does not get cookies for restraining himself from murdering his newborn son!!!!!!! No one gets cookies for restraining themselves from murdering someone!!!!!!1!!1!

    I LOVE TYWIN, and I’m a really big Tywin fan, but I’m a bigger fan of watching House Lannister crash and burn while Tywin rolls over in his grave because he was just so wrong. About everything. I appreciate that you like my blog, thank you, but I can’t agree with your interpretation of Tywin. Tywin Lannister is wrong in all the ways and his morality is really, really not an example for anyone to follow. 

    This is a great post. Thanks for writing it. I think it’s important to acknowledge a character’s faults even if (or maybe especially if) you love the character. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    I do have a question about one of your points. You wrote, ”Tywin helps Robert send assassins after Dany throughout her childhood.”

    I’ve been re-reading the series recently (but I’m still on book one), and I remember asking myself if there really were assassins after the Targaryens throughout Dany’s childhood or if Viserys was (justifiably, I think) paranoid and seeing threats where there weren’t any.

    In Ned’s second chapter of AGoT, Robert says, “I should have had them both killed years ago, when it was easy to get at them, but Jon was as bad as you. More fool I, I listened to him.” I took that to mean Robert never actually tried to kill the Targaryens until AGoT.

    When you say Tywin helps Robert send assassins after Dany throughout her childhood, are you referring to the attempt that happens in AGoT, or were there previous attempts that I either completely missed or have forgotten about since I last read the series?

     
  4. lowgarden:

    angryampersand:

    lowgarden:

    To be honest, the biggest problem I have with GOT in comparison to ASOIAF is that the show constantly goes for “shock factor” rather than genuinely good writing. 

    They make Talisa pregnant solely for the sake of gutting her at the Red Wedding.

    They develop Ros as a character because they wanted her murder to be a surprise. 

    They reject Doreah’s previous characterization to throw in that betrayal plot twist.

    They have Catelyn kill Walder’s wife instead of his grandson because I guess it’s easier to believe that Walder would react flippantly to the death of a wife rather than that of a grandson? 

    They add in the scene of Joffrey forcing Ros to beat Daisy because… we apparently don’t know that he’s evil yet? 

    They have Drogo unquestionably rape Daenerys on their wedding night, instead of waiting for her consent, because… of reasons? 

    The vast majority of the violence against men on GOT is taken directly from the books (Theon’s torture, Renly’s death, Ned’s death, etc). But the vast majority of violence against women is invented for the show. Which is… weird, to say the least. 

    I agree with all of this so much, besides *possibly* the Dany thing. I think that they maybe choose the way they did because of the shock value, but in the books its written in a creepy romanticized rapey way, and although I hated seeing it onscreen and it made me super upset and reactionary for awhile, in the end I almost prefer it? Because it’s unabashedly sketchy instead of “ambigious”, and with the way her story went, it…Idk. I have so many issues with the way GRRM writes Dany.

    Although then they went sort of creepy romanticized with it in the end, so yeah, I’ll attribute that to dumb luck on their part, they stumbled onto a better narrative decision becuase they were going with their tendency to make everything OMG!!! ADULT TV!!!! 

    The book scene was definitely a dubious consent situation, but I liked that in the end it was Dany who got the final word (“yes”) because it gave her at least a tiny bit of agency in a situation where she had next to none. I can see why GOT had to make some changes - it would be hard to show Dany’s internal thought process onscreen - but I wish they hadn’t made it so blatantly horrible. It was the stereotypical wedding night we had expected to happen when reading the books, and GRRM intentionally subverted that by having Drogo wait for consent. 

    Though the Dany / Drogo relationship is pretty sketchy, regardless, since he unquestionably rapes her a few times after that. But I prefer the book’s take on it. 

    I wouldn’t call it a dubious consent situation — not only is Dany 13, but she’s been gifted (or sold) to Drogo. I’d say that her verbal consent (given after she calmed down from crying openly) is completely and totally nullified and that what Drogo does to her on their wedding night is undoubtedly rape.

