#GameofThrones “medieval truth”

One of the good points that always comes up in discussion of misogyny in GRRM’s “Song of Ice and Fire” is that he’s just reflecting the realities of the medieval period’s treatment of women. Like I said, “but but but dragons!!!” But as I tried to plot out my reasoning in the comments section I left out a crucial response.

Yes, GRRM’s story is loosely based on the War of the Roses, and anchored in Medieval realism with a fantasy and drama overlay. Back in the day marriage was a political union, women were property and the patriarchal power model was dominant.

But how much do we know about language? Admittedly I’m no Medieval scholar, but a cursory investigation yields a lot of poetry, religious texts, legal docs etc. No transcripts of any conversations in which castle guards point at women and call them whores or threaten to rape them. Not for nothing….the novel hadn’t been invented and literature was so far pre-infancy it hadn’t yet seen the inside of a fallopian tube.

But we have no idea what people in the real world that roots Martin’s fantasy kingdom actually sounded like, how they talked. We have to hold Martin accountable for his own choices in language, and if we find ourselves contemptuous we have to expect more. 

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2 Responses to #GameofThrones “medieval truth”

  1. Gus says:

    While we do not know how men talked back then, we know how they talk today.
    We have wonderful literature and live in a much more PC world, but step into a frat house and you will hear men pointing and calling women whores.
    Back then most people did not know how to read or write, and they did not debate the correctness of the language used in hip hop songs.
    We are “enlightened” today compared to those days.
    And we still have child brides in India and we still stone women in Afghanistan.
    Those were the dark ages. If anything I would guess it was a lot worse than what you see on TV today.

    • mkpheartsnyc says:

      And clearly GRRM agrees with you, and would make the same guess. I would make a different one because it is not important to me that a work I create embody the absolute worst of a misogynistic society – it is more important to me, since I know women and girls are among my readers, to create a world they feel safe to inhabit and explore. I’d argue that it’s possible to create an uneducated, illiterate community without making practically every man a rapist or one who threatens rape.

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