I want to talk about Sansa, specifically Larry “Otaku Assemble” Williams’ rant about her because, that wow, that bothered me. Trigger warnings for domestic violence, sexual violence, suicide and victim blaming…and here we go with cliched letter format:
If you don’t like Sansa, fine. If you don’t like her because you think she’s a brat, or because she’s naive, fine. I think you’re wrong, but fine, it’s your prerogative. However, when you started talking about your other reason for not liking Sansa, you crossed a line there. You ceased to merely talk about a fictional character and started passing judgement on real life people who find themselves in abusive situations. You say you don’t like Sansa because she’s a victim and you hate “glorification of victims,” and people who “endure.” You don’t think it’s noble or admirable to endure an abusive situation and that people in those situations should do something about it. You speak as though Sansa chose to become a victim.
No. Just, no. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you’ve never been a victim of domestic or sexual violence so you don’t get to decide how abuse victims should react to their situation. By saying that they should do something about it is essentially putting the blame for their predicament on the victim. It is never, EVER the fault of victim, it ALWAYS the fault of the perpetrator. There are myriad reasons why a victim might not leave their abuser; financial reasons, psychological reasons, family or societal pressure, so to imply that it’s because they’re weak is offensive beyond belief.
For many, they simply have nowhere else to go. They may believe (often reasonably) that their abuser will seriously hurt or kill them if they try to leave. They may have been subject to so much psychological and physical abuse that their self-esteem is so shot, they believe they deserve this treatment. Don’t just assume they stay because they’re lazy, weak or stupid. It’s ignorant, it’s judgmental and it’s really, really upsetting.
Turning back to Sansa, much of this applies to her. Is she in abusive situation? Oh hell yes. Her fiance delights in having her beaten, stripped in front of the other courtiers, verbally abusing her, he even terrorizes her with a crossbow at one point. So yes, I think this qualifies as abusive.
Does she have anywhere else to go? No. She’s trapped. She is surrounded by enemies with no allies in sight, no one to trust, no one to confide in.
Would her abuser kill or seriously hurt her if she tried to flee? I think we can safely say, yes.
Does she believe she deserves this? Amazingly, no. Despite the hardships she’s been through, her spirit isn’t broken. She knows when to keep her mouth shut but she slips in the odd snide remark when she knows it’s safe to. She also has the intelligence to be able to salvage those remarks into something Joffrey won’t be offended by (Side note: much is often made of Arya’s cunning but let’s be honest, Sansa runs rings around Joffrey and it’s a shame she doesn’t get more props for this). It’s her own little way of rebelling. The fact that she’s only a fifteen year old girl but still hasn’t given up is a testament to her strength of character.
So I think it’s completely unrealistic to expect Sansa to “do something,” about her situation but you had a come-back for that. She should, in your opinion, be a “sacrificial lamb.” She could (and apparently should, in your view) sacrifice her life in order to kill Joffrey. Okay. So. Let me get this straight. You think that Sansa should do something about her situation and the best you can come up with, the absolute best you can muster is suicide mission. How about no? First of all, if Sansa’s only feasible escape is killing herself, I think that says a hell of a lot about how horrendous Sansa’s situation is. Secondly, what would this achieve? Sansa would be dead and okay, Joffrey would be dead too. Politically, nothing would change. Tommen would become king, he’d be a puppet ruler, the war would trundle on and all the only good to come out of this would be one less shitheel in a world full of shitheels. Thirdly, I am disturbed beyond imagining that you think that in order for Sansa to redeem herself, she must be required to give up her life. That is so, so wrong I just can’t. No one should have to die. It might be very brave and noble to give up your life for the greater good but it should never be a requirement. Self-preservation is one of the strongest, most primal instincts we have. Some even argue that self-preservation is a moral imperative, so to expect Sansa to go against all that is a big fucking ask (and I’ll say it again: fifteen year old girl! A child. Come the fuck on). And yes, I realise I’m starting to swear a little now, I’d wanted to stay calm and rational in this but now that I come to write this, I’m overcome by how utterly horrible this attitude is. It’s completely unreasonable to expect an abused child to sacrifice herself for such a small practical return, it’s completely ridiculous. You say your sisters were raised by your family to not be victims, to take care of themselves and be proactive. Okay, that’s great, good for your family, good for your sisters, good for you but I sincerely hope you wouldn’t expect one of your sisters to kill themselves to get out of a bad situation. Good god.
I can predict the next answer to this: Oh but Arya. Arya fights, Arya wouldn’t just endure. I remind you that Arya had the good fortune to be in the company of one of the best sword fighters in the world at the time of the coup. Had she been in her chambers, she probably would have been taken along with Sansa. Arya also has a lot of advantages Sansa does not; she has the advantage of anonymity, she’s had and has allies (Syrio, Yoren, Gendry, Jaqen). Their situations are not comparable so don’t compare them. In fact, if Arya had been captured, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her mouth got her into trouble with Joff. I could totally see Sansa out-living Arya if they were in the same predicament.
Finally, you seem very offended that someone suggest that you’re sexist. You couldn’t possibly be sexist because you have sisters and respect women and like plenty of other female characters. Okay, cool. I believe you. But a word of advice, when someone accuses you of being sexist, don’t just fly off the handle and tell them to go fuck themselves. Instead, examine your words and have a think about why someone might have said that because there are good reasons someone might say that. Sometimes people say sexist things without realising that they’re being sexist. Sexism is so inured in our society, very few people come out with sexist comments while actually thinking, “I shall be sexist now.” Even the most high-minded, ostensibly feminist individuals do it from time to time, I know I have. The trick is to recognise this behaviour and take steps to rectify it in future. And this fandom is so rife with sexism, it’s not a totally off the wall conclusion to come to. A classic Game of Thrones example would be people who criticise Cersei for having sex but cheerfully ignore Tyrion’s promiscuity. They’re holding a female character to a higher standard than the male. On the face of it, this would appear to be what you’re doing with Sansa. Would you expect a male character to kill himself rather than remain captive? Secondly, you list the female characters you admire, notably Arya, Catelyn and Brienne. You admire Arya and Brienne because they’re fighters. You admire Catelyn because she’s cool-headed and pragmatic. These traits are traditionally considered to be masculine ones. You’re basically saying that you like women who act like traditional men and that could be seen as, well, sexist. Arya, Cat and Brienne use the skills they’ve been taught in order to survive. Sansa is doing exactly the same; she’s using her conversational skills, her ladylike charms and politeness to duck the shots Joff and his cronies send her way. It’s the same aim, just a different method. I’m not saying you are sexist, I’m just saying these are points you may want to consider if you haven’t already.
When we admire Sansa, we’re not “glorifying” victim-hood. We’re admiring a young girl who knows how to keep her head down in order to survive, who knows what to say and when. We’re admiring someone who does endure great hardship while waiting for the right moment to make a move. We’re admiring someone who doesn’t give up. She IS a survivor (and please, don’t be with the scare-quotes around “survivor.” It’s not a silly word to use, it’s a great help for many people who’ve been through this sort of thing to think of themselves as survivors rather than victims. Empathise a little, please).
When Tyrion said, “Lady Stark. You may survive us all,” I had hoped that since the fanboy favourite said it out loud, people might finally start to get Sansa. It seems I was wrong.