    I’m not even convinced Drogo was actually asking for consent. It’s really hard to know what’s going on his mind since we’re seeing him through Dany’s eyes. We’ve seen him do small kindnesses (giving her her silver, being gentle with her) but we’ve also seen him be a bit harsher (completely ignoring her at the wedding) and we come to see him be even harsher (raping her when she’s in so much pain she’d rather die than go on). Drogo is a better man to Dany than Viserys was, but he’s clearly not aiming for a relationship of equal power. Drogo only knew one word, and he repeated it over and over. We don’t know that in Drogo’s mind he was asking consent. If Dany had said no over and over again, would he have accepted it and not insisted on consummation? I truly don’t think so. I don’t think she was actually being given a choice — even outside of the fact that she’s a child that’s just been given away as property.

    But I do think the consent was an incredibly important part of Dany’s story. Along with her first ride on her silver, it indicates just how willing Dany is to take control when it’s offered to her, even in tiny doses.

    And that would’ve been difficult to communicate on screen. I’m glad they didn’t have Dany give consent because I believe that would’ve made people even more willing to forgive Drogo for mistreatment — especially since Dany on screen is not 13. If Dany had said yes and physically led Drogo to touch her, would anybody have considered it even close to rape? Or would they immediately forget that Dany had been sold to him? By removing Dany’s verbal consent from the show, they solidified that what happens between them is not consensual, and I think that’s important too.

    I don’t want this to come across as entirely anti-Drogo because I actually do like Drogo when considered in the context of the series. He gives Dany room to grow. He encourages her to lead. He loves her. But he does rape Dany. And he did rape Dany on their wedding night. Dany’s consent said something about who she is and who she was going to become, but it didn’t make it consensual sex. I think the show made the right decision, but I think the book version plays out exactly as it should too — to show Dany’s willingness to take control over her own life, even when it’s possible (and probable) she’s not yet being offered it.

     
  5. Professional Defender

    I’m a profession Catelyn and Sansa Stark defender. I roam the darkest, most dangerous corners of the ASoIaF fandom to discover unjust (and usually sexist) tirades against the ever complex but much maligned Stark women.

    I argue that Sansa is naive, not stupid, that as a child who was raised to be a proper lady, she can hardly be expected to behave the way the average reader would, that derision for her polite, girlish ways is nothing more than sexism, that she is clearly growing and learning in the face of constant tragedy, abuse and coercion.

    I point out that Catelyn’s mistreatment of Jon Snow stems from an overreaction to a patriarchal world — unkind, but a sign of a woman who ferociously defends her children. I cite Catelyn’s frequent voice-of-reason moments, her intense bravery, and her ongoing strength despite the loss that surrounds her.

    I do side-jobs as a defender of Daenerys Targaryen, directing the confused to blog posts written about how reasonable Dany’s actions were in the face of an impossible situation, point out that Dany’s consistent empathy for the downtrodden and powerless is evidence of one of the kindest characters in the series.

    On the darkest days of them all, I’ve worked as a defender of Arya Stark, whom I think should be universally loved, even in her violence. Arya is one of the youngest voices we hear, and as the voice of a non-conforming girl in a patriarchal society, her point-of-view is important. Her anger is understandable, her survival instinct impressive, and her loneliness heartbreaking.

    I hope the day will never come when I must put my skills as a Brienne of Tarth defender to use.

     
  6. 21:36 4th Feb 2014

    Notes: 23

    Reblogged from madaboutasoiaf

    madaboutasoiaf:

    forgirlsraisedbywolves:

    Pregnancy and Possible “Personhood”

    "And if his seed quickened, she expected he would see to the child’s needs." - Catelyn II, AGoT

    It is probably true that in ASoIaF, the common people view quickening as when a pregnancy begins to involve a living child. Quickening refers to when the woman…

    I may be wrong but I believe most people take issue with Cersei’s selective use of moon tea, not her use of moon tea itself. It is not so much that she took action to avoid having Robert’s children but that she ensured that she would only have her brother’s children. She then passed those children off as Robert’s as a deliberate action.

    I’m all for female empowerment, especially in such a patriarchal society as Westeros but it is a bit of a stretch to label what Cersei did in this case as falling under that.

    I’m sure there are some people who feel that way, and perhaps I’m only responding to a small subset of people with a particular mindset (one I’ve seen on Reddit). But I have seen people chastise Cersei specifically for “aborting Robert’s child.”

    All that being said, I’m not sure how refusing to birth Robert’s children doesn’t fall under female empowerment. Having Jaime’s children and passing them off as Robert’s is a different thing, a secondary action, and one I didn’t address. I have problems with Cersei and Jaime consciously having children, not because it was dishonest to Robert, but because she brought three children into the world whose very existence was treason. Cersei and Jaime chose to create three children whose lives were in constant danger.

