Thu
Apr 3 2014 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 10

A Song of Ice and Fire Feast For Crows George R R MartinWelcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 10 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 14 (“Brienne”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

A note before we begin: As I done TOLD you already, JordanCon 6 is almost here! And as usual, I will be there to fulfill my Other Blog duties. Therefore, there will be no ROIAF post next Thursday, April 10th. The ROIAF will resume the following Thursday, April 17th, unless noted otherwise in the comments to this post.

Onward!

Chapter 14: Brienne

What Happens
Brienne and Podrick travel through the same lands she had traveled with Jaime before he’d lost his hand, and she thinks of how she’d loathed him then. Brienne has gotten the story of Podrick’s hapless and mostly-neglected formative years, and thinks he hasn’t received nearly the sword training a squire ought to have. She warns him that her training will be harsh, but Podrick takes to it eagerly, wearing each callous and bruise as a badge of pride; he wavers between calling her “my lady” and “Ser,” though she reflects she is no more a proper knight than Podrick is a proper squire. She hopes that he will remember something from his time with Tyrion that will give her a clue to Sansa’s whereabouts.

They encounter a husband and wife towing a cart on the road and exchange news. She warns them of the rumor she’d heard that the Hound is crossing the Trident with a hundred outlaws, raping and pillaging everywhere they go. The man opines that they won’t dare come too close to Maidenpool as long as Lord Tarly rules there. Brienne doesn’t like Randyll Tarly, but knows she owes him a debt, and hopes to pass through the town without him ever learning she is there. She recalls that Lord Tarly’s son Dickon is soon to be wed, which makes her think of her own aborted betrothal, and how different her life would be now if Lord Caron’s son hadn’t died. It makes her sad, but relieved as well.

They reach Maidenpool, and the guards at the gates decide to take the farmers’ eggs and the wife as well. Brienne prepares to defend them despite the odds against her, but then a man steps out whom Brienne is stunned to realize is Ser Hyle Hunt, one of Tarly’s captains. Hyle tells the guards who she is, and warns that she is “as mean as she is ugly, and there’s no one uglier.” The guards back off, and Hyle waves the farmers through, and the husband thanks him for being “a true knight.”

Hyle asks if Brienne’s going to thank him, and she replies that she’ll thank him in a melee someday. She tells him it was sorcery that killed Renly, not her, but Hyle only mocks her, and says she must come with him to see Tarly. She asks if she is to be arrested, but Hyle says no one cares about Renly anymore. He takes her to the fishmarket, where Tarly has set up a drumhead court and is doling out swift and harsh sentences for those brought before him. After, he bluntly asks Brienne if she killed Renly. Brienne says no, and Tarly considers, and declared that she let him die. He says she ought to never have donned mail, and threatens to ship her back to Tarth.

She shows him her parchment, and says her business concerns Sansa Stark. Tarly is sure Sansa is back in the north. Brienne suggests that she could have gone to her aunt in the Vale, but Tarly tells her Lady Lysa is dead (“some singer pushed her off a mountain”). He tells her to go do what she wants, but not to come to him when she ends up raped. He leaves. Ser Hyle offers to show her to the Stinking Goose, but she tells him to leave her. He says “it was only a game to pass the time,” but she ignores him and leaves. Podrick asks what Hyle meant, but she only says it was “a cruel game, hurtful and unchivalrous,” and sends him to find an inn for them.

She finds the Stinking Goose and waits for Nimble Dick to come in. In the meantime she thinks back to Ser Hyle and his cronies in Highgarden, and how they had pretended to court her with gifts and flattery and kindness, until Tarly had told her that it was all in pursuit of a wager to see which knight claimed her maidenhead first.

“They were knights,” she said, stunned, “anointed knights.”

“And honorable men. The blame is yours.”

The accusation made her flinch. “I would never… my lord, I did nought to encourage them.”

“Your being here encouraged them. If a woman will behave like a camp follower, she cannot object to being treated like one.”

Nimble Dick enters the tavern, and Brienne offers to buy him a drink in exchange for “a word.” She says she heard he “fooled a fool.” After she bribes him, Dick allows that he might have seen a fool, with two girls Dick didn’t see, asking for passage for three to the other side of the sea. Dick says the fool looked frightened anytime he saw men with Tarly’s sigil on them, and that he sent them to a smugglers’ cove that hadn’t seen smugglers in years. She produces a gold dragon for the destination, and Dick says they went to the Whispers in Crackclaw Point. He offers to take her there for ten more dragons, and she bargains him down to six, but only if they find the girls.

“My sister is a girl of three-and-ten. I need to find her before—”

“—before some knight gets in her slit. Aye, I hear you. She’s good as saved. Nimble Dick is with you now. Meet me by east gate at first light. I need t’ see this man about a horse.”

Commentary
You know, the further I get in this novel, the more boggled I am at the complaints that I am talking “too much” about feminism in the commentary on it. Because, seriously, I’m baffled: what else am I supposed to be talking about, here? We get a Brienne POV where she does almost nothing but reflect upon the ways in which she is/has been discriminated against for being a woman daring to take on a “man’s role,” and I’m not supposed to talk about gender dynamics in ASOIAF? I’m not supposed to talk about this, even though the author himself has obviously chosen to concentrate almost exclusively upon it thus far?

What, am I in Random Subject Substitution Land or something? Up is grass, black is beer pong, and blatant themes of misogyny and sexism are… I don’t know, global warming? Brick-laying techniques? The total incomprehensibility of IRS tax form “instructions”? Something else that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s going on in this chapter?

Well, call me crazy, but I’mma choose to talk about what is actually happening in the book I’m reading, and save my thrilling and extensive rant on the utter fuckery that is U.S. tax law for where it’s relevant. Which, protip: is NOT HERE.

You know what is relevant here? A discussion about gender roles in ASOIAF. So guess what you’re getting. Go on, guess, you’ll never figure it out!

(Sheesh.)

So, rather than find a way to express my rage over the way Brienne is constantly treated that doesn’t involve lots of capslocked profanity and random keysmashing, I kind of want to take a more meta look at the way sexism and misogyny has been portrayed as a whole thus far in ASOIAF, and how I’m beginning to think that it is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Because, on the one hand, Martin has thus far shown a nearly uncanny accuracy in nailing a portrayal of a society positively rife with endemic misogyny, not only in the more obvious and blatant behavior that almost anyone can see, but also in the more subtle and insidious iterations that are frequently more difficult for your average person to see and/or articulate as sexist, embedded as we are in our own still highly gender-biased society. So obviously Martin gets many kudos for that from me, because making sure that people know that a bad thing exists in the first place is a crucial and unskippable step in one’s campaign to make sure that it hopefully someday stops happening. It’s a lot harder to deny that something is a an actual thing when people (or authors) are able to be all NO, LOOK HERE IS THE THING IT IS REALLY HERE NO YOU DON’T GET TO SAY IT ISN’T HERE BECAUSE LOOK, IT’S HERE. This is why representation matters.

Tarly’s speech to Brienne in her flashback in this chapter is a perfect example, in that it is an absolutely infuriating classic portrayal of gendered victim-blaming: through the magic of misogyny, every knight who has decided to act like an giant pulsating asshole to Brienne, to taunt, mock, dismiss, and dehumanize her is automatically absolved of culpability for his actions. Because of course it is taken as a given that the knights’ behavior is not only Brienne’s problem, but it is also her fault, for her horrific and inexcusable crime of not neatly slotting into the role she was assigned without her consent, regardless of how well or ill-suited she was for it, because she happened to be born with a vagina instead of a penis and no other consideration factors into it. And no one even notices how completely bananas it is, to assign blame for an action on the one person involved who didn’t actually do that action.

So on that hand, I like that ASOIAF is so very cognizant of the Catch-22 nature of sexism and is not at all shy about shoving that in the reader’s face.

On the other hand, however, I am beginning to find that ASOIAF’s relentless commitment to showing the darker side of humanity (in all aspects, obviously, not just gender roles) sometimes seems to be less about hanging a lampshade on issues that need to be fixed, and more about just wallowing in the mud those issues create, so to speak. In other words, a lot of times there seems to be a strong thread of what I can only describe as hopelessness running through this series, that seems to say “people suck, and they will always suck, and there’s nothing to do about it but lie down in the gutter and be eloquently despairing of it all.”

And, you know, I get the basic emo appeal of that attitude, because there definitely is a certain terrible beauty to the idea of social entropy, or at least social stasis (i.e. nothing about human nature can ever really change, or ever will), but I find I have a strong problem with it as well, particularly as it applies to gender dynamics but really just in general.

Believe it or not, at the end of the day I am an optimist at heart. And it’s really not all that surprising when you think about it, because I don’t think any true feminist (or, indeed, any advocate of any kind of positive social change) can be anything else. I wouldn’t bother spending so much time and effort in pointing out what I feel is flawed in our society, after all, if I didn’t think that doing so might help to change it. Otherwise what’s the point? All the super-fun aggro and random hate you get for doing it? Yeah, no. It’s because you believe (or at least hope) that speaking up about these things, that pointing them out over and over again, will help to change them, and thus make things better than they were before.

Believing that humanity can better itself is an inherently optimistic outlook, of course. And I sometimes wonder, in reading ASOIAF, whether its often flawless portrayal of its world’s often stupendous flaws is worth anything if it isn’t also accompanied by the hope that some of those flaws could improve.


There’s probably more here to be said about what actually happened in the chapter, but this is too good a place to stop, so we are. Stopping, I mean. Talk amongst yourselves, and let’s see if we can’t better the tone of this one small corner of the Internet while we’re at it, right? Be excellent to each other, and I’ll see you in two weeks!

152 comments
thecrocery
1. thecrocery
no thoughts on how much of a jerk Sam's father is when you finally get to meet him?

I was at least hoping for some no wonder sam hates his father thoughts.
thecrocery
2. Fuzzy_Dunlop
I'm ok with you talking about what ever topic you would like Liegh... But I would really like to hear your opinions on Brick Laying techniques... Just saying
Rob Munnelly
3. RobMRobM
Leigh - beautifully put. I view Martin as a feminist writer and agree that is a key focus of the text and, by direct connection, your blog posts.

But ... now you know why many people consider FFC their least favorite ASOIF. The crows are a-feasting and it's awfully depressing here in Westeros. One hopes it is middle book syndrome, followed by plot upswings as we move towards the end game, but we are looking pretty nadir-ry at this point in the tale.
Pat .
4. dolphineus
Leigh, I've taken issue with some of your rants before, but I have to say you are 100% on point here. This chapter really hammers home how sexist most of Westeros is, from Lords all the way down. Tarly is by all accounts a fine soldier and tactician, but we know from his son that he is a giant douch-train.
thecrocery
5. Shawn P Cooke
I totally get that hopelessness you're talking about. Let's say life is Neapolitan ice cream. Chocolate is happiness, strawberry is despair, and vanilla, I dunno, I'm going to say ennui.

Martin has been serving up a big old scoop of strawberry, with just enough chocolate mixed in for you to miss it. Those bits of chocolate are that much sweeter given how far apart they are.

Contrast that with The Wheel of Time, which had a lot more chocolate (and to be fair, some of that boring vanilla in places) with not nearly as much strawberry.

Is A Song of Ice and Fire more "realistic"? Well, it certainly tackles the type of ice cream that other fantasy novels don't. But I'd say it's still out-of-balance, just in a different direction.

To strain the metaphor to the breaking point, Leigh, you are eating this particular bowl of ice cream in a way that few other people do. Instead of rushing through the parts that are less enjoyable, you're eating it a bit at a time in measured spoonfuls, where every tiny bit passes over the taste buds. I wouldn't be surprised if you're getting sick of the flavor.

Oh, and my apologies if you like strawberry ice cream best. The metaphor had to pick a side.
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
I would pay money to see Sam and Brienne interact. That is an odd couple worth 'shipping.

Pretty funny that Brienne's guess is 100% correct, but that Tarly seeks to persuade her otherwise.
thecrocery
7. Lyanna Mormont
Randyll Tarly is so utterly hateable. This, on top of what he's done to Sam. Yeach.

In all the awfulness of Brienne's flashback, what gets to me the most is the line about how, out of all the things Hyle Hunt did to get on her good side, the one that meant the most to her was that he "even trained with her one day." Says a lot about what Brienne's daily life was like.
thecrocery
8. M. Andrew Patterson
Loved this. So on point. Having read the first 4 books, I can agree with the "everyone sucks and then dies and nothing gets better" feel for the series. Probably the reason I haven't read anymore of it.
thecrocery
9. litg
I waffle back and forth all the time on optimism about the human race. On the one hand, I think that by and large humanity is far better off than it was hundreds of years ago, which would lend credence to your suggestion that humans can (and do) better themselves in aggregate. I really do identify with the MLK quote "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

On the other hand, a lot of that betterment can at least partly be linked to an improvement in technology (medical, agricultural) which eases a lot of the existential crises that so inform some (not all) of our most awful behaviors. So there's always the creeping fear in the back of my mind that if all our creature comforts were to suddenly vanish, a great deal of the societal progress we've made would vanish with them. Not all, and not with everyone, but it's much easier to focus lots of energy on personal and societal improvement when you aren't worried where your next meal is coming from or whether someone will try to kill you for it. So I guess I would say that while humans can and do improve themselves given the means, those improvements are as fragile as they are beautiful.
thecrocery
10. TG12
You've hit on a fine point, one that is also not original (I say that not as a criticism!) People have been arguing for years about whether ASoIaF is too relentlessly negative in its view of humanity and its assembled flaws, or whether there's a line of hope and/or optimism that we readers can grasp on to.

I tend to think it's mostly a subjective answer to the question, and it's going to vary with each reader and what they bring to the reading experience. For myself, I recognize that there's an awful lot of grim sh*t that goes down, but I also discern characters who are fighting the social and moral entropy, and it's their struggle itself that often gives hope. But that's me.
thecrocery
11. zambi76
This is getting a bit too meta (don't care if it's about taxes or feminism) as in you don't even say anything about the content of the chapter anymore? Color me dissappointed.

Tarly's victim blaming (and that oh-so-unfunny knights wager) is typically misogynist of course (don't talk to my Dad about sexual assault or rape, he is exactly like that, plus he even seems to find it hilarious. He just doesn't get it. He really doesn't.)

Of course this chapter needs major discussing in this regard (I think most complainers just don't want it to be the major topic of every chapter), but I would have liked some reference to the actual story told too.
Deana Whitney
12. Braid_Tug
So, I was reading Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance and ran across this gem. Which can be shared as a non-spoiler because it’s the words one of the characters wrote, but does not related to the story.
I read it and wondered how much influence Leigh has had on Sanderson, or if he’s just a guy who “gets it.” Have been waiting for the right ASoI&F post to share, this is it. Because Cersei just crazy. Brienne is amazing & Tarley is an ass.
“What is a woman’s place in this modern world? I rebel against this question, though so many of my peers ask it. The inherent bias in the inquiry seems invisible to so many of them. They consider themselves progressive because they are willing to challenge many of the assumptions of the past.
They ignore the greater assumption – that a “place” for women be defined and set forth to begin with. Half of the population must somehow be reduced to the role arrived at by a single conversation. No matter how broad that role is, it will be – by nature – a reduction from the infinite variety that is womanhood.
I say that there is no role for women – there is, instead, a role for each woman, and she must make it for herself. For some, it will be the role of scholar; for others, it will be the role of wife. For other, it will be both. For yet other, it will be neither.
Do not mistake me in assuming I value one woman’s role above another. My point is not to stratify our society – we have done that far too well already – my point is to diversity our discourse.
A woman’s strength should not be in her role, whatever she chooses it to be, but in the power to choose that role. It is amazing to me that I even have to make this point, as I see it as the very foundation of our conversation.”
Words of Jasnah Kholin
Written in a society where men are not “allowed” to learn how to read and write the common language, only glyphs.
Sanderson’s words makes the gender argument for me. Yet, we need to look at both sides.

There should not be a “man’s place” or a “woman’s place”, there should just be the role each person chooses for themselves.


