‘Game Of Thrones’ 7 Most Empowering Feminist Moments And Messages

"No, that's not me."

In the opening of season 1 of Game of Thrones, it seemed women had it bad, but it hasn't been all doom and gloom for the women of GoT. Since the beginning, there have been many moments where they took back their power and strongly defined their feminist identities, matching and sometimes beating the show's men at their own game.

These are seven of the most empowering feminist moments from Game of Thrones when women were mentally and physically equal (or superior) to their male counterparts, and why they made the cut.


1. Arya Stark's "That's Not Me" Moment

Photo Credit: ExploreWesteros

In season 1, we're introduced to all of the characters of the Seven Kingdoms in Games of Thrones, and we learn who they are and what makes them tick. As the daughter of the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, Ned Stark (Sean Bean), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is expected to marry well, have children, and raise a prince or two into kings, but Arya's not about that life.

Arya has a moment with her father where she denounces that kind of life and expresses who she wants to be, and what she wants to do with her own life. This feminist moment is introduced with a question to her father Ned, when Arya asks, "Can I be Lord of the Holdfast [a fortress or castle]?" Her father laughs, smiles, kisses her forehead, and tells her, "You ... will marry a high lord and rule his castle, and your sons shall be knights, and princes, and Lords." To which she confidently looks her father in the eyes and daringly denies, "No, that's not me."

We have to applaud her bravery and knowledge of self-worth. Even at a young age, Arya Stark knows what she wants and that she wasn't made for the fluffy comforts of a lady or princess. No, this daredevil wants to run around barefoot, take up sword-fighting lessons with the best swordsman in the kingdom (Syrio Forel, played by Miltos Yerolemou), and doesn't mind if she gets dirty doing all of it. She sends a message to all girls that you can be whatever you want and no one has the right to define you, even your own loving father. This is also a moment that is briefly revisited in season 7 as a reminder of where Arya has been and how far she's come.

From season 1, episode 4: "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things"

2. Daenerys Targaryen's "Tonight I Would Look Upon Your Face" Moment

Photo Credit: film&series

Season 1 isn't easy to watch, since people did the most awful things, including the rape of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) by her husband Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). We're introduced to Daenerys as someone who's got a bad lot in life with a vile brother who has essentially sold her as a sex slave to a Dothraki warrior leader, but our girl Khaleesi doesn't take things lying down.

In fact, in our second most feminist moment on the list, she finds her strength as an empowering figure when she learns to use her own her sexuality and take control from the top — literally. Drogo attempts to take her like he has many times, but Khaleesi puts an end to his barbaric nature by saying no, "Tonight I would look upon your face," she tells him in the Dothraki language, and he complies. While reclaiming your feminist sexuality may tame your Dothraki warrior, the moment also symbolized Daenerys declaring herself Drogo's equal in the relationship she initially chose not to enter.

From season 1, episode 2: "The Kingsroad"

3. Brienne of Tarth's "Battle of the Knight of Flowers" Moment

Photo Credit: GoTSeason2

Who says a knight in shining armor has to be a man? We're not sure (other than in the outdated fairy tales of yore), but Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) kicks some serious butt as the sword-wielding, shield-bearing Maid of Tarth. As the only remaining heir of the House Tarth, she, too, is expected to marry a man from one of the other noble Houses. Instead, with her exceptional fighting skills, Brienne pursues her dream of becoming a knight.

We are first introduced to Brienne of Tarth in season 2, episode 3, when she battles the Knight of Flowers, Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) in a tournament, and wins the fight effortlessly. This is just one of many battles with her fellow knight counterparts that she wins along the way, including a fight with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in season 3, and who can forget her fight with The Hound (Rory McCann) in season 4? We chose Brienne of Tarth and her battle with the Knight of Flowers to represent the third most feminist moment in GoT because we can only pick one and because it sets the precedent for her as the embodiment of a tall, strong, badass female character — a force to be reckoned with.