    Regardless, reproductive control is not only a part of female empowerment when it’s not used selectively. In fact, I think reproductive control is always supposed to be used selectively because it has to do with the woman deciding if and when she gets pregnant and has children. Cersei controlling her reproduction so she didn’t have to have the children of a man she loathed is definitely female empowerment. I mean, having control over our reproductive system is practically the foundation of female empowerment. Without access to reliable birth control and abortion, women are much, much worse off. What Cersei chose to do with Jaime is something else entirely.

     
  7. Abortion in A Song of Ice and Fire, Part II

    Pregnancy and Possible “Personhood”

    "And if his seed quickened, she expected he would see to the child’s needs." - Catelyn II, AGoT

    It is probably true that in ASoIaF, the common people view quickening as when a pregnancy begins to involve a living child. Quickening refers to when the woman can feel the child move, which varies from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy.

    About not medieval, but colonial times:

    "What we would now identify as an early induced abortion was not called an "abortion" at all. If an early pregnancy ended, it had "slipp[ed] away," or the menses has been "restored." At conception and the earliest stage of pregnancy before quickening, no one believed that a human life existed; not even the Catholic Church took this view. Rather, the popular ethic regarding abortion and common law were grounded in the female experience of their own bodies." - When Abortion Was A Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867 - 1973

    The way the unborn are talked about in ASoIaF varies greatly, as it does in the actual world. Different words are employed to talk about pregnancy depending on the context.

    Dany was nearly full-term when Rhaego was born and died. She talks about Mirri Maz Duur having murdered Rhaego, whom she considered a person. Lysa talks about her forced abortion as the murder of a child as well. I do not know how far along Lysa was in her pregnancy when she was forced to miscarry, but my guess is it was before quickening; however, Lysa very much wanted to carry the pregnancy to term.

    Notably, when Ned argues for Dany’s life, he doesn’t seem to care much about her pregnancy. He is horrified at the idea of young Daenerys being murdered, not the unborn inside of her (even though Robert specifies he wants “mother and child both” dead). Ned is disturbed by the murder of children, the memories of Rhaenys’s and Aegon’s deaths in his head; however, he doesn’t seem to be concerned with Dany’s pregnancy, just Dany herself. This seems to suggest that Ned doesn’t view the unborn with the same degree of personhood, if any at all, as the 14-year-old girl he is trying to save.

    "Whereas Daenerys is a fourteen-year-old girl … Robert, I ask you, what did we rise against Aerys Targaryen for, if not to put an end to the murder of children?" Ned, AGoT

    Moon Tea

    "Afterward, Asha had the sense to find a woods witch, who showed her how to brew moon tea to keep her belly flat." - Asha, AFfC

    Moon tea, a mixture of tansy, mint, wormwood and pennyroyal, is used routinely by some women of ASoIaF to prevent or abort pregnancy.

    My assumption is that, medically, moon tea aborts a pregnancy that had already been conceived rather than prevents conception. That being said, women like Asha Greyjoy, Ygritte and others seem to view moon tea as preventing pregnancy. Presumably, having easy access to moon tea — as it seems Asha, Ygritte, and Arianne do — means a woman would be able to drink it soon after sex. If conception occurred, the moon tea would induce a very early abortion probably indistinguishable from a regular period.

    "You’re bastard-born yourself. And if Ygritte does not want a child, she will go to some woods witch and drink a cup o’ moon tea. You do not come into it, once the seed is planted." - Tormund, ASoS

    While moon tea isn’t necessarily sold in marketplaces — Asha talks of consulting a woods witch to learn how to brew it — there doesn’t appear to be too heavily of a stigma around the simple using of it, at least among those who view unmarried dalliances as normal. The wildlings, of course, appear to have no stigma at all.

    The number of bastard-born children in the world suggest that moon tea is not available to everybody and probably does not always work. Lady Smallwood mentions Tom Sevenstrings’ philandering ways, and though she mentions the women drink tansy tea, she remembers his leaving two women with big bellies.

    "The riverlands are full of maids you’ve pleased, all drinking tansy tea. You’d think a man as old as you would know to spill his seed on their bellies. Men will be calling you Tom Sevensons before much longer." - Lady Smallwood, AFfC 

    Though moon tea itself does not carry that much of a stigma, the acts that would require moon tea absolutely may. For a woman whose virginity is extremely important, somebody high-born who is expected to be chaste, having sex prior to marriage could reduce her options (as is seen with Lysa). If she were to drink moon tea, it would seem very suspicious (as is seen with Margaery).