Leigh, if it’s any consolations, this is one of the worst offending chapters with slap you in the face “You deserved to be rape” conversations.

I won’t say “It gets better”, however.
Adam S.
13. MDNY
No speculations on Nimble Dick and where he'll take Brienne?
This chapter is exactly where I hope for and expect a discussion of gender in Westeros. Brienne's experience at Highgarden shows just how bad it is, with her being so objectified by all the knights. But for me, the most powerful and depressing thing about it is that she feels that she owes Randall Tarly a debt. He stopped the men who were courting her and ended the contest, but he also blamed her for it to her face. What a douche (as we already know from Sam's recollections). He's basically a poorer (but not poor) version of Tywin Lannister.
thecrocery
14. andNowMyWatchBegins
Leigh. The last 2 chapters as I read them one of my thoughts was looking forward to the feminist interpretation you would be able to put them through.

Especially as I am singularly incapable of putting it through the same process by being born with a penis 'n all. The best I can manage is 'these ladies are doing good things despite a world designed specifically for preventing them' without really UNDERSTANDING their situation

I think the Hope for redemption is there in the book but not often for the person you are listening too. Dany is not only aiming to come as the rightful/vengeful ruler but also as an banner for the strength of women as leaders and general competence they CAN display when given a fair chance. Sam is showing that even people born to families that value might above all can make it as scholars. Its there you just have to believe!
Rob Munnelly
15. RobMRobM
Now I really wish that Cersei had taken Kevan's advice and picked Randall Tarley has her Hand of the King. That set of interactions would have been priceless. Randall with his gender issues and Cersei with hers, plus some power on her side. Win!
thecrocery
16. DaveOfHouseSuper
I haven't commented before, but I've been reading these posts since the end of A Game Of Thrones, and I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy the posts about gender dynamics because it is a core part of the books, and also a pretty serious issue in the world today. So basically fuck e'ry body else and write what you want.
George Jong
17. IndependentGeorge
I know I'm stepping into it here, but let me take a stab at the question of gender issues.

I have not ever complained about Leigh's focus on gender roles, but I think the issue is that she has an tendency to expend a lot of words trying to make sense of (without excusing) Cersei or Lysa's crazy behavior on account of gender discrimination, but not nearly as much when it comes to the likes of, say, Sandor Clegane's childhood abuse.

When it comes to Sandor, whatever sympathy he deserves for his past abuse, he is today a child murderer fully responsible for his own moral choices. The same should apply to Cersei and Lysa - and, to her credit, Leigh does exactly that after much hand-wringing.

But the hand-wringing is kind of the point - it is perfectly right and indeed admirable to factor in circumstances when making a moral judgment on a person, but it is wrong if that conflict only applies on account of gender. It's not that Leigh is just spends a lot of time talking about gender roles and social expectations, but the perception that she does so to give a bit of a pass to Lysa and Cersei, while dismissing out of hand any of the same considerations for the likes of Sandor or Jaime.

I also hasten to add that Leigh has made some of these exact points in discussing Cersei's POV, so I'm not actually criticising her for it. But in a very confusingly meta way, the very act of considering how to judge Cersei as a person versus as a woman actually makes it harder to disentangle judging Cersei as a person versus as a woman.
Shelly wb
18. shellywb
I felt the same way about the hopelessness the first time I read the series. When AFFC came out I stopped early into the book and walked away. Then when ADWD came out I decided to try them all again. I find there are some good things in there, like the way Brienne has influenced Jaime, or Sam's growing into a good and strong man despite his upbringing, and Sansa wising up. The good things aren't necessarily happening to the people we want them to, but they are there and more long term than sharp events you notice easily.

Re: the focus on feminism-- Leigh, it seems to me you focus on it when there is a reason to. I get annoyed when some reviewers here focus on that to the exclusion of all else, as if books have nothing else to say. But when the book has moments like this chapter or Cersei's, it would be wrong not to talk about it because it's a fundamental part of who the characters are and why they do what they do, and of our understanding of their world.
Deana Whitney
19. Braid_Tug
@15: Holy...!!! How did I fail to put the two names together? major and continuing memory failure.

That would have been...words fail me.

Thanks RobM2
Steve Nagy
20. SteveNagy
A good piece. Made me think about a lot of different things, about how how Martin might be working on a lot of different levels. Brienne and how we see her in light of the real world, but also how we might eventually react to the White Walkers when they finally climb onto the stage.
thecrocery
21. just some guy
I found it very blackly hilarious and old school in a 1950s sense that Randyll, threatened to put a Brienne in some woman's clothing and ship her ass back to her daddy.

"don't come crying to me if you get raped!"

Question: Would Randyll get along with Tywin, or is it just too much crotchety "get the job done" assholery in one room?
Sky Thibedeau
22. SkylarkThibedeau
AFFC is very depressing. The only redeeming quality to me is Brienne and Pod are a lot like Dunk and Egg. Heroic people in a harsh and cynical world.

I don't mind Leigh adding her own POV to the review. That's what makes reviews interesting seeing how different people see the same thing I see with another perspective. Liberty and Freedom of Conscience are rare in history and usually don't last long. The first thing to usually go is free speech.

The Middle Ages were a nasty time for Women and unless you were someone strong with a loyal following like Empress Maude or Katherine of Valois your influence was limited.

There are fantasy series where the gender tropes are upended like Catherine Wilson's 'When Women Were Warriors' but most aren't as well written as ASOFAI.
Cody
23. Tarcanus
I'm with zambi76 @11 on this one. I'm all for reading your reactions to the role of women in Westeros and their struggles, but can we also get some reactions about the plot, too?
thecrocery
24. TG12
@22 For me, I actually enjoy Jaime's thread quite a bit, and I love Arya's (although objectively speaking, hers is quite dark, no question).

There's also a definite horrific/awesome watching-the-trainwreck-as-it-happens quality to Cersei's thread, so there's that.
Deana Whitney
25. Braid_Tug
Link fixed, but can't delete the post.

Thanks Mods!
thecrocery
26. Xeb
I was never the one to complain about the feminist point of view, but I can see it getting a little frustrating when everything else is neglected for the sake of it.

"Because, seriously, I’m baffled: what else am I supposed to be talking about, here? "

The plot? The characters? No thoughts on Sam or his relationship with his father or Ranyll's sense of justice? What about this Nimble Dick guy, he sure seems sketchy? And who could this fool with two girls be?

I think that the feminist perspective is valuable, but I don't think that's why people are reading this blog, at least that's not why I'm here. I'm here because I want to see the books through the eyes of a newbie again. I can't read these books for the first time again, and that's why I was so excited to see this blog. I love seeing a different perspective on characters and the plot, I love seeing those perspectives develop though chapters, I love the speculation, the shock and yes, I love the feminism too. But you can only say so much about it in the context of the Song of Ice and Fire before you start to sound like a broken record.

It's a misogynistic world, that sucks. Rape victims should never be blamed for their rape, women should not be dismissed from certain roles based on their gender, but this is what happens in a misogynistic societies. Constrictive social roles are frustrating and destructive for everyone involved. People of Westeros are neanderthals who place too much value on traditionally masculine traits. Lysa and Cersei are evil and have some traditionally feminine traits, this may be problematic, or rather, it would be if there weren't plenty of good, feminine women like Catelyn, Sansa and Dany.

There, I summed up virtually every ASoIaF feminism related rant from 2011 to today in one paragraph.

I'm sorry if this comment comes across as rude, it isn't meant to be. I want you to continue talking about what you believe in (and what every reasonable human being should believe in), but it can become very tiresome when you continuously focus on only one thing and allow everything else to suffer for it. Try to limit yourself to a paragraph or two per chapter so that you can also write about your thoughts on the way the plot is going and the characters in it. The world is very rich and the chapters are usually very eventful, full of hints and character development. Breinne's chapter especially, I found, are very rich with world building, foreshadowing and give us an extremely well done and intimate look into a very sweet and admirable character. We don't get a lot of those in ASoIaF, and we don't have a lot of those who happened to be female in fantasy in general. Focusing one only one, though important, aspect of a chapter feels like a waste.
Brandi Carrier
27. Brandi
I agree with a lot of Leigh's comments, and I think this is definitely an appropriate chapter for a discussion of gender issues. It's important to understand the hardships Brienne has gone through. I'd guess that, unfortunately, many of us female readers are none too surprised at the particulars of her experience. I wasn't surprised at least, it was more like 'Yup, that sounds about right.'

I would argue that even though Brienne is self-conscious and probably has other issues as a result of all this taunting and mistreatment, it shows an amazing amount of strength that she hasn't let it chase her into hiding, or change the way she comports herself, or her idealism in believing that people can act with honor. She doesn't seek revenge but just continues on, and acts with honor herself despite how she's been treated.

I also love Brienne and Pod together, and just as Pod didn't judge Tyrion based on his height, he also doesn't discriminate against Brienne for being a woman and is more than happy to squire for her and learn from her. I see this as a positive note that there are people out there, even in ASOIAF, that aren't so quick to shape their perceptions and behaviors based on societal norms.

I would disagree with the idea that GRRM is wallowing in the negative aspects of human nature, for the most part anyway. I see it as realism. IMO many of the disturbing behaviors and points of view in this world are identical to what we would see in the real world under these circumstances. Human nature is what it is and there will always be individuals who act only in their own self interests or for their own pleasure. I think a prettier version of the story where people aren't willing to go to such horrible lengths to get what they want just wouldn't be the story GRRM is trying to write.

That doesn't mean society as a whole can't change, and in doing so place more pressure on the individual to deny their baser instincts. But in a world at war with a potentially decade-long winter coming, I find the scale of negative and horrible actions to be pretty realistic.

I also think that there is hope in the story. A lot of our favorite characters are still plugging away trying to make their little bits of the world safer or more stable while NOT acting like giant douchebags, and I think that's why we keep reading and hoping for the best for them.

Seeing Cersei and Randyll Tarly interact as Queen Regent and Hand of the King would have been brilliant.
Chris Nelly
28. Aeryl
Leigh, I feel your pain about the endless hopelessness of the series. I am of the opinion that this is an apocalypse tale, not in the Buffy sense, but in the Biblical sense, of destroying the world to remake a new one. And before you can get people on board with tearing down the old world, you have to show how bad it is.

So while I get that hopeless feeling, I truly believe that the endpoint is about justice, and the ending will be more uplifting than we imagine it to be.

Also, +1000 on the feminist critique of these books. It's not a topic that can be avoided, and every POV contributes to this critique.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
Also, to everyone who is complaining that Leigh is ignoring parts of the plot, that is part of the reason wht GRRM constructs these chapters this way. I too was blinded with my anger at Tarly's treatment of Brienne to pay attention to the minor details, which is the entire point, IMO, and if you aren't blinded by anger, well, we aren't the ones with the problem here.

GRRM has consistently hidden important plot information while using outrageous actions by extraneous characters to anger you and make you forget it. But again, when that anger plays into Leigh's feminist critique, then it's a problem.
Tom Smith
30. phuzz
Somehow I never picked up that Randyll is Sam's dad. Too many characters for me to keep track of.
It did make me think about Sam and Brienne's experiences. Both wanted to do something other than the role that society had assigned their gender.
However, Brienne has actually managed to live her dream of being a knight. Yes she has an incredibly hard time of it, but Sam has been forced into the martial life he wanted to have nothing to do with.
I would like to see the two of them meet and compare notes. They could bond over how much of an arsehole Randyll Tarly is :)
thecrocery
31. DougL
The kind of darkly hilarious thing is that discussing sexism draws out the exact kind of people we are talking about in large numbers. The irony is fantastic if you don't really care. The only people who jump on you for this are, at best, wishing you had discussed some other point they found interesting, or at worst stupid (insert bad word here) people you should completely disregard.
thecrocery
32. KatherineMW
I agree with you about the pervasive sense of despair in ASOIAF. It's problematic, because the overwhelming message is that if being a decent person brings nothing but grief, failure, and death for yourself and others, what's the point? What's the use of a series whose constant theme is "everything is terrible, and the good guys lose" ("lose" in the sense of either dying or ceasing to be good)? The longer the series has gone on, the worse it's gotten in that regard.

At this point I'm only sticking around for dragons vs. ice zombies, which, as you can guess, makes AFFC feel really pointless.
Yuliya Bagriy
33. Aviskase
I cannot fully agree with this "Randyll Tarly - ass". As it always with GRRM,nobody is white or black, it's only shades of gray. All we had before were Sam's stories, but after this chapter I have some doubts about Randyll. He doesn't look here like totall monster. IMHO, his impovised court was just. In fact, I see him a good ruler. Brienne said that rape was punished in his army.
Moreover, yep, he's rude, but he looks caring towards Brienne. It's strange kind of caring... simple example: mother who forces child to wear warm clothes when he isn't cold. This abstract mother thinks that she knows better what is needed to child and can't hear him. So does Tarly - he thinks that for Brienne will be better become "normal" woman. He put stop to past wager and prevent raping her, his "don't come to me if someone raped you" sound rude - and exactly opposite in the meaning.
I read some chapter ahead of Leigh and can be wrong, but as I see now, Randyll is very complex. With all his rudeness and unjustness to Sam, he maybe even sympathizes Brienne - even this "wench" is better warrior than his first-born child. Yeah, we, modern all-in-white people can say that it is bullshit, but in his perception of the world it means a lot...
thecrocery
34. zambi76
... and if you aren't blinded by anger, well, we aren't the ones with the problem here.
What?

Aeryl, did you just call everbody who doesn't read the books like you read them misogynist?

This and all those little awful digs at AFFC in every second comment, maybe I really need to stop reading this blog.
thecrocery
35. Crusader75
Tarly has enough of a sense of propriety to end the"game" his knights were playing on Brienne, That meant he had to exercise his authority over men who are loyal to him in favor of someone he neither likes nor really trusts, so he resents and blames her for it. It is not a nice reaction, it is not a just reaction, but it is rather human. The misogyny is largely an excuse, with someone else, he would have expressed his resentment for different reasons.
Rob Munnelly
36. RobMRobM
Double post (see no. 37 below).

Off point - is anyone else here excited about Orphan Black Season 2? There is a feminist show that Leigh should be all over if she is not already. Mindblowingly good.
Rob Munnelly
37. RobMRobM
Leigh - keep on keeping on, as far as I am concerned.
Pretty clear that Tarly was an epic jerk without the need for extra explication of the Sam connection. GRRM didn't give much to speculate over with Nimble Dick, so it would likely generate only a shrug if additional text were to be added. This really is a sexism chapter - Brienne v. Travelers, Brienne v. Hyle, Brienne v. Tarly, Brienne and Pod working together, etc.

Re the dark tone of ASOIF - just because FFC is dark does not mean (to me) that readers should give up. GRRM is all about the arcs and I'm dying to see the upswings of the characters who manage to live. I can't talk about ADWD or the excerpts of WoW that are available, but I have hopes that there will be upward arcs and they will be that much better as a result of the low points we are seeing now. As the Greeks say, Knowledge Through Suffering. As Nietzche says, That which does not kill you makes you stronger. As Gandalf says, "Fly you fools." Etc.
thecrocery
38. Gregor Lewis
Martin's gift - NO! That's too benign a way to phrase it - GRRM's talent IMO has always been to present his story as a many faceted obelisk, where you have to walk all the way around a scene to get the whole story; the full view; the HD Picture.

The main theme throughout the series when it comes to Brienne has always been that of gender. Be it roles, oppression, values, expectations, etc... The way Brienne has been signposted from when we first meet her, has been as a victim.

Mostly according to others - though part of Jaime's growth into a fully fleshed character, instead of a cardboard-cutout miscreant can be traced back to being situationally forced to come to terms with WHO Brienne is, instead of WHAT she represents - and now that we're in her head, we see Brienne views herself much the same way.

The saddest thing about that is her 'conditioned' acceptance, in situations such as the Tarly flashback. It doesn't make her any less determined, but it does diminish her self-worth in her own eyes, because she unconsciously accepts the 'rightness' of how she is seen in the eyes of others.

