#EqualPayDay was this week, in case you haven’t been on Twitter lately. It’s a day to promote awareness of the wage gender gap. If you didn’t know, women still make an average of $.78 for every dollar that a man does. It varies depending on race, location and it’s a damn crappy statistic. Sadly, a 1972 PSA for the Department of Labor from Batgirl that surfaced recently just points out how far we have to go and how little progress we’ve actually made since then.
I was recently having a discussion about “Game of Thrones,” which premiered its fifth season this week, with someone who didn’t understand why I loved a show in which women were oppressed in a fictional culture as well as feminist fantasy shows, including “Xena: Warrior Princess” or “Battlestar Galactica” and “Caprica,” where gender doesn’t seem to matter at all. (For the record, those are three of my favorites.)
Things like the disparity pointed out by #EqualPayDay are part of the reason. Let me explain. It’s rough to be a feminist these days. It seems like we’re backsliding as a culture and the word doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. It’s frustrating to watch yet another female character act as a plot point rather than a real person in show after show and film after film. For every Katniss, there is a Bella, and so on and so forth.
That said, you often get backlash when you complain about a character with no personality who gives up everything for a man, including an education and doesn’t want to live when he’s gone. “You’re being oversensitive.” “Not this again.” (Yes, this again. This again until it stops happening.) “Can’t we just watch and have fun?” There are times when you have a little debate with yourself before pointing something like that out because of the negative response you’re likely going to get.
So here is why I love things like “Game of Thrones” and fantasy worlds, which may mimic Renaissance or Medieval society where women are often oppressed. It’s because the ones who fight back really fight! Cersei does whatever she can to hold onto power and carve a place for herself, knowing that she could have been a far better ruler than Robert or Joffrey or her brother. (NOT defending Cersei’s actions, but imagine what she’d be if she hadn’t been treated as less than a man.)
Arya takes no crap from anyone. Yes, maybe it’s turning her into a homicidal little killer, but it’s cathartic to watch someone fight like hell and not care what anyone thinks. Or someone like Brienne, who does care, but fights on anyway. I may want to run someone through with a sword after yet another, “You don’t look like a geek,” or “Smile, baby,” but society frowns upon that. So do cops.
Living vicariously through someone who can fight back 100 percent against misogyny can be just as satisfying to the soul as watching Xena destroy her enemies or Starbuck giving as good as she gets and no one thinking it’s strange because she’s got lady parts.