    Women only drank moon tea for one reason; maidens had no need for it at all. - Cersei, AFfC

    It’s likely girls like Sansa have no idea moon tea even exists. Many highborn girls are raised to believe that women exist to bear their husbands’ sons; drinking moon tea would go against that. A number of people don’t seem to be aware of moon tea, including men (like Jon Snow, who learns about it from the wildlings), and it’s only the “worldlier” women, like Cersei, Asha and Ygritte who know about it and had to specifically seek it out.

    The only suggestion that drinking moon tea is itself a bad thing, closer in line with the way abortion is viewed by anti-abortion advocates, is from (of course) the High Septon:

    "She has drunk of moon tea, to murder the fruit of her fornications in her womb." - The High Septon, AFfC

    The High Septon makes these comments around the time the Faith is gaining more and more power. It’s likely his views are not shared among the common folk as of yet, though perhaps that will change. He does seem to hate women more than the average Westerosi, so it makes sense that he would want to limit their freedoms as much as possible.

    Cersei’s Experiences I

    She lifted her head, defiant. “Your Robert got me with child once,” she said, her voice thick with contempt. “My brother found a woman to cleanse me. He never knew.” Cersei, AGoT

    When Cersei talks of her abortion, she says she found a woman to “cleanse” her. This is a much different way to talk about it than drinking moon tea. Though it’s possible she is talking about finding a woman to supply her with moon tea, I’m not so sure. The language strikes me as very different than how discussions of moon tea go in the rest of the series.

    It’s possible Cersei was too far along for moon tea to work, though I think Cersei’s clear disgust at Robert would encourage her to rid herself of the pregnancy as soon as she realized she was pregnant. It may also be that she sought out a different form to be sure the abortion was successful. Surely an herbal abortifacient is not always reliable, while a surgical abortion may have given her peace of mind. But there are no obvious mentions of surgical abortion in the series. Or maybe since Cersei knew she was pregnant when she sought the abortion, her language is different — all the other women we encounter, save Lysa, drink moon tea as a precaution.

    It’s also possible that since this happens earlier on, GRRM hadn’t yet come up with the idea of moon tea being a Westerosi woman’s saving grace. I’m thinking this is likely — moon tea wasn’t mentioned until ASoS.

    Cersei’s Experiences II

    It’s a mixture of ironic and horrible that any readers would view Cersei’s abortion as a slight on her character. Cersei has many faults, but choosing to abort a pregnancy was not one of them. Beyond the political reasonings for marriage, Robert’s lineage is the only reason he needs Cersei. Despite being a queen and the daughter of an extremely powerful house, Cersei finds herself frequently without control over her own life. Robert has more power than Cersei has, so Cersei cannot do anything Robert would not want her to do. The only way Cersei can get stuff done that Robert disagrees with is to manipulate him (often by challenging his manhood) or to do it behind his back.

    The thought that Cersei has an obligation to bear anybody’s children should exist only in the fictional society, not in reality. I read Cersei’s story as utterly fascinating and saw Cersei as very cunning. Her resistance to “do her duty” as a wife is actually quite beautiful. Though we see a handful of unmarried young women use moon tea, we don’t see a married woman consciously do it except in Cersei. Her ability to control her reproduction in that situation was not standard and was certainly not supposed to be within her reach. That Cersei was still able to exercise this control should be a win. Cersei triumphed (sort of) against an inherently unfair system that demanded she be an incubator for Robert’s children. Though Cersei faced many demeaning situations, she ultimately did not have to give up her womb, her health and maybe even her life for Robert. Yet some readers have internalized this idea that Cersei had a duty to, against her will, gestate and birth the children of a man she loathed.

    It’s a strange world we live in when readers of ASoIaF believe that when a female character opts out of an oppressive aspect of a fictional society that is defined by its patriarchy and violence, she’s the one who did wrong.

     
  8. Abortion in A Song of Ice and Fire, part I

    I’m going to expand on this later seeing as there’s more detail in later books. But I read recently that some criticism surrounding Cersei is about the fact that she aborted Robert’s child.

