As TV writers and Game of Thrones fans like to point out, Westeros is a terrible place to be a woman. Those from powerful families are married off to horrible boys (or horrible men) to strengthen their families’ alliances. Those from poor families are raped by soldiers rampaging through their village. Or they turn to prostitution, which can be deadly when they sleep with soldiers from the wrong army or, gods help them, cross Littlefinger. Poor Brienne of Tarth can’t get anyone except Renly to take her seriously as a knight. Cersei Lannister is right about the grasping Tyrells, but her father won’t listen.
All of which are valid points. Women are undervalued and treated like pawns or property or burdens. But wait. Projecting our modern, enlightened ideals on a swords-and-dragon drama ignores another important point. It kind of sucks to be a man, too—a fact that was on display all of Season 3 but most visibly (and painfully) in Sunday’s finale.
Not long after the gruesome aftermath of the Red Wedding, wherein we had to watch Robb Stark’s body being paraded around with his direwolf’s head attached, we cut to (uh, sorry) Theon Greyjoy and Ramsay Snow. The crazy bastard son of Roose Bolton has removed Theon’s manhood and strung him back up on that weird crucifix-like torture device. Then he beats him into submission until he gives up his name.
Let’s review: Robb is dead, Theon is maimed and broken (and disowned!), Jaime Lannister has been relieved of his sword hand (and as such all his power). Gendry, whose only crime is being the illegitimate male progeny of Robert Baratheon, is on the run again after a narrow escape from Melisandre. Davos became a knight so his son could have a better life, and now? His son is dead.
It’s pretty brutal out there for men with no connections to kings, too. Tens of thousands have died in this war, and it hasn’t been that many years since other tens of thousands died in Robert’s Rebellion. Even a simple old man with a cart can’t fix his broken axle without getting clocked by the Hound and Arya both.
And honestly, our surviving major female characters are doing all right for now. Dany has three dragons, an army, a new boyfriend, and thousands of admiring followers. Yara is boldly (and compassionately) going after her brother. Arya is a budding assassin. Cersei is miserable, but she’s still the queen regent. Margaery Tyrell is betrothed to Joffrey, but she seems to have made peace with that misfortune. (And this is entirely keeping with George R.R. Martin’s thoughts on feminism.)