While a contemporary perspective would RAGE at such an association, Brienne's refusal to concede is a quiet one, more along the lines of, 'he may be right, but I have an oath to keep, a task to complete'. She does that without consciously recognising just how completely her attitude disproves Tarly's cold misogyny, the overheated sexism of those who cried 'The Beauty, The Beauty', after having been both bested by her in the Bitterbridge mele & having to watch her win it ALL.

Hyle was one of them then, but his attitude at the city gates seemed more defensive to me. Someone who doesn't have the guts to acknowledge to Brienne what he really thinks, and thus reflexively reverts to the accepted sexist conditioning and hiding behind his master's authority both. The quintessential 'boy' punching the 'girl' because he likes her.

Tarly is the key here for the reader though. This is why I speak of many facets. In-world his 'justice', while nihilistically simplistic to the reader, works for the totality of the smallfolk he controls. However, his misogynist attitudes - while perfectly acceptable and expected in-world - make clear to the reader just how intrinsically strong & good a character Brienne has (even if she doesn't acknowledge it to herself enough, if at all), while revealing just how vulnerable Tarly is because of them.

There is GRRM's talent. The WHOLE story which allows a wholly realised fantastic setting to nonetheless carry organic contemporary resonance ...
... instead of manufactured fourth-wall shattering shoutouts that, although well written, take the reader out of the story completely, and have a resonance equivalent to standing INSIDE one of the bells of Notre Dame's cathedral, while Quasimodo bangs on it with a Mjölnir sized mallet.

grl
Chris Nelly
39. Aeryl
@34, No I said nothing of the sort. I said if you weren't blinded by anger at the mistreatment of Brienne, you have a problem. I didn't specify what that problem was, and I surely did not say that you had to read it exactly as I do. My personal thought is that a person who isn't blinded by anger at that is at least lacking in empathy. But I accused nobody of anything. If the shoe doesn't fit, stop trying to wear it.
thecrocery
40. Black Dread
@22 - The Middle Ages in Europe were a nasty time to be a peasant woman (or man), Eleanor of Aquitaine, not so much.
Either way, it was no worse and in many ways much better than being a woman today in most of the Middle East (Israel excepted).
Yuliya Bagriy
41. Aviskase
I want to add that from this point Randyll Tarly doesn't seem to be misogynist. Mostly Randyll is hard Oak who has traditions in his absolute. Traditions of his house, traditions of his society.
@38, maybe I did't understand you right, but I also think that Hyle likes (or more) Brienne!
thecrocery
42. Black Dread
@13 - I don't find it depressing that Brienne feels indented to Tarly.

Tarly, Brienne, and Stannis are cut from the same cloth when it comes to justice. Right and wrong without shades.
thecrocery
43. zambi76
My personal thought is that a person who isn't blinded by anger at that is at least lacking in empathy.
Oh, Jeez, thanks for that I guess. (INTP and not sorry. Sorry.)

But you seem to be right insofar, as to me it becomes more and more clear with every new AFFC chapter covered, that Leigh can be counted to the majority of readers who don't like/enjoy AFFC at all.

She pretty much stopped covering any plot points I find interesting at chapter 3 or so, which is my problem of course, and likely because AFFC is my favorite besides ASOS.
thecrocery
44. bookworm1398
A comment on the wallowing in the bleakness of it all - I know this series has a reputation for being dark, but it all depends on what books you compare it to. Its much darker than LOTR, but think of it alongside all the 'classic' books. If you really want dark hopelessness, there is Anna Kareina, 1984, Sophie's Choice. The story of King Arthur - all efforts to make the world better are doomed.
So far I'd say the series is no more than medium gray, there are plenty of good characters like Brienne whose spirit is not crushed by all the horribleness that they witness / experience. And they keep trying to make things better. We'll need to wait until book 7 to really see if anything changes, but there seems to be plenty of hope still.
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
Zambi - would love to see some nonspoilerish thoughts on what you are seeing in the chapters that Leigh is missing.
thecrocery
46. Lyanna Mormont
@33 - I tend to see Randyll Tarly as one of the least nuanced characters in the series. He's pretty much a caricature of the kind of man Westerosi society encourages men to be - competent warrior and leader of armies, good strategist, and cruel to everyone who sets a foot wrong in his eyes.

He tortured Sam by chaining him to a wall for wanting to get an education be a maester. He forced Sam to join the Night's Watch (and just imagine what his life there would've been like if it hadn't been for Jon) by threatening to kill him, just because he wanted his younger son as his heir instead. He tells Brienne that she brought that cruel treatment at Renly's camp on herself just by being there, and now repeats that if she's raped, it'll be her own fault.

And what you call a just court... He ordered a woman to have her private parts washed out with lye (and then she'd be thrown in jail on top of that) for the crime of having a disease. Any guesses on who she got it from? Could it maybe even be one of Tarly's soldiers? But no, she's the only one to get punished.

@ 35 - see above for why I don't agree that Tarly's misgyny is incidental. We have three separate mentions of it in this chapter alone, so, I'd say it's part of his character.

@ 38 - Yeah, I do think at least part of Hyle Hunt's behavior back then had roots in peer pressure rather than any deep contempt towards Brienne. As I mentioned in a previous post, it really stands out to me that he was the only one who was actually willing to train with Brienne. And sure, maybe he did that to get on her good side... but the others didn't, even then. And now he tells others how good she is, so he didn't forget, or re-write it in his head to make her 'just lucky' or anything like that.
thecrocery
47. zambi76
Zambi - would love to see some nonspoilerish thoughts on what you are seeing in the chapters that Leigh is missing.
Now that would me be going meta I think. It's nothing major. I just would like to hear much more of her thoughts on the characters, their development and their interactions than I do right now.

For some reason I thought it was much more in ASOS but maybe I'm just expecting to much because the character building in AFFC is definitely on a different level and maybe it can't be covered in such a read. I donno, I just don't get as much enjoyment out of this read anymore as I used to (which could be a parallel to people/Leigh not enjoying AFFC maybe?) and am whining a bit here.
Chris Nelly
48. Aeryl
@43, Like I keep saying, if the shoe doesn't fit, stop trying to wear it. All I was saying in the first place is that we all have moments where this book enraged us to the point where we ignored what actually happened in the chapter.

There were lots of hints and indications about what actually happened during the Purple Wedding she missed in joy at Joffrey's death, but that wasn't an issue, because being overcome by emotion was understandable. All I'm saying is that it's understandable in this chapter too.

And for the record, I like AFFC better than ASOS as well, and I'm absolutely fine with the way Leigh is talking about it, because what she's seeing in it is exactly what I saw in it, and this deconstruction is why I enjoy it so much.
Lauren Hartman
49. naupathia
@26: Everything he said.

I'm one of those who has spoken a couple times re: the amount of focus on feminism. I'm not going to rehash it, but I do think today's post was good other than I wish Leigh would go a bit deeper. Like why not discuss the dynamic of how Tarly treats Sam vs Brienne? That's also a sexist issue (since Sam isn't a "normal boy"). But whatever, it's Leigh's read and if her reaction is to simply see red over it and ignore the finer points, that's her right.

And considering this book focuses heavily on Cersei and Brienne... well let's just say I've resigned myself to the multitudinous rants coming our way.

Anyway, to leave that topic:

As others have sad, AFFC is very bleak. I don't think I dislike it as much as most - it can be a slow read, but I don't think the lack of action makes it bad. There's a lot of politicking and a lot of wandering around and a lot of focus on some non-favorite characters, but I get where it's going. But for some it may not be their cup of tea which is part of why I think AFFC gets a bad wrap - it is very different in tone and content than the previous 3 books. But considering I managed to finish Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn, this is nothing.
thecrocery
50. Black Dread
@45 Just me but...

1. Whiff on meeting Sam's Dad? Really? The guy is mean but smart and just (kind of like Stannis). He sniffs out the Dice cheat if I recall correctly and lops of some digits.

2. The Hound leading raiders, WTF?

3. Brienne getting misdirected away from the Vale - by chance? What would have happened if she showed up on Petyr's doorstep?

4. Who is the fool and the 2 women (obviously not Dontos and the Starks)?
thecrocery
51. GarrettC
If my two cents might be worthwhile, I'd like to take a second to paraphrase here. Now... how does the line go again...? Ah, yes.

Leigh is not your bitch.

I think that does it.
Brandi Carrier
52. Brandi
I just wanted to make a comment about the perception AFFC as being too slow/boring/disappointing, and of the series in general in terms of being "too depressing."

I think that AFFC suffers on first read because you're missing so many of the characters, and the action has significantly slowed down. If ASOS was act III of the original story arc, AFFC is act I all over again so of course it will seem slow. Let's be honest almost any novel will seem "slow" or "boring" after the second half of ASOS, but I think once you read through ADWD you can better appreciate AFFC.

The introspection and introduction of new characters were off-putting for me the first time through and I was pretty disappointed, but once I completed ADWD and did my first reread I appreciated AFFC much more. There's a lot more to be picked up in each chapter than just the plot and the character arcs on their own are quite interesting and well done.

I also think that the series feels more bleak and depressing the first time through when all the deaths and tragedies are most shocking, it did for me at least, but my outlook has changed on subsequent rereads. And the story and world-building, as well as the small nuances in character interaction and connections between various storylines are a lot easier to pick up a second time through when you're not so focused on the just following the general plot movement.
thecrocery
53. Blck Dread
Rather than feeling enraged at a fictional setting, why not examine how the characters deal with it?

Cersie, Brienne, Daenerys, Catelyn, Arya, Sansa, Arianne, Asha, and at least one more woman we meet in a few chapters, all deal with the sexiest setting in which they find themselves in very different ways. I find their thoughts and actions far more intriguing than the setting itself. Martin does a very interesting compare and contrast of some of their styles in this book.
Rob Munnelly
54. RobMRobM
@50 - That's what I'm talking about! Thanks.

@52 - Agree strongly. There are developments in ADWD and later in this book that make you look back and some of these chapters and say, wow, I didn't pick that up at the time. But too spoilerish for the spoiled to talk about them in this read. So, we must remain silent and wait for the revelations at the right time.
Brandi Carrier
55. Brandi
@54-I'm strongly hoping for a Leigh Butler reread of this series eventually, so she can really get into the connections across the whole series the way she has with the WOT reread. It's a lot harder to have discussions on a first read due to the spoiler issues and lack of the "big picture" including everything that has been written so far. It might be a lot to ask of her though, eventually even Leigh may get bored of doing (re)read posts.
thecrocery
56. J Town
I agree that Brienne chapters really do beg for a feminist discussion and fully expect one. I will also agree with those who might expect at least some plot discussion to take place at the same time.

However, part of the joy of the read is getting Leigh's reaction. We love it when she cusses and is funny, because it's Leigh and she's awesome. You have to take the feminist discussions too, because that also is Leigh. It's a package deal. Let Leigh be Leigh. I don't think any regular here will disagree that she is always entertaining and I would say often insightful. I may not agree with all of her insights, but such is life. I don't agree with everyone. And that's ok.

Oh and not to pile on, but I simply have to.

Aeryl,

"I said if you weren't blinded by anger at the mistreatment of Brienne, you have a problem."

From the same post:

"But I accused nobody of anything."

You accused no one of anything specific. Just a blanket "you have a problem" to a bunch of people you have never met who didn't react the way you did to something written in a book. Kindly stop assuming that someone who doesn't think like you do on any topic has a problem. Not reacting with blind rage isn't necessarily a character flaw, even if the offense is, in your opinion, deserving of such a reaction. And this is from someone who was, in fact, quite upset at Brienne's treatment.
thecrocery
57. Protar
So I thought I'd comment, not to comment specifically on the feminism issue, but more on the wider idea of A Song of Ice and Fire bringing up social issues merely so it can wallow in the misery of them. See, this may sound odd but I actually think that ASOIAF is a very optimistic series.

The humour in the series keeps things from becoming completely bleak. There's this undercurrent of romanticism and nostalgia about the past golden ages - and a major theme of the series is these older days coming back, exemplified through the return of magic to the world most obviously

Despite the awfulness of the world in which these characters live, they do do good things, they do get redeemed, the bad guys do get their come-uppance. People like Joffrey and Tywin are mouldering prematurely in their graves as much as Ned or Robb are.

Ultimately I think the series is realistically optimistic. There are shitty people in this world and ours, and there always will be. To deny that is just delusional. But there's so much good too, and I think Brienne is a great example of that. I reject any notion that ASOIAF is cynical, or wallowing in the mud of misery.
thecrocery
58. just some guy
@33 Tarly may personally be an ass, but the case could be made (like Tywin) that in the big picture more criminals are punished (along with the innocent), there is less violence as groups like the Bloody Mummers run with fear of Tarly's men.

The case could be made for Lawful Evil, but I don't really think he is a sadist or twirls his mustache seeing innnocents hurt. He is just an ruthless enforcer of the status quo.

i think the vast majority of us silent majority welcome Leigh's read into feminism. Its just that we get disappointed when other points and interesting speculations are left out. She usually covers everything well in the synopsis, so she hasn't "missed" anything, but even little nice stuff like the warm partnership between Brienne and Pod have layers of depth.
Chris Nelly
59. Aeryl
@56, J Town,

I was accused of accusing people of being misogynists, which I did not do, which is what I responding. Saying I accused no one of "anything" is a misstatement, you are correct.

But again, I did NOT state that if you didn't read it as I did, you have a problem. I said if you weren't angry at a character's mistreatment, you have a problem. I didn't say you had to be AS angry as I am, or to interpret as I do, stop putting words in my mouth. I didn't say to become blinded by rage, or you are a deficient human being. I was putting forth the idea that being blinded by rage, as we ALL have at some point or another in these books, makes us loose sight of the picture being painted, which is intentional on GRRMs part.
Yuliya Bagriy
60. Aviskase
@46 Lyanna Mormont, I know what he'd done to Sam. And it was very hard to write such words in my previous post, because before it was obvious that Randyll = evil. As to court. There were only 4 men on the gallows, 3 of them were "old" - Tarly isn't bloodthirsty. And let's count:
1) "Man who steals from gods" - cut 7 fingers. Just or not? Thumbs, the most useful fingers, are left. It is really "kind" punishment, because crimes related to religion usually punishable by death.
2) Baker who mixed flour with sawdust - 50 silver stags or lash for every stag he didn't have. Just or not? Mostly just.
3) Whore.
4) Sailor vs archer. Archer was accuser, but Tarly saw him lying.
So, from 4 we have 1 not-so-just. But is it woman-hate or whore-hate? Blame me, name me cruel, but Randyll isn't real, conscious mysoginist. Somewhere it was said that Sam could find protection from his mother. And he totally believe that his mother will take Sam's "son" and Gilly. If Randyll was real mysogynist this all wouldn't be possible. He cannot understand Brienne as much as he cannot understand his son. This man is all about traditions: man should be warrior, woman should be mother. With his son he tried to "make his world back normal". With Brienne he can do nothing. He is uncomfortable that's why he is rude. I even can imagine him gallant with "normal" women (because, again, traditions). But with Brienne his world perception goes wrong: how should he speak with her, like man or woman? Like knight or lady of a noble house?
Mostly all my words doesn't make any good sense))) I only want to say that, yeah, from our time Randyll Tarly is asshole personally.We can hate him for Sam, we can argue about his relations with Brienne. But he is really effective as a ruler (peasants said good things about him in thith chapter). Which rises the most interesting for me dilemma: does only a good man make good ruler?
thecrocery
61. adamas
I love how Leigh chews through all these chapters... the Greyjoys, Brienne wandering about, the Dornish...
All these sections are HATED by tons of book fans. All they want is more Badassery, and more plot progression to race toward the finish of the series. They want to see Arya to murder her way through her list (with little to no thought or compassion for how messed up and psychotic that is). The point of Arya's POV imho is about how messed up it is... not how cool it is.

So I am very pleased to know that Leigh gets it.