    That alone is pretty frustrating. In an ideal situation, a woman and the man involved would be able to come to an agreement regarding reproduction. But when it comes down to it, bodily autonomy trumps all. Cersei’s situation was far from ideal. She was forced to marry an alcoholic, abusive man who never loved her and never would yet had the legal right to have sex with her whenever he wanted. It was completely within her human rights, in my opinion, to do what she wanted regarding her own reproduction.

    But there’s another aspect to this.

    I’m reading a book on the history of abortion. ASoIaF takes place in a fantasy world, but there are a lot of historic aspects to it. If consistent with history, Cersei’s actions weren’t really perceived as getting rid of a pregnancy but rather as preventing a pregnancy from taking root.

    In decades past, pregnancy wasn’t really perceived to involve a child until “quickening” — when the mother could feel the child move. Before then, a woman would know she was pregnant because of symptoms, the most telltale sign being a missed period. Abortions of those times were spoken of in euphemisms, often in reference to starting the period again. The perception was closer to “I’ve missed my period; this missed period will lead to a baby if I don’t do something to start my period again,” than, “I’ve missed my period; I have a growing being inside of me right now.”

    That doesn’t mean early abortion was an acceptable and openly performed act. Women still had a womanly duty to bear children, and intentionally not having children was not something you’d go shouting about. But an abortion prior to quickening was perceived very differently than it is today.

    Cersei tells Ned, “Your Robert got me with child once. My brother found a woman to cleanse me.”

    It’s difficult to understand what Cersei’s perceptions of, to use the medically correct term, abortion were. She specifically uses the word “child,” yet she says she was “cleanse[d].”

    Even if Cersei had a modern-day understanding of abortion, she did nothing wrong here — I truly believe that. But I doubt that she did. Understanding of pregnancy and abortion has changed quite a bit, and ASoIaF is set in another time and place. My guess is Cersei was “cleansed” after missing her period, before quickening. My guess is Cersei, and many around her, view that action as different than, say, a procedure after quickening, which would be viewed as much closer to, if not the same as, actually killing a child.

    So those readers who feel that 1) abortion is wrong and/or 2) Cersei was wrong to abort Robert’s child should at the very least understand that their perception of abortion is likely different than the one she had.

    As I continue re-reading the series, I’ll add more to this. I may have forgotten something that contradicts something I said here. I remember several mentions of abortifacients, and it’ll be interesting to see if George RR Martin’s take on abortion doesn’t follow the historical take and is closer to a real-world, modern-day understanding.

     
  9. I tend to be really sensitive in most cases, but I have a really hard time reading hateful commentary about my favorite characters. I say hateful because I can read criticisms about my favorite characters as long as they’re rather objective and come from a place of general respect (i.e., the difference between saying Cersei is a delusional idiot and saying Cersei makes many self-destructive decisions). I love ASoIaF discussions, but I rarely read or take part in any because I know that seeing a casual dismissal of a character, spoken as fact, will send my heart-rate up and responses will swirl around my head all day.

    Luckily, Brienne and Arya get minimal hate. Dany, one of my favorites, gets a lot of it. She gets called stupid, naive, crazy, incompetent, cruel, etc. It really bothers me, mostly because I think that’s such a ridiculously simplistic view of a very complex character.

    I don’t understand how somebody could simplify a character down to those words after being inside their mind. I’m not especially fond of Cersei or Victarion, but being allowed insight into their heads allows me to see them as human, instead of one-word insults. Everybody has their own point-of-view; everybody is their own hero. To walk away from ASoIaF actually wholly hating a character, instead of being able to see things at least somewhat from his or her perspective, is to miss out on some of the richness of the story.

    Yet those one-word dismissals of an entire character are so common in the ASoIaF online community. A lack of empathy is something that bothers me in real life (go find a news article about somebody dying in a tragic accident and there will be at least one common saying the person deserved it and/or brought it on his or herself), and it bothers me with characters too. I think of them as real human beings, and I hate seeing them get such a casual and thoughtless dismissal — and to be quite honest, I hate it even more when its a female character, because female characters are dismissed way too frequently. George RR Martin has crafted amazing female characters for us here. They’re believable and complex, and I hate seeing people roll their eyes and say, “I hate her. She’s so stupid,” as if her very existence in the novels is an irritant and they just can’t be bothered to view her as an empathetic human being.

    Is anyone else really sensitive when it comes to ASoIaF characters?