Susan Groppi has been reading A Song of Ice and Fire (contains spoilers through all four books). It’s one of those posts where you read it and sit there nodding, as someone else connects up all the dots you haven’t quite turned into words:
It’s just tiring, is all I’m saying. It takes an emotional toll on me, as a reader, to see these women be threatened in these very gender-specific ways, over and over again, constantly.
I dipped into A Storm of Swords the other day, and reread one of the chapters from Jaime’s point of view. I’m always surprised by just how much I like Jaime’s chapters, and how a character that I loathed through the first two books became so compelling. But I’d forgotten just how wearing it is to spend a chapter watching Brienne through his eyes, a constant stream of comments about her breasts and her hair and how terribly terribly ugly she is. It is absolutely in character and absolutely in keeping with the setting, where beauty and fertility is all that a woman can be judged by, and positioning Brienne as the opposite to Cersei in every way is, I’ll wager, likely to be even more important in whatever Martin does with Jaime’s character arc in the next three books. But sometimes I don’t want to be shown how a character is slightly less of a bastard than he used to be, because he refrains from making the cruelest comment he can.
And I think part of the reason I didn’t enjoy A Feast for Crows as much as the previous three books is an extension of this. Cersei is still treacherous and dangerous, but increasingly desperate and paranoid and making foolish decisions, when previously she was working with what power she had in the society she lives in. I miss the old Catelyn Stark, who may not have made the right decisions but was always trying to do the best for her children. I did find the end of A Storm of Swords to be awesome and dramatic, and I absolutely cannot wait to see Aiden Gillen play that moment on screen, but it leaves Sansa older and wiser than the naive child she was but still trapped in a remote castle with a creepy, creepy guy. I feel sorry for Lollys Stokeworth, a minor character who gets to be ugly and dull, then ugly, dull, raped, pregnant, and a pawn in someone else’s political scheme.
It’s just uncomfortable to read. And it’s not just A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s tiring how hard it is to find a book without “the tired old trope of a female character suffering sexual violence largely to give her menfolk something more to angst about”. I wish it weren’t necessary to make a list of books which don’t do this, but I’ll be consulting it next time I want some epic fantasy to read which isn’t going to be exhausting.