Don't let the haters get you down.

also, Spoilers:
If you have read all the books this blog has phenomenal insights about oft overlooked sections of the later books http://meereeneseblot.wordpress.com/
thecrocery
62. Son of An Other
"On the other hand, however, I am beginning to find that ASOIAF’s relentless commitment to showing the darker side of humanity (in all aspects, obviously, not just gender roles) sometimes seems to be less about hanging a lampshade on issues that need to be fixed, and more about just wallowing in the mud those issues create, so to speak."

GRRM didn't set out to write a novel on social commentary/issues. He repeatedly states in the interviews that he does that he is trying to create a world that is as real as possible. It's been said on here repeatedly before: The High Middle Ages were not a fun time, for anybody really. GRRM does an excellent (imo) job of capturing that reality and presenting it to us, along with his own fabulous story (cause I mean, come on, would we all even be here if that wasn't the case?) in a way that figuratively blew my mind the first time I read it. I could say a ton about the absolute realness of the characters, how the "good guys" have "bad" flaws and vice versa, but I don't have all day. I guess I just tend to appreciate the work GRRM has done as it as, a totally awesome work of fiction, and enjoy it as I can.

My personal exception to Leigh's rants is that it seems like she is trying view the events of ASOIAF through a modern day lens, rather than just accepting the world for what it was and moving on with debating the plot/story/characters etc. Someone earlier said that they read this blog to remember what it was like to read the story for the very first time. That's why I was here too. But the way the blog has moved away from discussion of the actual story into the realm of social commentary has definitely put me off of it as well. I suppose I will continue to check back every week, just because the story is too compelling not to, in the hopes that things improve, but as of right now I'm actually quite disappointed and have not really enjoyed the blog since really the end of ASOS. Just my two cents really.
Janice Boyd
63. scaredicat
There are two things that really hit me rereading this chapter. The first, obviously, is exactly how shitty Brienne's life as a lady knight has been. In addition, GRRM hones nicely in on the point that the humiliation that she has endured is more painful to her than physical injuries.

The second is exactly how incredibly shitty life is for the ordinary folks in war-torn Westeros. Podrick is with Brienne because everyone in his life has either died or left him behind. The farm folk, going to sell their eggs are "laboring in the traces" - pulling their cart as if they were oxen. And these are the lucky people. The ones that are doing well. The unlucky? Well, the outlaws are "raping every wench and cutting off their teats for trophies."

Randell Tarly is a brutal man. We know what he did with Sam. But this chapter redeems him a bit in my eyes. He's dispensing rough justice - but it is justice, not torture or sadistic amusement going on here. I could just as easily picture Eddard Stark in a similar circumstance meeting out similar punishments. Steal, lose a finger; steal from the septons, lose a bunch of fingers. Sawdust in the flour? A hefty fine. Try to weasel out of the fine? Lashes. Rapers are gelded or sent to the wall. This rough justice makes the area safe enough that eggs can make it to market.
thecrocery
64. Maddy1990
"So, rather than find a way to express my rage over the way Brienne is constantly treated that doesn’t involve lots of capslocked profanity and random keysmashing"

Don't ever apologise for that - is it weird of me that I was really looking forward to your rage on Brienne's behalf and specifically at gross victim-blaming Randyll Tarly? You did not disappoint. I don't understand people who think you talk about feminism 'too much' - especially when it comes to this particular chapter. Gender roles and patriarchy is a MAJOR THEME of these books. It's not like you're talking about something completely unrelated - GRRM describes himself as a feminist for gods sake.

I get what you're saying, this book especially is depressing but hang in there! I'm kind of similar in that I'm glad that stuff is in there because it's pretty clear to me that GRRM is commenting on how fucked up patriarchy is, but it can definitely be uncomfortable to read. It's kind of hard to know what his ultimate game plan is obviously because the books aren't done. For me what 'saves' it is portraying real complicated flawed women trying to live in this society and who clearly demonstrate how wrong that society is in its fucked up misogyny. But anytime we want to stop threatening female characters with rape would be great.

I just want to hang out with Brienne and give her hugs and make sure she knows how awesome she is. Because she's super awesome, and Randyll Tarly and all those dudes actually make my blood boil with rage. And that include you Hyle Hunt. Who knew I would be holding up Jaime Lannister as an example of how not to be an asshole? These books are breaking my brain
Chris Nelly
65. Aeryl
@60

man should be warrior, woman should be mother.

I don't know how else to explain this to you, but that sentence right there is pretty much the textbook definition of misogyny.

Believing that all people with a penis must fit in the box marked "man" and all those with a vagina must go in the box marked "woman" is misogyny.

The belief that Tarly will accept his son's alleged bastard, has nothing to do with loving his wife, it is rooted in misogyny, because it demonstrates that he will accept his son's "sewn wild oats" because that's what men do. This is misogyny.

Many misogynistic men are happily married. Most misogynistic men are perfectly capable of loving their wives and daughters and never think about them in the same terms as other women. This is misogyny.

Believing being beholden to tradition is more important than the choices living breathing people want to make for their lives? This is misogyny.
Margot Virzana
66. LuvURphleb
The part that struck me as the most depressing pard was when the couple and Brienne reach the gates and the men on the gate want to take the wife.
Brienne gets ready to defend the couple despite the odds then hyle interrupts with an insult to Brienne. He turns down the men trying to take the wife and she in turn thanks him for being a true knight.

The blame-you-for-you-deserving-rape issue is bad but i have a good counter argument and insult i could add.

But when common everyday folk commend people for their bad behavior because
It worked in their favor yet ignore the actual "right." Behavior is a tough pill to swallow.
Brienne cant get them to change their mind because circumstances didnt give her a chance to show her noble intentions.
And that to me is the source of my melancholy with this series.
Cody
67. Tarcanus
What Son of An Other @62 just said is pretty much how I feel as well, but said more succinctly:

"
My personal exception to Leigh's rants is that it seems like she is
trying view the events of ASOIAF through a modern day lens, rather than
just accepting the world for what it was and moving on with debating the
plot/story/characters etc. Someone earlier said that they read this
blog to remember what it was like to read the story for the very first
time. That's why I was here too. But the way the blog has moved away
from discussion of the actual story into the realm of social commentary
has definitely put me off of it as well. I suppose I will continue to
check back every week, just because the story is too compelling not to,
in the hopes that things improve, but as of right now I'm actually quite
disappointed and have not really enjoyed the blog since really the end
of ASOS. Just my two cents really."

I have no problem with Leigh getting into the social commentary. It's interesting, she makes good points, and it's relevant in a criticism of the novel kind of way, but I ALSO want to move on with debating the plot/story/characters/etc as well.
Chris Nelly
68. Aeryl
And again, half the comments are about the WAY Leigh is doing the review, instead of engaging with the material she didn't cover they wish she had.

Huh, wonder why that is?
Tricia Irish
69. Tektonica
In other words, a lot of times there seems to be a strong thread of what I can only describe as hopelessness running through this series, that seems to say “people suck, and they will always suck, and there’s nothing to do about it but lie down in the gutter and be eloquently despairing of it all.”

I started to really "give up" on the books here. But I am intrigued enough by the writing to finish. And I too, like RobM, consider George a pretty feminist writer. Loved your piece today.
thecrocery
70. Maddy1990
Also can people stop calling these commentaries 'feminist rants'. It's super condescending. I remember the first time reading this chapter that my main take away was being super pissed at Randyll Tarly and horrified at people being so shitty to Brienne. It's perfectly valid and normal for Leigh to focus on that rather than speculate on every plot point introduced in this chapter, especially as its very unclear at this point where it's going.
Rob Munnelly
71. RobMRobM
OK everybody. We're being our usual civilized selves but I'd recommend that we adjust the tone in a more mellow direction. Please. I like our little community and want to keep it positive. Thanks.

P.s. No Orphan Black fans on this post? I'm shocked and, if you don't know about the show, it is must watch TV. Short side note: on BBC America - Season 1 (ten episodes) is on demand (where available), streaming on Amazon Prime, and available for purchase on i-tunes. New Season starts April 19.

To whet appetites - named top 10 show by several major outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, Time and Huffington Post, and a top 15 show by pretty much every national critic; lead actress Tatiana Malany outright won two major critics best actor awards (Critics Choice and TCA) and got a Golden Globe nom; and EW.com named Maslany one of its dozen or so Entertainers of the Year along with Jennifer Lawrence and Sandra Bullock. Not bad for a small Canadian-US show on a network known for Dr. Who and Top Gear.
Matt Spencer
72. Iarvin
@60

You raise a good point that Lord Tarly's misogyny is really part and parcel of his staunch traditionalism.

@65

Isn't it also misandry then? Or is being forced to be a warrior acceptable, but being forced to be a mother not? I believe that the point @60 is making is that in some sense Randall Tarly looks at everyone the same - "You better fit in the box that I have defined for you" - and he applies that equally to both men and women. To follow the logic, you'd really have to accuse Lord Tarly of misanthropy! But that doesn't entirely fit the situation, just as misandry and misogyny don't entirely fit the situation, because Lord Tarly doesn't dislike all people - just the ones that don't fit his preconcieved notion of how people should be.
Bridget McGovern
73. BMcGovern
Hi, all--it seems like a good time to pop in as moderator, here, and echo RobM in saying that Katharine and I both appreciate how civil the discussion has been so far and hope to see it continue in a constructive, respectful direction! In that spirit, I'd also have to agree with Maddy1990@70--the term "rant" is a rather dismissive way of talking about other people's opinions; it's not difficult to come up with less loaded or potentially offensive terms, like "opinions," or "commentaries," and the extra effort would be much appreciated!
thecrocery
74. GarrettC
@70:

It's not just people calling them rants, which, yeah, is super condescending. It's language like "Just accept the world for what it is" that really alarms me. There's a point at which it stops just being condescending and starts reinforcing marginalization -- and it's not that people INTEND to do that; it's just that they don't realize they are.

If we looked carefully at some of the coded language going on here, we'd see a lot of people telling Leigh she needs to unbunch her panties, sweetcakes. And I'd wager that 100% of those people would either resist the thought that they were doing this, because of course we don't want to see ourselves doing this, or be horrified to realize they are.

THIS comments thread, I would argue, is exactly what Leigh is "ranting" about when institutionalize marginalization rears its head in the books.

Minus the rape.
thecrocery
75. Black Dread
@ 60 - "...dilemma: does only a good man make good ruler?" Or, is it possible for a good man (or woman) to rule? Ruling means imposing your will on others - with the rewards and punishments necessary for obedience. It requires violence and pain. We have seen Daenerys and the Starks wrestle with morals and honor while trying to rule. Stannis and Tarly just do it.

@72 - Yes! Tarly is not a think-outside-the-box guy. Even Ned Stark was willing to sign his daughter up for fencing lessons.
Tabby Alleman
76. Tabbyfl55
I probably shouldn't be sticking my fingers in this pie, but ... here goes.
"I said if you weren't angry at a character's mistreatment, you have a problem."
Literally angry? As in you slam the book shut and storm away and are in a foul mood outside of the book for some unspecified period of time?

Because, if so, I have to ask: whom are you angry at?

Tarly and his knights? They aren't real. They're fictional characters.
GRRM? That's shooting the messenger.

Or do you mean an empathetic anger, in the moment of reading, where you're thinking along the lines, "oh my God, how can Brienne sit there and take that, I'd be chopping their heads off, lay off my Brienne you assholes!", but then you calmly close the book, take a breath and appeciatively think, "wow, that GRRM sure knows how to pull emotions out of his readers. Good stuff!"

Do you let a book piss you off so much that it ruins the rest of your day? Do you let it put you in such a foul mood that you end up (however unintentionally) taking it out on people in RL?

Because ok, to tie this into Leigh's writing, and really, the first paragraph of the commentary was priceless. It is to laugh. Ok, so there's a lotta gender role stuff in this chapter, and we can talk about that. But we can talk about it in a "here's how the stuff in this chapter is like what's happening in the real world over there, and isn't GRRM insightful for this line, and that character in the book is kinda like those people and blah blah...".

But sometimes Leigh, and some commenters, come across (to me anyway) as being mad at a fictional character and "how dare you be that way you misogynist pig, I'm going to hate you until you change." And I'm just thinking, it's a fictional character.

Now the funny thing about it is that in THIS particular post, Leigh makes of point of NOT doing that:
"So, rather than find a way to express my rage over the way Brienne is constantly treated that doesn’t involve lots of capslocked profanity and random keysmashing, I kind of want to take a more meta look at the way sexism and misogyny has been portrayed as a whole thus far in ASOIAF, and how I’m beginning to think that it is both a good thing and a bad thing."
And THAT really made me laugh, because that's great! She called herself out on her own crazy. : ) And don't take this as a criticism really, because the crazy is often very entertaining, and it's the Good Kind of crazy anyway. Ok well, I'm in danger of rambling if I go any further, so I'm gonna ahead and click that "Quick Reply" button now...
Katharine Duckett
77. Katharine
@74 @76 Moderater stepping in here, again, to encourage everyone to tone down the rhetoric and engage respectfully with other commenters. Everyone's bringing up valid points, but please be extra careful about staying on-topic and not calling out anyone else with potentially offensive language. Thank you!
Valentin M
78. ValMar
The thing that strikes me most in this chapter (depressingly) is the matter of fact casualness with which the guards at the gate were going to have their way with the farmer woman- and, clearly, any other woman they wanted. Very grim.
Adam S.
79. MDNY
@RobM I enjoyed Orphan Black, and I posted on the commentary on Tor, but I have to admit the series didn't finish as strongly as it started. I'm going to watch the new season (at least the beginning) but I'm hoping it swings back toward awesome, not necessarily expecting it to do so.
thecrocery
80. Maddy1990
@74. Yep, I mean possibly I'm being oversensitive, but the tone is not great. Policing opinions, particularly on these kind of subjects as 'rants' or being 'oversensitive' or 'irrational' just reinforces exactly the the kind of thing that Leigh is talking about. And I'm sure people don't mean to do it, but that's the subtext.
thecrocery
81. Athreeren
I knew Leigh was going to love Randyll Tarly's stance on women. It would almost make you forget that it is the Same Randyll Tarly who tortured his son because he wanted to be a maester. And to consider we hated Jaime just because he pushed a child out of a window after having sex with his sister... We were so innocent back then...
thecrocery
82. Black Dread
@74 - If you can't accept the setting of a fictional fantasy novel, why read it? You don't have to like it, but if you don't accept it, it's just a pile of printed paper.

If I couldn't accept Larry Niven's "Known Space" or Jordan's "Wheel" setting, I would never have read Ringworld or any of the WOT sequels. There have been plenty of historical books and movies where they did get the setting wrong in my opinion and I did drop out.
thecrocery
83. Bill D5
One of the real complaints about fanatics (as opposed to subjective distaste for the same) is how they want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but what is else is going on when so many fail to take note of Tarly's attitude toward rape, which is a bit more progressive than the boys-will-be-boys attitude most of Westeros seems to take, at least when it comes to warfare (and only specifically shared to Tarly's extreme by the much-detested Stannis Baratheon). For all that Tarly expresses his distaste for Brienne's behavior, he did and does little to stop it, aside from hurting her feelings, while the most prominent survivor of the gamers is still in his doghouse. Then too, Hunt and his friends were not actually raping anyone. They were attempting to encourage Brienne to engage in mutually consenting sexual activity. Or is there supposed to be a double standard for men enjoying themselves and those bold pioneering women who do the same?

Another commenter actually complains about Tarly punishing a prostitute for spreading a disease. Would she have complained if he punished a merchant for selling rotten or tainted food? A blacksmith whose weapons had sharp splinters in the handles and hilts? A shipwrighter who sold a boat with a leak? Punishing those who knowingly sell defective merchandise is justice, but the reflexive affinity for fellow females condemns this male who dared punish a woman.

