Welcome to my new series of posts Musing by Moonlight, where I take the opportunity to get off my chest anything and everything to do with books.
Or maybe not.
Depends how I feel.
I am a fan of George RR Martin’s TV adaptation of his Song of Ice and Fire novels, A Game of Thrones. This post is discussing the portrayal of the characters on the TV series, not in the books.
Sansa is my favourite character.
Because she’s strong.
Pffft. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of feminine passivity to be strength.
But it’s true.
Just because it’s a different kind of strength to physical strength. Sansa is emotionally strong. She has willpower to survive, and she knows how to survive is one of the harshest climates in the show.
Let’s take a look at the dichotomy between men and women. Men = strength, activity, stoicism, sexual activity. All things Robb and Jon embody. Everything Ned embodied. Sansa by comparison is everything feminine: weak, passive, manipulated, virginal. By all things considered, Sansa should be considered the weakest one of the series. Even compared to ‘little girls’ Daenerys, who is a military leader kicking ass all over the eastern continent, and Arya, who learned swordplay and showed disgust at the thought of being a lady, Sansa is thought to be weaker.
But she’s not. Just because passivity and doing what you’re told and everything feminine is considered to be weak, Sansa’s surviving the best way she knows how.
And she’s kicking ass at it.
Not in a violent, strong way like Arya and Daeny. Not passionately and manipulatively like Catelyn. Not even like powerhouse Brienne, who is shamed for not being feminine and attractive though by god she’s a magnificent, formidable, beautiful woman. (Not that Brienne’s looks have anything to do with it, but because she’s portrayed to be unattractive, and I don’t find her that way in the least.)
I mean, is Sansa really the worst character? Is she worse than Joffrey and Jaime and Tywin and that guy who tortured Theon – or for that matter, Theon? And if so, why? Because she’s a passive teen girl who likes pretty things and wants babies?
Let’s face it: Arya is just as bratty and spoiled as Sansa, yet she’s a fan favourite because she’s a gutsy little firecracker who wants nothing to do with being a girl. Jon’s constant moping got on my nerves, but it’s ok because he’s a boy and a bastard. Robb makes some horrifically bad decisions in the show, but somehow that pales to Sansa’s lack of decision and lack of movement.
I admit, I didn’t like Sansa much in season 1 when she lied about her betrothed’s involvement in the scuffle by the lake. At the time I liked Cersei and Joffrey and thought Sansa would do well as a Lannister. But things changed when she appeared at court and realised what a monster Joffrey is. However she and Arya did not get along, and Sansa was brought up knowing she was to marry well and provide her family with beautiful babies. Everyone encouraged her to follow this dream, and she did. And she was eleven. And that makes her weak?
So she made a mistake. Ned cheated on his wife and everyone still loves him. Jamie is winning hearts all over the place because he saved a city by slaying the king, yet he’s also an incestuous attempted child murderer. Tyrion has whored half of the city and is completely irresponsible with money.
Yet Sansa is the one everyone hates?
Sansa’s strength is not your typical ‘strong female character’ and that is why people hate her. People beat on her and she takes it. She takes the physical abuse and doesn’t fight back in the obvious, masculine way.
Yes, Brienne is amazing, and Arya is probably going to end up like that, but it doesn’t mean that Sansa or Catelyn’s strengths as more feminine women is a bad form of femininity.
It horrifies me that some fans wish Sansa would be raped to teach her a lesson, that to be the perfect woman in Westeros will ultimately destroy her. It’s the same problem faced in the real world. Women are dismissed if they aren’t thin or pretty enough, or if they don’t want marriage and babies, but if they are all of that and do want all of that then that’s also seen as NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Does Sansa deserve to be raped because she is naïve? (hint: NO ONE ‘deserves’ to be raped, even fictional characters.)
She’s a victim, and a hostage, but tell me: where is the shame in that? Is it just inherent misogyny? Is it bad that we have Strong Female Characters like Daenerys and Arya and Brienne, but because Sansa is strong in a different way (re: feminism) apparently that makes it OK to hate her and want her to be raped or murdered?
It’s enough to make one want to eat one’s own hat, honestly.
Don’t forget that Sansa begged for Ned’s life. And once she knew she could not win, she succumbed to the pressure and saved her own life by denouncing him. She’s not a silly little girl. She’s not a typical thirteen year old girl. She is a badass in a different way to Arya and Brienne and especially Daenerys, who has built her armour around her with what she has been given, and taken. Sansa’s strength is not in her arms, but with her words. She comforts those who need it. She saves lives without lifting a sword.
She has nothing. She is all alone. She has no family, nor magic, nor physical skills, nor even her wolf to keep her company. She has no dragons and no one looking out for her, no one to advise her or even offer a proper friendship. She is a pawn, good for what is between her legs and the blood in her veins.
Survival of the fittest, right? Because Sans learns and adapts and keeps being kind and brave and never fucking breaks. At all. She doesn’t fight. She doesn’t die.
And that makes her weak?
Book snobbing is NOT WELCOME on this post. I am talking about Sansa’s portrayal in the TV series, not the books. I have not, and I will not read the books. I am a fan of the TV show, and not reading the books does not make me any less of a fan. Any comments derailing this will be removed.
9 thoughts on “Musing By Moonlight: : Sansa Stark’s Strength Lays in Her Femininity”
I love Sansa, she’s my favourite female character in the show. She knows how to use words that’s for sure! I’m interested to see what happens to her later on, as I know a few spoilers that I won’t mention, of course.
★ Under The Mountain ★
Great article. One quibble, though. You said Arya wants nothing to do with being a girl. I think you mean she doesn’t want to be a “lady,” and all the gendered limits placed on that designation. She always corrects people who mistake her for a boy, “I’m a girl!”, until she’s forced to pose as a boy for her own survival.
Brienne is another misread character (not by you.) She actually has a lot in common with Sansa. They both believed in the stories of brave knights and fair maidens. The difference now is Brienne still believes those stories whilst Sansa doesn’t. Brienne upholds all the ideals of the chivalrous knight. She also respects femininity, as her admiration for Catelyn and her identity as a mother shows.
You are right, I should have said ‘lady’. Arya is actually proud to be a girl, and I’m proud of her as well.
Sorry. I meant to respond to the article and not your post.
Thanks for not mentioning spoilers! I’ve been pretty good at avoiding them so far. Looking forward to the next chapter of her story.
So, I’m not a fan of the books or the show BUT I really enjoyed your post (the show depresses me and the books just aren’t my thing). Women who want to be wives, mothers, fighters, or whatever should all be valued and allowed to do so. The entire point of feminism is that women have the choice.
Jessica@The Bathtub Reader
Thank you very much!
Miranda @ Tempest Books
Great post! I’m a fan of the books and the show and have to say that Sansa is one of my favorite characters. I think that your defense of her is awesome and well-said. I also think that it fits with both the TV version of her character and the books’ — they don’t change too much about her. I’m very interested to see how her character is going to grow and change as the series continues.
thank you very much! I’ve had people telling me Season 4 should be awesome for Sansa, so I’m looking forward to her new adventures.
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