From season 2, episode 3: "What is Dead May Never Die"

4. Sansa Stark's "Did You Know About Ramsay?" Moment

Photo Credit: HBO

As the eldest daughter of Ned Stark, everyone wanted Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) for her name. Sansa appeared a bit naïve and snotty in season 1. (And to think, at one time, she actually wanted to marry Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson).) She's come a long way from being the pampered potential queen of Joffrey and being betrothed to Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) — she was promised to Loras Tyrell at one point — but ultimately ends up being forced into a marriage with the most evil, heinous monster she could have possibly ended up with: Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

Throughout all of her tribulations, Sansa remained passive and silent, enduring abuses from one man to the next, but she finally finds her voice when she confronts "Littlefinger," Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen), for manipulating her into a marriage that would ultimately be her worst bout of abuse yet. "Did you know about Ramsay?" she asks Littlefinger outright. "Would you like to hear about our wedding night?" Sansa continues until Lord Baelish concedes to acknowledge the fate he knew would be hers by leaving her in the hands of Bolton. We chose this confrontation because she put Baelish in his place and begins to embrace her newfound voice of authority.

From season 6, episode 5: "The Door"

5. Cersei Lannister's "Confess" Wine-Boarding Moment

Photo Credit: HBO

If there are three things we can learn from Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), they are cunningness, perseverance, and revenge. Cersei takes power to another level. When she is imprisoned by the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant of the Faith of the Seven, Cersei is put through humiliating and abusive rituals to confess and repent her sins (mainly the sin of incest with her brother Jaime). Cersei didn't fall to pieces and cry like one might expect a soft, harmless woman to do, and let a man exact revenge for her. Oh no, not Cersei Lannister. She took back control by exacting her own revenge and she relished in it. 

Aside from blowing up the building housing the Faith of the Seven and all of her double-crossing enemies, Cersei captures her previous torturer, Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham), and does a little wine-boarding to her while asking her to "confess." We chose the wine-boarding moment to represent her feminist moment because Cersei is so ruthless as a villain, taking on the seemingly "masculine" trait of strategy to attain revenge at its finest — so much so that everyone, including men, now fear her.

From season 6, episode 10: "The Winds of Winter"

6. Yara Greyjoy's "I'm Here for Theon Greyjoy" Rescue Moment

Photo Credit: HBO

Gone are the days when men are the heroes and women are the damsels in distress. Not only does she hold a position of power as Queen of the Iron Islands, but also, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) shows us that we can be heroes for men as she is for her brother Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). When she finds out that her brother is alive — albeit by delivery of a severed part of his body that he'll miss dearly — she goes through hell and high water (literally) to save her brother from the evil clutches of Ramsay Bolton and bring him home. Although her first attempt doesn't pan out the way she expects, Yara does eventually get her brother home, but we chose her first rescue mission as a feminist moment to remind us that women can be just as powerful as men in the roles of heroes.

From season 4, episode 6: "The Laws of Gods and Men"

7. Lyanna Mormont's "King of the North" Speech Moment

Photo Credit: HBO

Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), Lady of Bear Island, is the youngest female character in a position of power on GoT. She gains the role after her mother, Lady Maege Mormont (Elizabeth Barrett), is killed in the War of the Five Kings. This young lady has quite the moxie, too. Lyanna addresses a room full of grown men in season 6, and has them feeling about two inches tall with her extraordinary speech, pledging her loyalty to Jon Snow (Kit Harington), as King of the North:

"Your son was butchered at the Red Wedding, Lord Manderly, but you refused the call," she said in the episode. "You swore allegiance to House Stark, Lord Glover, but in their hour of greatest need, you refused the call. And you, Lord Cerwyn, your father was skinned alive by Ramsay Bolton. Still you refused the call. But House Mormont remembers. The North remembers. We know no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark. I don't care if he's a bastard. Ned Stark's blood runs through his veins. He's my king from this day until his last day." We chose this as a feminist moment because it was such a powerful speech, and as a female child, Lyanna surpasses the equality of women with men as an empowering young lady.

From season 6, episode 10: "The Winds of Winter"

An entire novella spin-off to George R.R. Martin's series of fantasy novels that focuses entirely on the women from Game of Thrones and their feminist moments could be written. And maybe one day, it will be, but until then, we'll rewatch these and look forward to more in future shows and books.

Cover image via HBO


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