Overall the issue of prostitution has been neglected in the series, giving characters like Shae and Tyrion a pass for engaging or indulging in it. We call someone who engages in non-sex-related activity a "whore" when they put a price on some quality that is not supposed to be a commodity, such as artistic integrity, or one's own respect and reputation when endorsing or supporting products or positions in which one has no real belief, merely an interest in remuneration. But what else is a prostitute? Someone who sells their dignity and personhood, who allows himself or herself to be objectified, and thus permits and tacitly encourages the objectification of their group.

Tyrion is totally taking advantage of desperate women, but he's our lovable little Imp, so no one calls him on it. While the way Tywin acts out his attitude, and his own hypocrisy in his private actions, are wrong, the attitude itself is not without merit. Sure, he is probably more concerned about appearances for the House, and the potential compromise by a sexual partner, as his father is said to have been, but a negative attitude towards such dehumanizing and exploitative institutions is not be despised, any more than settling for theives and murderers refraining from committing their crimes out of fear of punishment.

People love to complain about sexual double standards, but those are rooted in biology. Girls might get slut-shamed for the exact same behavior that is ignored or winked at in boys, but boys don't get pregnant. Boys don't have their lives (and often their family's lives) disrupted by the consequences of their behavior, absent legal compulsion or an actively responsible attitude toward such consequences (i.e. manning up and doing your share to support the little bastard), so there is less incentive, aside from whacky extremist religious prohibitions to keep sons in line. Although, again, it is the more hardcore and uncompromising types who practice such restrictions - Stannis, etc: Tarly might be despicable in his treatment of Sam and Brienne, but he went through an extreme effort before writing off the former, and it was the favorite son he raised who recognized a wrong being done to the latter and reported it to his father, rather than going along because these were the SoI&F equivalent of the cool jocks who were doing it. As extreme as Tarly might be, he is evenhanded in his treatment of men and women. He does not practice a double standard, but holds both men and women to their socially imposed gender roles.

Anyway, complaining about the mistreatment of prostitutes, or the sexual standards to which women are generally held, by citing bad male behavior is akin to protesting the punishment of pickpockets, because there are also burglars at large. I am not really aware of any explicit moral code in Western Civilization (including Islam) that holds different levels of sexual activity to be acceptable for men or women. Fornication is fornication. Men and women are both enjoined from practicing it, and from practicing adultery. The double standards in practice come from a failure to follow those codes and belief systems all the way through, and result from the practical necessity to curtail the activity of the gender that is most affected by biological consequences. There might be a degree of hypocrisy in the parent who quotes the Bible to a daughter in attempting to keep her from risky behavior while ignoring the same in a son, but that hypocrisy is in their citing a belief they do not practice in order to shield the family from real consequences of imprudent behavior.

And in the world of SoI&F, where there are no blood tests or DNA, enforcing responsibility on men who don't care to act on it is a difficult proposition, making the necessity of avoiding an unwanted child even more onerous on the women. It sucks, but it is no more a consequence of sexism than mentrual cramps (though either can be an incitement of sexism or used as a justification).

BTW, similar biological issues come about regarding women in combat, at least in a pre-gunpowder world. The origin of aristocratic and peasant classes is in the practical inability to be particularly effective at both combat and food-production. Knights are not noble or men who have access to nobles because it is a privilege of rank, but because it is only nobles who have the time, resources and liesure to train and arm themselves and their comrades as knights. That is, in fact, the reason WHY they have time and resources - because they are supposed to be protecting the peasants, who are then able to produce food, among other things, in peace. So the failure to arm and train women comes into play, because those resources (time, funds, steel) are relatively scarce, and better spent on the people who will be most effective with them. Adding in the fact that discipline in training and mobilization is better achieved without interpersonal relationships distracting the individuals involved, and restricting the employment of arms to a single, heterosexist gender makes good sense. From Tarly's perspective, however deplorable the behavior of the knights towards Brienne, it's better for the army to have that dozen or more knights, than one Brienne, no matter how good (in either sense of the term) she is. So again, from a practical perspective, driving out the one who doesn't fit, no matter how in the right she or he might be, is morely likely to result in a win. A better man than Lord Randyll might have put it differently to Brienne, but he'd have either removed her from his army or else accepted the inefficiencies that came with it.

And even in a hypothetical society where you can encourage men to ignore natural instincts against homicide and danger without making them into huge assholes, putting women en masse in the army is good way to be short of workers and fighters a whole generation hence. Robert Jordan, the combat veteran was aware of this, and we see in WoT that the most martial societies are the most sexist (Moiraine attribute's Rand's reluctance to kill women to his being raised in a culture with a Borderlands mentality) regarding warfare. This is because a culture that lets women die in large numbers, does not last long, through personnel shortages, if nothing else. The warlike Aiel compensate by taking explicit steps to minimize the removal of Maidens from the breeding pool (i.e. making them step down while pregnant, and arranging for the children to be raised by a non-combatant woman, while removing any social stigma from such births), and by having polygamous relationships, whereby a shortage of breeding males can be compensated for (THAT, not sexism, is a more likely reason why Leigh's oft-cited wish to see a polyandous Aiel trio was never fulfilled).

And we see in aSoI&F that the warrior women of the Seven Kingdoms support such ideas. Brienne, Asha Greyjoy and the Mormont ladies are all from outlying islands, where attackers can rapidly approach before the men can be gathered and deployed for defense, while the Dornish, as we shall see, draw their female warrior acceptance from a riverine culture, which would have had similar issues.

Likewise, there are the spearwives of the northern wildlings, but they, and the Dornish, are both underpopulated subcultures. Also, aside from the wildlings, those women are all from noble families, who have the luxury or time and resources to spare teaching women to fight with pre-gunpowder weapons. BTW, contrary to popular culture's assumptions, bows and crossbows are also weapons that require muscles to work, and thus are not more plausible weapons for girls. No one with long practice with a non-mechanical bow of decent range, has the physique of Kiera Knightley in "King Arthur", and while the TV show has Arya as a superior archer to Bran, the book written by a much better-informed writer has her completely ignorant of the weapon, and training with one that plays to physical attributes that women share in equally with men: reflexes, agility and, loathe as I am to admit it where my mother or sister could conceivable see this, intelligence and observational acuity.

In short, biology, and in particular, reproductive biology is a real factor in the sexual standards and military issues imposed on women, especially in a pre-gunpowder, pre-pharmaceutical culture like aSoI&F or tWoT.

Oh, re: the greater sexism debate, write what you want, Leigh. But it is not a mark of strength to be so obviously affected by mere words from other people, particularly in a narrow situation where you are the one with all the power and they can literally do nothing to stop you. Complaining about the criticism could be construed as a form of tone policing or silencing, if you look at it in a certain way.
Janice Boyd
84. scaredicat
There's an ironic symmetry - the soldiers' "game" of tormenting the farmer woman is ended by the same knight responsible for starting the knights' "game" of tormenting Brienne.

----

It does occur to me that GRRM is blowing up another fantasy trope here; I'll call it the Mulan trope. The Mulan trope is when a cute young girl takes up arms, is unaccountably good at fighting, and earns high honors and respect for her fighting as a knight or warrior in a male-warrior culture.

Brienne is everything a woman would have to be to succeed in the physically demanding role of a knight. She's not a cute little thing. And I sadly doubt that she is going to be feted and celebrated for her honorable knightly achievements. That's the beauty of this character. She keeps going even though she knows this.
Adam S.
85. MDNY
@84 That's a good point. I have wondered before how much of the attitude Brienne faces is because of her looks, as opposed to just her gender? No doubt that women face obstacles that men don't, but it is interesting to consider how Brienne would be treated if she were a beautiful warrior maid instead of an ugly one. My guess is she would get more respect, and not just from the men in Westeros but from the women as well (who Brienne notes are often even crueller than the men).
I see many similarities between Brienne and Sam. They are both from rich, famous, ancient noble houses of Southern Westeros, both have suffered for not fitting their stereotypical roles in society (Sam as a warrior, Brienne as a noble maid). The big difference between them is that Brienne seems to have had a supportive, loving father while Sam...didn't.
thecrocery
86. GarrettC
Don't believe in misandry. The word exists, but it's not meaningful.

-isms and -andries, like racism or sexism or misogyny are oppressive forces -- forces that push groups down and/or benefit the group in power. Groups can only be pushed down when there's another group over them.

Misandry implies that men are being held down, but there's no social group above them to apply this force. Things we typically ascribe to "misandry" are just misogyny, working through the back door. Men can only be warriors? This LIMITS men, sure, but the warrior mentality HURTS women.

Feminists, fighting misogyny, have long held that part of combatting misogyny is promoting the idea that men are good, too. Because the idea that men are bad is just misogyny playing the long con.
Sasha P
87. AeronaGreenjoy
The story is in a peculiar phase at the moment. The war has died down due to massive elimination of players, rampaging armies no longer supplement rampaging outlaws, order is actually returning to some places, and many major "villains" of books 1-3 (e.g. Joffrey, Tywin, Gregor, Lysa, Theon, Hoat) are dead or incapacitated. Now it's time for deeper exploration of relative-peacetime society, introduction of new baddies, and (if GRRM truly does have a misery quota to maintain) less dramatic forms of cruelty. Because most of the chapters so far have been voiced by, and/or centered on, female characters, much of this has focused on the many experiences of women in this culture.

I happen to love reading it. Almost every minute of it. I wouldn't want to live there (except as Asha, maybe) but find it fascinating to learn about. I feel bad about putting you through this if it pains you so, Leigh, but welcome any commentary you choose to give.

Only...call Randyll something nasty, pweeease? *puppy face* The acanthocephalan (spiky-headed gut parasite) deserves it. Torturing Sam? Treating Brienne that way?? Cutting seven fingers off some starving kid for looting an abandoned sept, so he'll almost certainly starve now?!

That said, I spent some time wondering why Randyll victim-blames Brienne but generally gelds/exiles rapists. I'm guessing he'd explain it thus: "It's my job to rebuild this area. If men under my authority rape an innocent woman who's come to support the town's fragile economy, it scares away business and gives the impression that I can't or won't control them. But if a stubborn girl goes off into the wilderness when she can and should be safe at home and some outlaws do what such men will do, that's not really my problem, is it?" That doesn't explain his excusing the knights who sought to seduce her and would, he believed, have eventually "taken the prize by force." Maybe the knights didn't think they were being cruel, but Brienne was clearly traumatized by their betrayal.
thecrocery
88. GarrettC
@82: It sounds like you're talking about the suspension of disbelief, which is not really what I feel like is being talked about here. People seem to want Leigh to suspend something else with regard to this world. Suspension of critical engagement? I don't know exactly what to call it.

The books themselves are critical of the regressive environment their characters live in. Why in the world shouldn't Leigh do the same? What in the world is so different between Leigh and George Martin that he can write a narrative that engages in criticism but she should refrain from engaging in the criticism inherent to what she's reading and just "accept it"?

The question itself is suggestive of one possible answer.
thecrocery
89. GarrettC
I just realized the moderator comment was directed at me previously. I have been trying to remain careful in my conversation here, but if I have been too aggressive or come close to it, I want to apologize to anyone who I disrespected. That would be a failure on my part.

I will, for the time being, move away from the screen and approach the thread afresh another time.
Matt Spencer
90. Iarvin
@86 I suspect any man that's hurt because he was forced to be a warrior would disagree with you that such role placement doesn't hurt men. Just like with misogyny, covering one's eyes and trying to say that misandryist tendencies don't exist doesn't make them not exist. It’s definitely takes different forms, and it’s definitely not as prominent - but it certainly exists! One place it often exists is in fringe “feminist” groups that have at times made claims that all men are ireformable rapists etc.

Additionally societal roles are often enforced by the very group which is supposed to fulfill the role, not just by other groups. To state that misogyny is men as a group oppressing women as group is quite disingenuous. Instead men and women both compose a society, and both the men and the women of a misogynist society place strong pressures on women to perform certain roles, just like both the men and the women of a misandryist society place strong pressures on men to perform certain roles. In the same vein, the opponents of oppression do not always consist of those that are oppressed. Because of this, I would disagree that there is any requirement for there to be one oppressive class. Rather there have often in the past existed external pressures on societies which encourage* certain roles for the survival of the society. Societies that don’t have such pressures are able to reform to a much more egalitarian state, but such cultural transformation takes a lot of time because the perspectives of an entire society have to change – not just the perspectives of the men in the society.

In conclusion, I agree that fighting misogyny is very beneficial to all of modern society. A society which conforms to pressures which no longer exist limits itself as its resources are needlessly devoted to countering non-existent forces. However, this once more argues that men aren’t some sort of overlords of society. If they were in such a “privileged” position, by definition wouldn’t it be beneficial for them to not give up their position?

@Topic in general: I just feel like throwing this out there. Per the dictionary, misogyny isn’t societal pressures on women placing them in mandatory roles. It’s actually an active dislike or hatred of women. Are the two inextricably linked? I keep on saying misogynist society – but it’s not like the society actually hates women, so I’m confused as to why two concepts are so conflated by everyone including myself.
Chris Nelly
91. Aeryl
@76,

Literally angry? As in you slam the book shut and storm away and are
in a foul mood outside of the book for some unspecified period of time?

Because, if so, I have to ask: whom are you angry at?

Tarly and his knights? They aren't real. They're fictional characters.

GRRM? That's shooting the messenger.

Or do you mean an empathetic anger, in the moment of reading, where you're thinking along the lines, "oh my God, how can Brienne sit there and take that, I'd be chopping their heads off, lay off my Brienne you assholes!", but then you calmly close the book, take a breath and appeciatively think, "wow, that GRRM sure knows how to pull emotions out of his readers. Good stuff!"

Do you let a book piss you off so much that it ruins the rest of your
day? Do you let it put you in such a foul mood that you end up
(however unintentionally) taking it out on people in RL?

How about none of the above? Anger can do a lot of things, but it doesn't have to be unreasoning, erratic, or extreme. Anger can be calming, valid, and rational.

I get angry because people shouldn't treat people this way. I get angry at the systems, that I can see reflected in our world today. I feel that the anger is productive, but honestly that's beside the point, so long as you, as you said, calmly close the book.

But sometimes Leigh, and some commenters, come across (to me anyway) as being mad at a fictional character and "how dare you be that way you misogynist pig, I'm going to hate you until you change." And I'm just thinking, it's a fictional character.

And mostly, I get angry because that's what the author wants you to do. Reading a book is you agreeing to be manipulated by the author. That's pretty much the point. I cry every time I see or read Dobby dying, because I think back to the time Harry tells him to never try to save his life again. Grief at a fictional character is no more an invalid way to feel, that anger at one.
thecrocery
92. WCjobber
I'm normally not one to do this, but I REALLY wish we'd gotten some actual plot analysis here, instead of the a lot of the same basic points you made last week vis a vis, feminist thought. It's a valid area of discussion, but man....you're really losing me, as someone who's interested to see a first time reader's "first blush" reactions to the plot itself, instead of getting into a ton of meta commentary. But then again, if that's your deal, that's your deal.
Julian Niquille
93. Gesar
Brienne is alive and being awesome, isn't that some degree of hopeful? If Martin really wanted to "only" bring humanity down, he could have just killed her in a random fight.
thecrocery
94. jaqen hgharr
Hah!

hah i say!

Humanity... :spits:

The only one who can change is the individual. And thats what this book is about, not some daiseys and disney frolics!

Thus i posit THE question to you: "What can change the nature of the man?"

:)

Misoginy scmizoginy. Its only a consequence. And its not like the oposite of that doesnt exist. The roots lie deeper.

As for Martin story of Ice and Fire, it is an indispensible part of it - because that is what makes every single individual act that raises above it all the more important.

Sneer at Eddard Starks honor, will you? Think him a fool? Praise the imps supposedly "not falling for it" eh? Deride jaime? Not so fast.
Not so easy.
Chris Nelly
95. Aeryl
@83

They were attempting to encourage Brienne to engage in mutually consenting sexual activity.

There was a degree of manipulation going on there, where she was to be have been shamed for that "mutually consenting sexual activity", and it would not have been seen as acceptable behavior for her to do. To believe they were just wanting to have mutually consenting sex is to fall into a trap.

He(Tarly) does not practice a double standard, but holds both men and women to their socially imposed gender roles.

