Culture

Game of Thrones Actress: Everyone Who's Not a Feminist is 'Sexist'

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Maisie Williams would cut the word “feminist” from the English lexicon, and instead label those who do not advocate for “gender equality.” She seemed not to understand that, while early feminism has rightly won, there is a huge debate about later waves of the movement.

The actress, best known as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, said it came as a harsh realization that not everyone was a feminist. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Williams suggested that there are two kinds of people: people, and “sexists.”

I remember thinking, “Isn’t that just like everyone?” And then I realized everyone is not a feminist, unfortunately. But I also feel like we should stop calling feminists “feminists” and just start calling people who aren’t feminist “sexist” – and then everyone else is just a human. You are either a normal person or a sexist. People get a label when they’re bad.

Some of her claims have merit, but there is a great deal of variation when it comes to the issue of feminism. Basic legal equality — from voting to inheritance — has already been achieved, and it could be argued that some laws — especially custody battles and allegations of sexual abuse — have gone too far in the other direction.

Many Progressives would push the issue quite a bit further, however, to matters like abortion and laws to force companies to hire more women in higher positions. Meanwhile, in many countries across the world, men do real violence to women, mutilating young girls and restraining their actions. If opposing such injustice makes one a feminist, I will gladly count myself one, but don’t expect me to back abortion-on-demand.

Next Page: But is Game of Thrones sexist?

Williams, who plays a very witty, strong, tom-boyish girl on Thrones, is a good sign of our culture’s having moved beyond true sexism. Her complex character is constantly violating old-fashioned cultural norms about girls, choosing a sword and a bow over her sister’s knitting.

Game of Thrones has received a great deal of criticism for mistreating women, especially involving the implied rape of a main character, and showing more naked women than naked men. Nevertheless, as another Thrones starlet recently pointed out, it presents women in a variety of intriguing roles. Emilia Clarke, Esquire‘s Sexiest Woman Alive and the actress who plays Daenerys Targaryen, likely the most popular character on the show, had her own Entertainment Weekly interview.

That’s what’s beautiful about Game of Thrones — it’s depiction of women in so many different stages of development. There are women depicted as sexual tools, women who have zero rights, women who are queens but only to a man, and then there are women who are literally unstoppable and as powerful as you can possibly imagine. So it pains me to hear people taking Thrones out of context with anti-feminist spin – because you can’t do that about this show. It shows the range that happens to women, and ultimately shows women are not only equal, but have a lot of strength.

This is a show featuring the rise of a woman who was sold as a sex slave to be the wife of a barbarian lord, the struggles of a strong female knight, and more than a few powerful women who seem sweet and docile but are secretly pulling the strings for an entire kingdom.

To be fair, Williams acknowledged the ways in which Thrones puts men in difficult situations as well (one main character faces long-term torture and a humiliating mutilation). The actress admitted that it may seem that “women are treated badly on the show, and [men are] treated well.” This is not the case — “it’s the same as the boys and the girls and the men and the animals. The themes are very dark.”

Williams has previously criticized TV and film writers for creating one-dimensional parts for women. She called on her fellow actresses to “stop playing those characters [so] they’ll stop being written.” This criticism is overused, but occasionally it really does apply.

The Thrones actress is right to say that everyone should stand for women’s rights and legal gender equality, and few would disagree with those general principles. There are good reasons to still identify radical feminists as such, however, especially when “abortion rights” are considered on par with voting rights.