Thoughts: On The Women of Westeros, and “The Future is Female”

“No matter where we look in Westeros, the future is female: Cersei to the South, Sansa to the North, Daenerys to the East.” – Laura Hudson, Wired

Game of Thrones has a rocky track record with its treatment of women, full stop, sentence over. Yet, early on in the show it was clear that the Women of Westeros (and Essos) would at times rise up to be total bad-asses. Sometimes that happens through violence, (Arya, Dany, etc.), sometimes through cunning (Olenna, Margaery, Dany again). On the whole though, taken into account the often pointless ways women are sexualized and brutalized on the show, it’s hard to endorse Game of Thrones as feminist. Game of Thrones is made with feminist values, contains feminist lessons and characters, but if you asked me “is Game of Thrones feminist?” I might shrug my shoulders or laugh at the thought.

“You mean the show that turned some consensual sex acts from the book into rapes on the show? You mean the show that continually uses sexual violence as a threat to needlessly amp up the stakes for women? You mean the show that could have written it’s way around a lot of the sexual violence on screen? No, I don’t think it’s particularly feminist.”

But the future is bright. Season Six left almost all seven kingdoms and major military forces under the control of women — women who either out-smarted, out-fought, or out-lived the men who previously held those positions of power. It’s a very promising time for the Women of Westeros — even if some (Cersei and Dany, for instance) are only going to leave one woman standing by the end of the season.

I return to the beginning of this post. Towards the end of an excellent review/recap by Laura Hudson, she uses the phrase “the future is female” which is so jarring to my ears that, well, it ended another Mary Beton hiatus. This is the first thing I’ve ever read of Hudson’s, but judging from a Twitter bio that lists Feminist Frequency as a place she either wrote for, or contributed to, I imagine she knows exactly why “the future is female” is weak tea.

But first, let me make it crystal clear what I’m not saying.

“When so-called “feminists” state that the future is female, they are showing their true colors. This movement is no longer about creating equal opportunities for men and woman, but it is obsessed with claiming that women are superior to men and that all men are worthless.” – Sarah Taber, The Daily Wire

Fuck that, full stop, end of sentence. But Sarah’s interpretation is part of the problem with the slogan, wherein female is immediately code for “woman” to most of the population that’s never taken a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies course. We should be getting behind slogans that are blunt, even if they’re note catchy. Anyways, rhetorical issues aside…

My problem with “the future is female” as a phrase, slogan, or fucking t-shirt has nothing to do with man vs. woman, because “male and female” and “man and woman” is like “sound” and “color” to me — they describe completely different categories. “The future is loud” doesn’t exclude beige, because, fuck it, beige can be loud if it wants to — but “the future is blue” would exclude beige because, beige will always be beige.

“One problem with “The Future Is Female” slogan is that it elides the distinction between sex and gender. It erases queer, trans, and other non-binary people entirely.” – Sam Miller, Left Voice

“The future is woman” is a phrase lacking alliteration and punch, but it’s sure as hell more inclusive than “The future is female” — and “The future has no gender” even more so. I’m drunk and upset, but clear-minded enough to stand up for this, no matter the consequences. “The future is female” is a shit slogan, and I’ll die on that hill.

Your “The Future is Female” shirt will get you a smile from a TERF. Do you really want to make TERFs smile?

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