Study Guide

A Clash of Kings Gender

By George R.R. Martin

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Joffrey frowned. Sansa felt that she ought to say something. What was it that Septa Mordane used to tell her? A lady's armor is courtesy, that was it. She donned her armor and said, "I'm sorry my lady mother took you captive, my lord." (3.Sansa.106)

Notice that Sansa's only defense is a passive one—that is, she can't actively defend herself from Joffrey's abuse, but must act in a way that deflects it. As we'll see throughout the novel, women are not expected to act but rather be acted upon in this society.

[Robb] pushed a fall of hair out of his eyes and gave a shake of the head. "I might have been able to trade the Kingslayer for Father, but…"

"… but not for the girls?" [Catelyn's] voice was icy quiet. "Girls are not important enough, are they?" (8.Catelyn.60-61)

In the Seven Kingdoms, women aren't as valued as men, and this seems especially true the higher up the social ladder you go. If Robb were to trade Jaime for his sisters, his men would think he was given a bum deal.

His father slid his fingers under the necklace and gave it a yank so hard it was like to take Theon's head off, had the chain not snapped first. "My daughter has taken an axe for a lover," Lord Balon said. "I will not have my son bedeck himself like a whore." He dropped the broken chain onto the brazier, where it slid down among the coals. (12.Theon.158)

But it's not just women who have gender roles to play. Men have them, too, and Theon's father thinks that role does not include any dainty jewelry. Burn.

Cersei sniffed. "I should have been born a man. I would have no need of any of you then. None of this would have been allowed to happen. How could Jaime let himself be captured by that boy? And Father, I trusted in him, fool that I am, but where is he now that he's wanted? What is he doing?" (21.Tyrion.115)

Here, we see that Cersei is as much a victim of gender roles as Sansa. Cersei cannot defender her home in the active manner as would be expected of a man, which is frustrating for her because she feels she could be a total wrecking ball.

The press had begun to open up. "Ser Colen," Catelyn said to her escort, "who is this man, and why do they mislike him so?"

Ser Colen frowned. "Because he is no man, my lady. That's Brienne of Tarth, daughter to Lord Selwyn the Evenstar."

"Daughter?" Catelyn was horrified. (23.Catelyn.59-61)

Enter Brienne to shake up the gender roles. She can throw down with the best of them, and this threatens the men in the crowd. After all, if women can start fighting, then where does it stop? Will men be required to sew on buttons? By the gods, not buttons!

Catelyn studied the faces. The Father was bearded, as ever. The Mother smiled, loving and protective. The Warrior had his sword sketched in beneath his face, the Smith his hammer. The Maid was beautiful, the Crone wizened and wise. (34.Catelyn.3)

The gender roles of the Seven Kingdoms expand into its religion. Notice that the aspects of the Seven that stand for war, fighting, and doing stuff are given a male persona. The aspects with more passive abilities, such as love, are given female personas. It's ultimately a chicken-or-egg question: Does the religion assign these gender roles because the society does? Or does the society do so because of its religion?

"Brienne, I have taken many wellborn ladies into my service over the years, but never one like you. I am no battle commander."

"No, but you have courage. Not a battle courage perhaps but… I don't know… a kind of woman's courage." (40.Catelyn.55-56)

But what is a woman's courage? It's interesting that Brienne is a woman, but because she has associated with a man's gender roles, she can't put quite put that courage into words. This shows that while gender roles are subjective, they do have an impact on how we think of others.

Xaro sighed. "You ought to have wept." The Qartheen wept often and easily; it was considered a mark of the civilized man. (41.Dany.13)

The Qartheens have such a different take on gender stereotypes then we usually see in this book. This shows that views on how men and women should act are not universal but rather subject to the uniqueness of culture—and in Qarth, to man up, you've got to break down and cry.

On the ground the sleeper sat up beneath his furs. Jon slid his dirk free, grabbing the man by the hair and jamming the point of the knife up under his chin as he reached for his—no, her

His hand froze. "A girl." (52.Jon.31-32)

The wildlings keep showing that gender roles vary from culture to culture. In wildling society, women serve in jobs generally associated with manly men, including hunting, fighting, and standing guard.

"We were so much alike, I could never understand why they treated us so differently. Jaime learned to fight with sword and lance and mace, while I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime's lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood." (61.Sansa.30)

Ultimately, the different values the Seven Kingdoms place on certain gender roles leads to very different fates for Jaime and Cersei. While the two are twins, they were fated to very different lives and all because one-half of one chromosomal pair decided to pull a switcheroo.

A Clash of Kings Gender Study Group

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