This is irrelevant. His villainy comes from that. No one has ever once said that mistreating men for failing their "imposed gender roles" is ever correct and justifiable. It still says nothing good about him.

As far as prostitution, yes many fans give Tyrion a pass. I also don't hold judgemental opinions for people who "compromise their dignity or their person" for financial gain, and don't think that's a valid reason to demonize or abuse anyone.

but boys don't get pregnant.

The story has amply demonstrated that women don't have to either, so this is beside the point.

it's better for the army to have that dozen or more knights, than one Brienne,

No one is saying he can't have both? And beside the point, in re women in combat, while many patriarchal warrior institutions exclude women, when it comes to actual war, women have always fought, so this whole efficacy of combat argument demonstrates nothing. Women are excluded from warrior systems, because that's what patriarchal power structures DO.
thecrocery
96. GarrettC
@90

The dictionary definition is simply hatred toward women. The practical reality is oppression. Just like the dictionary definition of racism is hatred toward a race, which is really very neutral, but the reality is that particular races are not simply hated, but actively oppressed. I'm choosing not to be prescriptive toward the dictionary in my interpretation.

There's several things to comment on, but mostly I want to discuss where this conversation tends to break down, in my experience, and that's when we conflate groups with individuals.

Men being "warriors" clearly hurts individual men, as you say, like soldiers who suffer ptsd or worse, but as a group it ascribes men power. Power to be violent. Power to control. It doesn't bring the group down a notch, though individuals are lost collatorally.

Similarly, oppressive forces are enacted by individuals of both the oppressive group and the oppressed group. But when I talk about men as a group, I'm not talking about a group made up homogenously. Individuals are shockingly capable of crossing and breaking down boundaries that larger social units can't penetrate, but the larger social units persist.

More personally, though: As a straight white male and as somebody who attempts to be an ally, I feel no benefit to acknowledging the idea that any force is oppressing my straight, white, or male brethren. We enjoy tremendous privilege and tremendous power, and whenever I am disadvantaged individually I have to take careful stock to remember my position at the head of the herd.

But the other reason I reject misandry (and, for that matter, reverse-racism, and the other like terms) is because of what I see from the groups (not indidviduals) that embrace those terms. Misandry is the rallying cry of the MRA for a reason.
Sasha P
97. AeronaGreenjoy
This chapter also portrays a rare and momentary reversal of normal aristocratic values, with the potential rape of a noblewoman being more acceptable than raping a peasant.
Chris Nelly
98. Aeryl
@90, Dictionaries are biased, having been written by the privileged. And what societal power do these "fringe feminists who have at times" said misandric things? Yes, women uphold a MISOGYNIST system that polices men as well as women. There is no such thing as a misandric system. There is no equivalence.
Chris Nelly
99. Aeryl
@97, Ah, but the peasant was in her place. That's why men can go home kiss the wives and then go online and call for the death of women politicians.
thecrocery
100. Cass314
Late to the party this time, but I think that there are things that speak against the idea that "everything sucks and nothing gets better." The world of ASOIAF is a terrible place in a lot of ways, some of which mirror our own history and even present. Brienne's situation is terrible. But think of it this way--would she even be on this journey if Jaime, the giantest, child defenestratingest asshole of book one, hadn't started to "get better" to the point that he has learned to respect not just anyone but Brienne in particular enough to entrust her with this quest? That he even gives a crap about keeping his word to a dead woman at all? The overall tone is grim, but there are threads of hope running through it.
thecrocery
101. whatever
Don't forget the WoT reread. Leigh misses a lot, or at best decides not to mention a lot of interest to plot/theme/etc. Shouldn't we be more forgiving of a first time read?

I also haven't seen mentioned that Brienne has an important societal role she's forsaking: she's an heir.

There's also the problem that different readers read for different reasons. While I sympathize with the forest for the trees comments, don't forget that if those chapters were from Hunt's PoV, it's quite likely there'd be posts of why won't that bitch put out--I trained a damn monkey and went to great effort for food and entertainment for her, what else could she possibly want?
Sasha P
102. AeronaGreenjoy
@99: True, as I described earlier. But it's an interesting juxtaposition of events.
thecrocery
103. WCjobber
@101, that's fine, but then two chapters later when she's asking "Should I remember this person?" that was introduced a two chapters ago, it really muddles it for people that might be reading along with her when she goes on tangents like this, no matter how justified they are.
Don Barkauskas
104. bad_platypus
RobMRobM @71: I tried Orphan Black on your recommendation and burned straight through it. I can't wait for Season 2!
thecrocery
105. Black Dread
@88 - Suspension of disbelief is part of it. We have to accept the setting - which includes a Dark Age feudal society with highly defines gender roles. Spend the whole book raging at that background and you miss Brienne’s awesome stubbornness and persistence. Her absolute refusal to change or be diverted is awesome – and wouldn’t be revealed in a different setting.

@83 – I assumed Tarly was punishing the prostitute for giving his soldiers VD. Damaging the effectiveness of his fighting force would be a serious crime to him.

I wonder if the guards were really going to rape the farmer’s wife given the rough justice Tarly was dishing out. Once Hyle was there, they certainly weren’t going to fight or rape, since either would have had them answering to Tarly’s court.
Steven Halter
106. stevenhalter
Chapter 14 - Brienne:I can sympathize with Brienne's sense of confusion over just which unremarked wall was the important one.
... until he was discovered with a salted ham he’d stolen from Lord Tywin’s personal stores. Tywin Lannister chose to hang him as a lesson to other looters. Podrick had shared the ham and might have shared the rope as well, but his name had saved him.
This is a good example of why actual written laws rather than the whim of an overlord tend to be good things. Also, Pod hasn't done very well at getting assigned to Sers who last very long, not at all. Hopefully this trend of bad luck won't carry over with Brienne.
“We used to have an ox,” the old man told her as they made their way through the weed-choked fields, lakes of soft mud, and burnt and blackened trees, “but the wolves made off with him.” His face was red from the effort of pulling the cart. “They took off our daughter too and had their way with her, but she come wandering back after the battle down at Duskendale. The ox never did. The wolves ate him, I expect.”
"Wolves" or "Lions," the peasants suffer under either one. Not a pretty tour Brienne is on.
The Hound has crossed the Trident with a hundred outlaws, and it’s said they’re raping every wench they come upon and cutting off their teats for trophies.”
That's another rumor of the hound we have heard. Is it the hound, though, or just someone with his helmet? I suspect we'll find out eventually. Oh, and yeah, that's some more nasty behavior.
OK, Tarly is an ass:
“They were knights,” she said, stunned, “anointed knights.”
“And honorable men. The blame is yours.”
The accusation made her flinch. “I would never . . . my lord, I did nought to encourage them.”
“Your being here encouraged them. If a woman will behave like a camp follower, she cannot object to being treated like one. ...
We knew he was an ass from how he treated Sam, but not it seems he is also quite the complete sexist. Talk about blaming the victim. Pretty much a textbook example.
Then, after thinking on all of this discrimination and getting discriminated against in real time, Brienne goes ahead and finds Nimble Dick and gets a lead while all the various Sers are mostly jostling for the title of the most obnoxious person in Westros.
Feudalism sucks, oligarchs suck and all of the myriad ways in which humans seek to demean their fellows suck. GRRM sure points out a number of these failings in this chapter. We've seen a lot of the stasis of Ice so far, maybe some fire and change will come also. Dany is doing some change re slavery and there do seem to be glimpses of other plans afoot. We'll have to see.
David Corless
107. phonos
Yay for Steven Halter! I thought you were going to miss this week, but you didn't let us down. You're the reason I keep coming back.
C R L
108. Maac
Orphan Black is almost back! Amazon keeps sending me the free previews and I am getting antsy...

I tend to agree with the commenter above who speculated that what we're really seeing is an apocalyptic world that is about to change extremely radically -- and possibly be reborn into something else. Ragnorok style. Recently I've definitely found myself not actually giving a crap who gets the Iron Throne in the end, or indeed any of the thrones; worrying more about individuals not dying; and hoping every last one of these political squabbles gets revealed for the petty thing it is in light of SOME form of cataclysm. (Not a spoiler -- I don't know that there's going to be a cataclysm, I just want one.)
thecrocery
109. TheAndymant
I think the close discussion of feminism, particularly as you are eloquently versed in it, is very interesting and informative. I do, however, think you gloss over or miss completely opporitunities to discuss other contexts. I for one would love to pick your brain about how this Brienne arc fits in contextually with the other major female arcs in the series. I find it fascinating that Brienne is judged harshly for her descision to be a bold female in a bold male role, while Danaerys is becoming increasingly mythologized and worshipped while using feminine monikers like queen, mother, etc. There is no doubt that Danaerys uses her mythos to propogate her agenda too, namely by making the title queen something more than adjunctory to that of king. More on that in DoD!
And these in comparisson with Cersei who IS a queen and a mother in truth and is constantly disarmed by the men around her. And then Arya who camoflauges at every opporitunity, generally letting those around her think of her as a boy in order to survive. I think it would be a very interesting discussion indeed to break down each of those four roles, compare then, and contrast successes and failures, and speculate on the whys of each. Mostly because by this point, the heavy handed hammerness of the overtly sexist themes are redundant; I really feel like the addition of Brienne as a major character arc was Martin's attempt to tac on a new train of thought in gender equality than what has previously been established in the series.

Also, re: pessimism, I feel like the constant obliqueness of the series is at large with the central derterminism of its' characters' wills to survive. This is why I feel like ultimately the series is secretly optimistic. I think this is especially true in Jon and Tyrion's chapters (though Tyrion will get a bit.. well.. you'll see in DoD. More on that later.) This series certainly aims to demolish noble illusions that the fantasy genre tends to propogate about this late medieval time period of human history, but I do think it secretly believes that all of the hellish context of these times weren't completely worthless, else all of the characters would say "Why bother?" and slit their wrists and then we'd have a much shorter and less interesting.
thecrocery
110. TheAndyman
Argh typos. Wish I could edit those.
thecrocery
111. Gregor Lewis
How does that song by the Village People go?

'You can't stop the music...
...nobody can stop the music...'

Why are some so intent on stopping the music here?

I know in this age of enlightenment and technological advancement, there will be people who feel there's nothing they can't do. When it comes to promoting positivity and inclusiveness, that's a great way to be. When it comes to trying to change someone other than yourself - however wrong, misguided, incomprehensive or 'one-eyed' you may feel they are - that is an 'invitation to the sidetrack' (as my non-native English speaker father likes to say).

Writing as someone who took the long road to understanding this, with many ports of call along the way, learn from my experience.

Of course the easy solution would be to turn the music off. Many enlightened folk, bastions of inclusivity, have invited me to do just that in many forums on many 'sites' (both virtual and physical) over the years.

Instead I have learned - too slowly, but there ya have it - the best way to 'overcome' is to positively promote one's point of view. You will be insulted, but that doesn't mean you should retaliate. You will be baited, but that doesn't mean you should bite.

That doesn't preclude you from being positively insistent though.

If you feel - in this specific instance - that things are being missed in the Read, whether it be deliberately or through ignorance, don't complain (however politely) and definitely don't whine about it!

You can't stop the music. Remember?

Why not try to positively contribute an antiphonal response of your own, when the music stops? Don't wait for others to ask you here. Tell us what you saw, in addition to what has been presented. Give us something to discuss positively, instead of drawing us in regressively to carp on what is missing.

Now there's no need to be a lickspittling sycophant. I'm not advocating that at all. But there is no need to be rude and offensive either. Rather than emphasising the negative connotations of what is being presented with buzzwords like 'rant', 'tokenism', 'femmo-centric intractability', positively present your point of view ONLY.

Be silent on the fact of what was missing, while loudly presenting the facts as you read them (if you are reading along) or as you remember them (if otherwise). Let your silence on the initial presentation be an indictment, if such a thing is what you wish to display.

But, better yet, move past indicting anyone and try to include everyone with what you have to say (write). Don't be accusatory or leave yourself open to agendas and accusations that you are discriminatory.

Take what you can get from what is given ... And ADD to it ... as comprehensively as you can, or as succinctly as you wish. The choice is yours, but in however you decide to contribute, ( I say this from experience) try hard to ensure that whatever it is you have to say (write) adds to the discussion qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

grl
Rob Munnelly
113. RobMRobM
@ all - we are walking through some tightropes in the GRRM/Leigh/feminism/series tone discussions but are still upright. Way to go.

@104 - As Cosima would say, "Welcome to the trip, man!" MDNY - we differ on the second half of the season - I enjoyed it, both the straightahead plot and some of the odder side plots (Allison FTW!) - but appreciate your opinion. At this point, I'm a full-on addict.
Joanne
114. Joanne
Leigh, I usually do not have time to comment, but I do read your posts every week, and I just want to say that I really enjoy your commentary on 'real world' issues like feminism and how they are represented in the book. Please do not stop!

Discussing character interactions and plot twists is fun, but I think discussing a book is also about the impression it has on the reader. Obviously this is very personal, and can be completely different for each reader, but for me the commentary would be less interesting if this personal response and 'meta' discussion would be left out.
Jeroen van Berkel
115. Heronimus Rex
Gregor Lewis @111 - Thank you, that was very well said. Would you mind if I am totally going to steal your words and use it on other blogs? Or just about anywhere appropriate? Because they are totally worth sharing everywhere.

Aeryl @39 - And thank you, Aeryl, for the “If the shoe doesn’t fit, stop trying to wear it”. I am definitely going to use that one too. Good advice.

I remember the first time I read this chapter almost as soon as the book came out. I was stunned by this peasant saying thank you to Hyle for behaving like a true knight. It made me furious, foam frothing furious. I was so mad I actually felt my heart pounding in my chest. Because what the fuck why??? Why couldn’t he give Brienne what she deserved? Why didn’t he see Brienne was there all along to defend him a 1000 times better than Hyle ever could? Why couldn’t he thank her? Or could he and just wouldn’t? And why did Brienne not spit Hyle in the face? Or at his feet at the very least? Why did she not slam her fist into his despicable face? But of course I already knew the answer before the thought (and very satisfying fantasy) even finished: because she is a better person than me. Because she is stronger than me. In all the ways that matter.

And then she faced Samwells father… And I remember being impressed by the brutal effectiveness with which he held court. He was so harsh and swift and at the same time so… so just. Everybody got what they deserved. Of course I had to use the “don’t judge him by modern day standards”-trick all the time. I said those words in my head like a mantra over and over again. Because I knew I would only make a fool of myself if I did. Here is a hard man in a hard time and place. Being exactly what the place needed.

And then he started facing Brienne… And he started talking to her… Bloody hell. I remember thinking to myself: “Okidoki, Brienne, dear, whatever it is you feel compelled to do or say right now… Just. Don’t. Say. ANYTHING! to piss this man off.” And again she was the stronger person. I was reminded by a metaphore about a sword that needed a hammer and an anvil and fire to be forged into the right shape. And that there was no love lost between the sword and the anvil. That the sword needed all that pounding to become something beautiful. The exact words elude me. Anyway, I was reminded by that metaphore. Or maybe it was the other way around: me reading that metaphore somewhere else and being reminded by Brienne. Whatever! She kept taking it and taking it. Hurting and hurting and getting stronger with every blow. My point is: I felt this was like a test for Brienne. A test to see if she would speak up to this asshole and give him the medieval variant of the middle finger and to hell with the consequences. Which would be EPIC! HELL YEA!!! Or if she would keep her focus on the job, ignore the verbal beating, say yes and thank you, smile, agree and then go and do whatever the fuck she was gonna do anyway. Which was awesome in its own way.

And even now I am not sure if I’m happy with the choice she made. I know I should be, but still.
Sasha P
116. AeronaGreenjoy
@109: I think it might be a spoiler to say that (((we'll see more of Dany and Tyrion's progress in ADWD, which implies that we'll see them little, if at all, in AFFC))). Mods, any thoughts on this?

