Nice girls don’t: thoughts on Game of Thrones and the Democratic Leadership Race

Hot takes, compliments of Captain Obvious! Joe Biden is likeable, and the Game of Thrones series finale was less so.

I know, internet commentators have gone on ad nauseam about when and how the final episode let them down but for what it’s worth I’m not here to comment on the Game of Thrones series finale per se. For starters (by way of disclosure) I didn’t actually watch the show. I’m one of the few hold-outs who still believes that George R.R. Martin will someday finish the books, so my knowledge of the T.V. show is limited to the occasional YouTube clips and spoilers I read on Wikipedia. So no, I’m not going to hate on your favorite T.V. show; I think we can all agree I’d be pretty out of my depth. I would however, like to comment on the writers’ treatment of its two leading ladies and what that says about how we as a society regard powerful womyn.

It goes without saying that spoilers are to follow, so if you’re yet to finish the series or you want to believe that Daenerys never evolved past season 5, you might want to stop reading now.

Yes, the mad queen of Westeros was overthrown by the mad queen from across the sea and the audience was left scratching their heads and wondering who was left to cheer for. As confused as we were it was nothing compared to Jon Snow and the brotherhood of disillusioned white dudes, who having witnessed the carnage that the Mother of Dragons hath wrought, realized all too late that they might have backed the wrong horse. Ergo, the last queen was killed, a council was called, and the iron throne was claimed by a male character you’d be forgiven for assuming was no longer in the show.

Way to break the wheel, boys.

My issue with the series’ conclusion isn’t so much that Daenerys went mad (though I do agree with the critics that her 11th hour trip down the rabbit hole could have been better written), it’s that it’s another example of the writers punishing its female characters who dare to pursue power. Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and even Davos Seaworth too experienced the horrors of war but never truly lost their grip on their moral compass. Even Jaime Lannister actually grew more temperate as the series progressed. The same cannot be said for many of the show’s female characters, who grew more destructive as they asserted their power. Sure, some of them made it through the series with their heads and their sanity intact but the implication is clear: we accept powerful womyn when their quest for power leads to villainy and by extension, their downfall.

I bring this up because after months of will-he, won’t-he speculation, Joe Biden decided that the Democratic leadership race wasn’t already full enough and threw his name in for consideration. Almost immediately he pulled ahead in public opinion polls, fundraising, and even shrugged off accusations of inappropriate contact with his female colleagues. This came as a bit of surprise to me, especially as the electorate is increasingly showing a penchant for newcomers with a relatively clean slate untainted by career politics. However, when I looked in to it more closely, it became more evident why the electorate was favoring him:

“I think many of these other candidates have great ideas,” One campaign attendee said. “They have great aspirations and they’re good on the stump – all the things you want in a candidate. But they don’t have the experience, the gravitas or the toughness that Joe Biden brings to the fight with Donald Trump. He can go toe-to-toe with him in any debate, anytime, anywhere.”

Really? “Gravitas” and “toughness”? No disrespect to Biden but these aren’t adjectives I would have readily associated him with. Folksy? Sure. Affectionate? Afraid so. ‘America’s Uncle?’ That’s not an adjective but I can see where you’re coming from. Tough? No. If you’re seriously suggesting that Biden is ‘tough’ I can only assume it’s because he has a penis, and therefore benefits from both assumed toughness and the freedom to act tough without reproach. The problem with this is the leadership race was already brimming with tough, gravitas-y female contenders that are now being overlooked because a well-known man entered the race.

Fellow nominee Elizabeth Warren was famously silenced by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell when she #persisted in challenging Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General, citing his track-record on civil rights. More recently Kamala Harris went toe-to-toe with Ken Barr over his conduct as Attorney General, particularly as it pertains to the Mueller Report. Both of these candidates have demonstrated how tough they can be but in so doing, could well have reinforced society’s worst assumptions about powerful womyn. After all, it wasn’t too long ago when the current president of the United States dismissed his female debate opponent as a “nasty woman” for daring to challenge his income tax avoidance during a debate. Statements like this are troubling because they reinforce the wide-held perception that politics is a game that womyn cannot win: either play nice and be called ‘weak’ or be tough and be called ‘nasty’ or God forbid, ‘mad’.

And yes, I realize that the current president of the United States may not be the best standard of comparison for how Western society regards womyn. I think even card-carrying Republicans would agree that that’s setting the bar a little low. My point is that Hillary Clinton was publicly ridiculed for doing exactly what Joe Biden is credited with doing right now, largely because she is a womyn and any womyn who dares to assert herself is met with public scrutiny. After all, nice girls don’t shout, or fight, or question the authority of men. A girl who does must be mad, and mad girls are dangerous and must be stopped before they wreak havoc on the kingdom at large.

To be clear, I don’t dislike Joe Biden, though I’ve got a few questions regarding his support for the Hyde Amendment and some lingering concerns with how he handled the Anita Hill testimony. What bothers me is that as soon as Biden threw his name in the ring, the progressive left abandoned the opportunity to make history in favor of endorsing the status quo. And why? Because they don’t think a womyn can assert herself? Should assert herself? Assert herself and retain the public’s respect? I don’t know, but if it’s any combination of the three then all the more reason to defend female candidates, for never was a wheel in more dire need of being broken.

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2 thoughts on “Nice girls don’t: thoughts on Game of Thrones and the Democratic Leadership Race

  1. I spoke too soon. For those watching the segregation drama unfold, my opinion is no Biden. Cory Booker doesn’t owe you a damn thing. Moreover, achieving bipartisian consensus that enables segregation isn’t exactly something you should brag about.

    Like

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