Also, you can edit your posts if you have a Tor.com account. It's why I eventually "took the black."
thecrocery
117. Gregor Lewis
@115 Heronimus Rex

Mate, your example here, above, is much more worthy of repetition/reproduction than my glibness ever will be. Just like lots of others on this read and on this website.

But if someone reads what I wrote, and it encourages them to cut through argument for argument's sake, with fully formed thoughts. If it gives them pause for long enough to let the baiting and insults slide by before positively presenting their thoughts, then ... YAHTZEE!

grl
Bridget McGovern
120. BMcGovern
Comment @119 unpublished. No matter how strongly you disagree with the opinions/interpretations of individual commenters, we ask that you keep your comments focused on the ideas and not the character of the person expressing those opinions and interpretations. This is a discussion about a series of books, not the place for personal attacks, so please let's keep the focus where it belongs.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
121. Lisamarie
Late to the party, but I loved the post. And I don't see how this ISN'T releative to the plot - part of the plot is Brienne dealing with horrible double standards. I can't think of any reread or read or rewatch where somebody comments on every single possible commentable part of the plot or speculation. I really enjoy seeing this perspective.

What gets me this time particular, is two things

1)Randyll's victim blaiming is especially egregious seeing as how we previously saw a farmer's wife come very close to getting raped - and she was definitely not acting like a camp follower

2)In Brienne's flashback, Randyll says something like, "They are honorable men". Despite them doing non-honorable things, they somehow are still deserving of this label, to the point that Brienne must be saddled with the blame so that they can still keep that precious label, a label which now has no meaning. In my community a man was recently convicted of serial rape (he drugged, raped and video taped multiple women over many years). In his defnse/ending statements, he begged the judge to see the good in him, it all happened because he drank too much, blah blah blah. Thankfully the judge saw through all his crap and flat out told him his problem was not that he was a binge drinker, but that he was a serial rapist and he was convicted and sentenced. But it kind of reminds me how some people try to say things like, "I'm a good person in my heart..." and then justify their awful actions.

I do think some of the comments on the type of person Randyll is...yes, he does have a certain justice about him, he may not be 100% evil in that he doesn't take pleasure in causing pain to others, nor is he going out of his way to take advantage of people, steal, etc. - and perhaps he really does even seek the good of his men and his realm. But conscious or not, he does do a great deal of harm, and doesn't view many people as 'his neighbor', in the love your neighbor sense.

The discussion on misandry vs. misogyny is quite interesting, I've never thought about it in that respect. I'm not sure I'm totally on board with the idea that misandry doesn't exist anywhere in isolated cases/people, but it has given me something to chew on (especially when considering structures and more systematic oppression). I suppose it's all part of the same problem.
Matt Spencer
123. Iarvin
@90 You make the very good point that the losses of individual men are sacrifices made in the employment of power. The next relevant question is to ask if there are other systems of power that are in any significant way realistically denied to men.

One relevant power would be the power of learning, but I think it’s pretty obvious that that power was not denied to men historically. Instead higher institutions of learning were traditionally male in composition, and women were denied entry.

Another possible power source that is relevant is sexual/reproductive power. It definitely can and has been used as a method for influencing decisions in certain instances, but it doesn’t strike me as a very reliable source of power, especially traditionally. Modern systems of communication possibly have turned this into a somewhat more reliable source of power as the multi-billion dollar porn industry attests to, but I think that that employment of said power is ultimately more harmful than beneficial to women as a whole. Besides, the ones who are reaping in those billions are probably Hugh Heffners rather than women.

So, I agree with you that if you define misogyny/misandry in terms of power the overall system has traditionally been misogynistic. I’ve been (mis?)defining misogyny/misandry in terms of freedom to occupy certain roles, in which context both terms are more relevant, but such usage makes it more difficult to analyze the power structures.

Samwell’s case is interesting though as a study of an individual male being denied power because of his father’s preference for one type of power over another. I think if you only considered the Tarly household apart from the rest of society, you could accuse the Tarly household of both misandry and misogyny. Lord Tarly would happily grant his womenfolk the power of scholarship, but denies them the power to bear arms. Likewise Lord Tarly would happily have granted Samwell the power to bear arms, but attempted to deny him the power of scholarship. So, on a micro scale Lord Tarly is propagating the denial of a kind of power to males, and thus is sort of practicing misandry.

Of course it’s more complicated than that, because he’s denying one type of power while attempting to propogate another type of power, so possibly its misandry fueled and driven by misogyny – which would mean that it was primarily a symptom of Lord Tarly’s misogyny. Huh.

@98
I agree that dictionaries can be biased one way or another - see definitions of marriage which obviously can be very biased. However I don’t agree that the definition of misogyny is an instance of bias, but like Garret pointed out it’s simply a case of prescriptive usage of the word vs. descriptive usage of the word. The “fringe ‘feminists’ ” I mentioned meet the prescribed usage of the word misandry in that they apparently dislike men, but they don’t meet the “overarching societal power” laden usage of the word. However, in their own households they may have societal power, and if they have a son or a husband or a brother, such individuals could conceivably be practicing misandry on a small level. Wouldn’t you agree?

In any case, I’m probably just being too pedantic – I don’t think that I really have a large disagreement with either of you – it’s just that I understand things in words more than in other ways, so when the words don’t seem to line up to me it makes me want to figure it out!

@97 In the same spirit of trying to figure things out, why do you believe that what the men were trying to do was rape? It seems to me to be somewhat like a cross in severity between the old crime “Breach-of-promise” (yay for Pickwick Papers) and rape. They were promising things in order to gain consensual sex under false premises, which as nasty as it is doesn’t really seem to fit the definition of rape. I say that because I don’t think that if they had succeeded they should be criminally held accountable for rape, but that a civil penalty would be appropriate – like say giving Brienne half their worldly goods similar to how a divorce can play out – or possibly in that day and age having their sword hand cut off rather than being hanged to deprive them of their “civil value”.

@121 - Its giving me lots to chew on too!
Chris Nelly
124. Aeryl
@123, I define what those men were doint to Brienne as rape, because there was deception and coercion. If she is not fully cognizant of their intentions, she isn't giving meaningful consent.
Matt Spencer
125. Iarvin
That's fair. It definately does fall under the "When yes doesn't really mean yes" category.
Agnaldo S.
126. Greenseer
Yes, GRRM is pessimistic about humanity, but this occurs because it portrays a period of time that was pessimistic. Westeros has 10,000 years of feudalism and hereditary monarchies.

Occurs in fantasy the case of commoner saving the princess from danger. However, in history and in ASOIAF, a commoner who put his hand into a noble of birth, may have his hands cut off or even headless, or both possibly. There is no pessimism here, but only the characteristic of a monarchical and feudal society.

In the Seven Kingdoms society, people do bad things because they can. The power through physical force assures them that. The guards at the gate of Maidenpool would act in this way, if the peasant couple had some way to defend yourself(excluding Brienne that was considered weak, for being a woman)? Probably not. (Nor does there would be this abuse of power if it were a lord). However, if so, if the peasants to defend himself, they are severely punished for raising his hand against the guards of a noble lord.

I think quite oppressive this form of state. Blood give exceptional rights, power through divine right, when there is blood dragon, etc.. For example, Aerion Targaryen (in the story of Dunk and Egg) can clobberand destroy the material work of mummer, by only not enjoy seeing the death of the dragons (yes, there is no freedom of speech in this society). But if someone tries defend himself, would be deliberately guilty of high treason against the royal family and should lose a hand or his head, as in the case of Dunk. Another example is Gregor Clegane. He was a knight and heir to a minor noble house. This warranty the privilege of despoil and rape commoners. None Lord one cared (Tywin mostly), even with sinister story about him. The Queen Cersei Lannister would pulling half of tongues of the commoners of the Seven Kingdoms, by the reason of saying that his children were illegitimate and born of incest.

The way Randyll Tarly comes Sam and Brienne is a synthesis of common sense characteristic of his stupid Manichean society of nobility of birth and blood.

In some ways, I think the Free Folk and sensible in relation to the people of the Seven Kingdoms. Excluding the form brutal and stupid of kidnapping of women, the shape of the "society" of the Free Folk is far more progressive, much closer to democracy.
Sasha P
127. AeronaGreenjoy
@123: Women can't be professional scholars either, as far as we've seen, with that role mostly reserved for maesters. I'm not sure who Randyll thinks should be maesters -- younger sons of wimpy houses, maybe. Assuming he doesn't disapprove of them on principle, like some of the Ironborn.
Birgit
128. birgit
Maesters are always men, but they are servants of others wearing chains as a symbol of their serving position. Tarly doesn't want his son to be a servant of others, he thinks his house should be rulers, not servants.
Sasha P
129. AeronaGreenjoy
Right. So I think a Tarly daughter's desire to be a master might anger him as much as Sam's, and the idea might be more scandalous to Westeros at large than a woman warrior. Which is sad, since that's what I would want to do if I lived there. ;-)
Adam S.
130. MDNY
Remember that Sam is Tarly's oldest son, and when Sam was young and expressed his desire to be a maester, he was his ONLY child. Given what we know about Lord Randyll now, is it any wonder that he looked at his bookish, overweight, frightened son and threatened him when he expressed a desire to be a maester? If Sam had gone to Oldtown, Randyll would be left without an heir. We know that the pride of his house is their Valyrian blade, and in general that men are judged by their prowess in war, but this seems especially true for Lord Tarly. No wonder Sam ended up on the wall. I do wonder, however, why Sam couldn't become a maester once his brother Rickon was born. Randyll forbade him becoming a maester when he was his only heir. Why not let him go to Oldtown instead of the wall once Rickon was born? Either option would remove him from the succession.
Jeroen van Berkel
131. Heronimus Rex
Because he didn't want a Tarly to be a servant. Maesters serve others. Like birgit said. I guess he thought that was a thing for wimpsy houses.
thecrocery
132. Gregor Lewis
I can't remember which book it appears in, but isn't there a line which Sam relays to Jon, quoting his father? Something like:
'Tarlys do not serve!'

That's an unambiguous clarifying remark.

While both orders forsake family allegiance, there is much less chance Sam's service in the Night's Watch will lead him back into Westeros' main circle of influence (unless he takes over for Yoren/Thorne at some stage - Lord Randyll may justifiably consider such a thing impossible, insofar as he would consider it at all).

So perhaps the unspoken second half of the above avowal would be, 'Tarlys do not serve, where the realm can see.'

As to other ambiguities regarding certain words and - quite astoundingly to me - dictionaries and the definitions within, as raised above, the level of equivocation made me genuinely curious.

So, I pointed a linguist friend of mine to the conversation and queried him on the efficacy of some of the points made. In between guffaws, he remarked - in a kind of bemused admiration - that he sees a bright future in politics for some who have contributed above.

I think he's still laughing now.

It's all rather above my head. As a native Greek speaker, words like misogyny and misandry are not so open to (mis)interpretation. They represent or more clearly, are meant to convey a hatred for a gender, by denying agency to that gender, in anything at all.

Whatever is defined by wider society as that gender's role, is subsequently derided as beneath contempt by those who are said to indulge in misogyny/misandry.

IMO the 'political connotations' as argued eloquently above, are at best, beside the point, at worst, conflating politics to clearly defined words that have no place in that argument.

I agree, the way Tarly speaks to Brienne evinces misogyny. It is a cold, matter of fact denial of her agency as a soldier, because she is a woman.

I believe that is why he blames her for the actions of his 'honourable men'.

Further to that 'honour', while I see the actions of Hyle Hunt and the others towards Brienne as a misogynistic attempt to put her in her place, because they cannot come to terms with what she represents, alot of the meaning is inferred through Tarly's cold interpretation of where events were leading ... And stopping them before they reached that point.

He didn't do it nicely or considerately. He did it effectively. And this is why I enjoy GRRM so much, even though AFFC & ADWD leave me underwhelmed overall. He can create characters and situations - when viewed with imaginative empathy by readers - that inspire the full gamut of emotions, while subtly slipping in the opportunity to recognise just how completely admirable some characters genuinely are.

I could barrack for Brienne because she's signposted as an underdog - a big, ugly, out-of-place character with misplaced ambitions - who nonetheless is more than competent ... brilliant even. But, after reading this chapter, I realise I'm in her corner all the way because she has the inner strength to acknowledge that she owes Tarly a debt, no matter how cruelly it was incurred.

And my admiration only grows when I realise Brienne herself is so completely self-unaware, so utterly matter-of-fact about it all. At the risk of redundancy I don't enjoy reading Brienne so much because she is a character succeeding against the odds. I admire her every step because of her complete and utter ambivalence towards them.

The task is ALL, whatever the situation encountered may be. And the task is undertaken without self-awareness or aggrandisement, with significant 'intrinsic to society' obstacles barring the way.

grl
Steven Halter
133. stevenhalter
@131&@132:Except that Tarly's do serve. Randyll isn't king and so he serves. What he is really saying is that he doesn't want a son who prefers books to swords.
Jeroen van Berkel
134. Heronimus Rex
Good point, Steven. There is indeed the exception when a Tarly serves as a lord, a noble, a high born. In that case it's totally cool to serve. But a maester is not a lord. In which case it is no longer cool to serve.
thecrocery
135. Sagitta
@131 True, but the irony is that Brother Sam of the Night's Watch is a Tarly, whereas Maester Samwell would not be. He would lose his family name at the citadel, as Maester Aemon did.
Sasha P
136. AeronaGreenjoy
But someone might gave learned Maester Sam's identity, especially with Horn Hill relatively near Oldtown, and poor widdle Randyll couldn't have borne the shame of him being at large in Westeros. Whereas Brother Tarly would be trapped at the opposite end of the kingdom, doomed to die if he left (presuming he didn't die quickly anyway). So would everyone else there, so word would never get out.
thecrocery
137. Gregor Lewis
As the characters' understanding of hierarchy is defined in-story, everybody serves. The king serves the needs of the realm, while the nobles serve the king himself or his intermediaries, according the status they have within that hierarchy.

I suppose I'm being pedantic, but I would imagine Tarly sees the one as noble duty and the service we have been discussing as indentured servitude.

IMO it goes back to the notion I raised a couple of weaks ago. Nobles like Tarly feel they have earned what they have, because no matter how they got it, it is theirs to hold, defend and/or expand, only so long as they are able to do so.

I'm sure a renowned commander like Tarly would equate his success at the above as a re-affirmation of his noble status, while viewing any deliberate choice of a lesser path as anathema ... a disgraceful form of indentured servitude, far beneath his family's status. And what's worse, as a Maester, a potentially highly visible one.

As for a prejudice against scholarship, in and of itself, I don't think Sam would have been allowed such access to such works as he has, if that was the case. It's just that in Tarly's eyes, the martial side of things would take precedence.

In otherwords, Sam could indulge in scholarship, so long as it did not interfere with his 'noble warrior' status, in Randyll's ideal world. Given Sam's state when he arrives at the Wall and what we later learn, that was just not going to happen, in the environment his father cultivated.

grl
thecrocery
138. Tina Nabors
@39 I am enraged when I read in the news that a child is brain damaged by their parent by beating them, or when a woman is violently raped, or when a dog has their ears cut off and then set on fire. I have often punched my computer screen looking at the people that have committed such acts with the lame attempt at hurting them. And I have cried many tears reading and looking at the many ways that people are cruel to each other in real life. When I read these books it is an escape from real life. So, I don't carry life over to them. I read them as separate. What is happening in them is not real. Sure, I cried when Lady was killed; thought Lysa was Mad as the Hatter, etc.; but I didn't get enraged by any of it. In fact the only book that I have ever thrown was a textbook when my cats were fighting and I was trying to study. So: I didn't get upset by the way Brienne was treated by Randyll. It was just the way it was then. And if G.R.R. Martin was making a point, I missed it. But that doesn't mean than I am lacking in empathy. Oh, in case you are going to go with the shoe thing: These are your exact words... My personal thought is that a person who isn't blinded by anger at that is at least lacking in empathy.
Jeroen van Berkel
139. Heronimus Rex
@135 Sagitta - True, and I guess Randyll must have thought that on the Wall Samwell, completely lacking any fighting skill, would soon be dead. And as a maester Samwell could shame the family name for a very long time, just by being alive. The horror!

@136 AeronaGreenjoy - And imagine Randylls face when he finds out that the head of Samwells new family promptly acknowledges Samwells worth as a maester. And sends him right back to Randylls doorstep to become one. Just when Randyll thought he so effectively got rid of his poetry loving son. Talk about irony! The picture sure has put a smile on my face. For a very short time of course, because Randyll might just hang his own son right then and there. Either way, I most certainly can imagine Samwells... hesitation to travel back to Oldtown.

As a side-note: the more I think of it, the more I really, really, REALLY hate it when Brienne and Samwell behave so intimidated by this man. So not cool.
Chris Nelly
140. Aeryl
@138,

When I read these books it is an escape from real life.

Then I would say you are reading the wrong books. GRRM took a medieval setting, added some very modern things to this settings, intentionally, to encourage you to view things with a modern sensibility and to compare them to the systems that exist in our world. If you don't read these books to get angry, I would say you are only half reading the books.

I didn't get upset by the way Brienne was treated by Randyll. It was just the way it was then.

That sentence is literally acknowledging that you are refusing to engage in the emotion of empathy when reading this story, because you have provided what you feel to be an acceptable justification for that behavior.
Steven Halter
141. stevenhalter
There are a lot of ways to read (and write) a book. Some books only lend themselves to a light superficial read as they deal with light superficial topics. Some books have deep hidden meanings, structures and themes that reflect recursively back upon the reader and the society in which the reader is embedded.
A reader can read at just a surface level but in a deeply structured book, everything except what exists at the surface will be missed. There isn't anything wrong with this, such a reader just misses out.
A fully engaged read in which the reader participates in the multiple levels of authorial intent and the levels that the reader themself add to the story isn't necessarily a fully comfortable read. The reader may discover that the book is saying things that they disagree with or things that make them alter their own stance (or not).

As a side note, if GRRM has written any essays on his authorial intent that aren't at the same time spoilerish, those would be interesting to point out.
Rafael
142. Ryamano
I don’t mind so much Leigh talking about feminism in her posts. Actually, I look forward to one specific “fantasy literature and feminism” debate she hasn’t talked about yet, regarding Daenerys more specifically. This debate doesn’t include only ASOIAF, going back to one post she made in her Wheel of Time Re-Read. But I will abide my time, I think she hasn’t caught up yet what Daenerys means to the tale of ASOIAF, so that’s why she hasn’t talked about this yet. Once the characters themselves start talking about this, then I think she’ll mention it in her post.

I also disagree with those who, on one previous post, said she doesn’t go deep enough on her feminism analysis. I mean, in one of these posts she talked about micro-aggressions, in another about the “nice guy” (Tristifer) and in this one about victim-blaming. She’s talking about several different stuff in each post.

Also, I’m one that thinks that Leigh could actually include other topics in her WoT re-read and ASOIAF read. The one topic that comes to mind to me is racism, racial issues and so on in these worlds and stories, because that discussion interests me. But after 4 or 5 years of re-reading Wheel of Time she hasn’t talked even once about it. She also didn’t mention anything in her 3 years of reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I guess she doesn’t talk about it at all because her pet cause is feminism, so she mostly talks about this, with sometimes some comments on class privilege. What I’ve learned during my life is that everyone has his or hers interests, and you can’t actually force someone to write something he or she doesn’t care about (well, you can, but then you’re being very rude). So I get my fix of discussing racial issues in these books in other parts of the internet (it’s a very big place, with lots of people). And if I dislike how Leigh discusses too much about feminism in her posts, then I stop reading her. Life’s simple, there’s no need to make so much fuss about stuff you’re not actually forced to do, like reading this site.

Just for fun here are some topics about race that she could’ve talked in this read;
- Is the portrayal of the Essos culture (like Pentos, Dothraki, Lamb Men, Lhazarene, etc) orientalist?
- Is the tale of how Daenerys starts a campaign of freeing the slaves of Slaver’s Bay a bad case of white savior or a deconstruction of the white savior trope?
- What does it mean that the most exotic character we’ve had as POV is Aeroh Hotah (who’s white, but from another continent)? Is it racist that we haven’t had a character of color as POV?
- Can the absence of characters of color as POV be considered racist, in the same way that the Hobbit is considered chauvinist for not having female characters?
- Was Martin racist in putting only white people as natives of Westeros or do you think this would have taken away the feel of reality from the books? And why would it have taken away that feel? In fantasy you can put anything you want in a book (like winters lasting years), so why would people of color living side by side with white people in a medieval European setting be a game-changer? (I, for one actually like his decision on having ethnicities still live in very different places, with the exchange mainly restricted to important ports, but I also like having this discussion).
- Was Martin subverting a trope when he put the people with the best ships and best nautical technology be Planetos’ equivalent to sub-saharan Africans (Summer Islanders)? I’ve noticed this bit when Catelyn arrived in King’s Landing back in AGOT, but I’ve never actually read people talking about it besides me.

And so on. Notice that Martin doesn’t portray much people being racist to each other in his world, so the racial discussion actually mostly happens on the meta-level.

On another note, I agree that A Feast for Crows is a gloomy read. When I first read it (in 2005), I disliked it (because my favorite characters weren’t in it and the plot moved very slowly), but later I came to appreciate it more. AFFC has what it says in the title, as was the case in previous books. AGOT gave us intrigue and ACOK and ASOS gave us lots of actions and plot twists. AFFC is a settling-down book, that actually has the characters having some of the most philosophical thoughts to themselves about the waste that all of these years of wars have been. It’s a book about how futile war is, how cruel the world is and about religion (but that comes later).

If Leigh feels so bad about reading ASOIAF, then maybe it’s time for her to start a read of Malazan Book of the Fallen. No misogyny or racism there, so she can concentrate on plot.
Matt Spencer
143. Iarvin
@140

Why don't you say you stuck your foot in your mouth a little bit by makeing that blanket statement? Its ok, we all do it! Heck, I'm probably doing it a bit right now! Its good to be able to grow and learn through these discussions, and personally I think its admirable when someone demonstrates that, its totally not a bad thing to do.

Because seriously, making a blanket statement that people looking for escapism are reading the wrong books, when people can obviously experience the books in a different way than you do is a little bit harsh, you know? Just like throwing out a blanket statement that people lack empathy because they experience the books in a different way than you do is a pretty harsh too!
thecrocery
144. Tina Nabors
@140

I’m stupefied. I’m supposed to read these books and anytime I see an injustice occur I’m supposed to be angry, insulted, whatever. Just what exactly is that supposed to accomplish? Does me having empathy for Brienne in a fictional story force me to change the mindset of a particular person or group of people? It doesn’t mean that I think what he thought was right, but it also doesn’t make me angry that was his opinion.
Chris Nelly
145. Aeryl
@144 Just what exactly is that supposed to accomplish?

That you even ask that means we are not having the same conversation. To me that is the ENTIRE purpose of reading. Why would anyone read a book, for it to have NO EFFECT on you? If I'm not moved by the story, it's a waste of time and I don't read the book. You may prefer to spend your time in unfulfilling pursuits, but I think that's kinda boring and superfluous.

@143, Sure there are books you read to escape. THESE are not those books. That's not a blanket statement, that's observable fact. This is not a story about how the good guys always win, that love conquers all, that honor is better than dishonor. That's escapism. I won't call these books reality, though there's an honesty about them you don't get in most fantasy, but the subject matter is very much about coming to grips with our modern institutions of classism, racism and sexism.
thecrocery
146. Tina Nabors
Aeryl,
Why do you continue to attack, taunt, whatever, people who don’t agree with you on this book? Is it so important to you that I or someone else respond the same way that you do to the book? Because, from the responses I've seen from you on this series; it’s that if you don’t feel like I (meaning YOU) feel, then you are wrong, reading the books for the wrong reasons, or simply ignoring the reason the book the written. First off, this book lends itself to many interpretations on what is going on; your interpretation doesn’t mean it is the right (or wrong) one. Second, I can read this book any way I like. If I want to read it for pleasure, then so be it. I (or anyone else) doesn’t need to look for any hidden meaning. We are free in our choice on that. Third, the author was probably writing the book for (a) his own pleasure, (b) money, or (c) his own (not YOURS) perspective on equality. You are free to have your opinion on any of these, but to continually attack people from having a differing opinion is akin to trying to suppress their opinion. And I almost let you suppress my last opinion by not replying to your latest comment.
Bridget McGovern
147. BMcGovern
This discussion is becoming more heated and personal in tone than I'm comfortable with, as moderator. Everyone approaches this book and this series on their own terms, and I'm not sure that arguing that there's an objectively correct or incorrect way to read Martin's work is a fruitful or constructive way of framing the conversation. It's important to be respectful of the fact that people have the right to read things differently, no matter how strongly you may disagree, and to not take it personally, or make the disagreement personal. In short, let's please try to keep things civil--thanks.
Chris Nelly
148. Aeryl
@TinaNabors,

Yes, there are always going to be texts and subtexts that are open to reader interpretation, I am not arguing there isn't, or that there can't be disagreement in how to interpret something.

But this scene is not one of those scenes.

Brienne's treatment in this scene is objectively terrible. There isn't any other possible interpretation, man of his times or not, encased and emboldened by tradition, Randyll Tarly is an objectively terrible, misogynistic man who tried to place the responsibilty of men's behavior on an innocent woman. There is only one response to seeing a human person treated so horribly, and that's to feel anger.

I've already given my opinion on people do don't have that response(and it's solely my opinion, with no judgement passed on those people, and since I am a single lone voice on the internet with no authority or ability to DO anything with my opinion, I still have no clue as to why that opinion is the most objectionable one on this thread for some people).

And again, why is it this topic that so allegedly subjective that the misogynistic abuse of a woman is supposed to be left open to interpretation? If I made the blanket statement that you are supposed to be sad when Robb died, or gleeful when Joffrey died, I hardly think anyone would argue with that. Why is stating flat out that the abuse and mistreatment of women and victims should make you angry, such a hard line to take?
thecrocery
149. SFC B
"There is only one response to seeing a human person treated so horribly, and that's to feel anger."

So, if I feel disappointment because Tarly was too blinkered to see the value of Brienne I'm reading it wrong? I'd like to know how to read it right before I get too deep into the book.
Jeroen van Berkel
150. Heronimus Rex
My anger was directed to Brienne, because I knew she was strong enough to stand up to Randyll Tarly. And she didn't. She was totally intimidated by him. It was so utterly frustrating it made me go "Aarrghhh!!!" The only thing I felt towards Randyll was a grim sort of humor. The kind of feeling you get when you just know that another awesome bastard entered the scene. And it was an absolute okay feeling to have.
Bridget McGovern
152. BMcGovern
Aeryl @148: As moderator, I'm really not here to take sides or give my own opinion--I know these conversations can be frustrating, but I want to state again that dictating how people should react or emotionally respond to a fictional event is a losing proposition. That goes for this chapter, Joffrey's death, Robb's death, and anything else that happens in the books. You've expressed your opinion very passionately and clearly, as have others, but this thread is intended to be a discussion, not a debate that's going to be won, or a shouting match, and it's my job to keep the tone of the discussion civil. For the record, I don't think it's your interpretation that people find objectionable, but the idea that it's the only correct interpretation possible--you've outlined your reasoning throughout the thread, and made your case. My concern is that other commenters are feeling that they are being shouted down or dismissed for holding dissenting opinions, and I'm asking you to find a way to engage with these opinions in a constructive, civil way, or simply agree to disagree and move on--the subjective/objective truth divide is not going to be conquered in this thread to anyone's satisfaction. Thanks.
Maiane Bakroeva
153. Isilel
What is somewhat interesting about Tarly telling Brienne that her being with the army equated her to being a "camp-follower" (!) is that she wasn't the only noble lady at Bitterbridge. Lady Oakheart, mother of the hapless Kingsguard Ser Arys and the ruling lady of their House, was also there with her troops, for instance. Granted, she didn't dress as a man, but still... So, Randyll is, indeed, a dick extraordinaire, IMHO.

And in the "Sworn Sword" Lady Webber was respected by her men and did ride with them and wear armor when fight seemed imminent. Ditto Asha, of course. Sure, she is smart and tough, but she also is always surrounded by men loyal to her.
The strange, and somehwat incongruous thing is that Brienne, despite being her father's heir, seemingly wasn't protected, advised and supported by the Tarth retainers. Tarth definitely sent men to Renly - Renly even mentioned it during the parley with Stannis. So, why was Brienne so alone and vulnerable while in Renly's camp? A bit of a plot-hole, IMHO.

Re: options open to men in Westerosi culture - scholarship is definitely an option for them, low and highborn alike. Looking at the appendices to the previous books, there were quite a few highborn maesters, including Tyrell ones. Aemon Targaryen, obviously. Oberyn Martell intended to become a maester and studied at the Citadel in his youth, but then changed his mind. Etc. At the same time, there are people like Pate, peasant boys who catch attention of a local maester and get sponsored to the Citadel.
It is not that _society_ didn't allow Sam that option - it was all Randyll! Granted, it takes time for somebody to be allowed to take maester vows, so there is that bit of uncertainty in the matter of succession. But Dickon Tarly is only 7 or so years younger than Sam, so Randyll could have let Sam go to the Citadel as soon as it became clear that Dickon had survived infancy and strongly encouraged him to become a maester as soon as possibly.
Or he could have told Sam to join the Faith - where he could have made irrevocable vows even sooner. Again, that's an option that society had for Sam.

So, I wouldn't say that it is Westerosi society that oppresses men, since there are fulfilling career options for unwarlike men. Yes, these options preclude them having family (legally), but still there are many more choices and career opportunities than women get.
Tabby Alleman
154. Tabbyfl55
@Iselel
So, why was Brienne so alone and vulnerable while in Renly's camp? A bit of a plot-hole, IMHO.
One obvious difference between Brienne and Lady Webber is that the former is still an heir, while the latter is a liege. Lady Webber's men are her men, while the Tarth men are not Brienne's, they're her father's.

What do we really know about Brienne's father and his designs for Brienne? Maybe he's hoping she gets killed in battle for some reason. What do we know about Brienne's history before this? Maybe the men have reason to not want to be around her, or maybe she doesn't want them around. I wouldn't call it a plot-hole yet, so much as a whole-lot-we-don't-know (yet).

I'd love to get an onscreen back-story of Brienne at her father's court, and not just her telling stories, which raises unreliable narrator questions.
Deana Whitney
155. Braid_Tug
@153, Isilel - but Randyll doesn't like the vows the Masters have to take. They become "property" in a way. They serve, they are no longer noble in a way.

The thought of his son being seen as subservient, rather than "strong alpha male" is a sticking point. Because it would somehow reflect back on him in a negative light. "Go be a man fighting on the Wall", reflects well on him. Writing letters and tending birds, does not, in his mind.

Hence, bias and a jerk. It was rare for a family send their intended heir to become a scholar. That was more reserved for third (or more) sons.
thecrocery
156. NickH
@153

I don't see a plot-hole. Both Asha and Lady Webber are beautiful and charismatic, while Brienne is ugly and tongue-tied. So it makes sense that Asha and Rohanne can win some respect as war leaders (and it still takes a lot of effort), but Brienne cannot, whatever she does.
Joe Vondracek
157. joev
Random belated musings...
She saw two centaurs, a thunderbolt, a blue beetle and a green arrow, but not the striding huntsman of Horn Hill.
So GRRM is a DC comics fan??
When Ser Owen Inchfield seizd her one night and pressed a kiss upon her, she knocked him arse-backwards into a cookfire.
In The Sworn Sword, Dunk killed Ser Lucas Inchfield. Apparently, dickheadedness runs in that family. And Brienne ends up having Dunk's coat of arms painted on her shield. It's nice how GRRM weaves these little threads into the fabric of the story. It makes it seem like I'm reading an historical account of things that actually happened, rather than fantasy fiction.

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