The Social Justice Warrior contingent of the internet was up in arms last week about an episode of Game of Thrones. Not surprising of itself, really – the Perpetual Outrage Machine must be fed, and it could have been a slow week.
But interestingly, Senator Claire McCaskill and Donna Brazile and the site The Mary Sue joined the outcry to express their disappointment and disgust that Sansa Stark, a much-beloved character, was subjected to an awful (and nearly entirely offscreen) sexual assault. With the clockwork regularity one comes to expect of the Social Justice League, cries of ‘Enough!’ and ‘Rape Culture!’ flooded my Twitter feeds, and articles detailing how this was The Final Straw for many viewers flew past as quickly as the Typewriter Monkeys could craft them.
Full disclosure: I haven’t seen any of Season 5 yet, but I’ve read all of the books in the series. And knowing what I do of the series, I’m confused that the SJWs missed some obvious things.
White Rich Privilege
If you’re familiar with Westeros and its environs, you’ll note that Westeros has a lot of white people in it, and the Dothraki Sea, Yunkai, Meereen, and other locales in Essos have many people of color. You might say Westeros serves as an analog to England’s medieval days; it looks (and sounds) and operates much like other portrayals of that era. And across the Narrow Sea in Essos, nearly all the cultures there are populated with non-white people of varying degrees of ‘civilization’ – from nomadic tribal horsemen to magnificent-city-dwelling sophisticates, much like portrayals of ancient and colonial Africa.
Audiences were treated very early in Season One to story lines with rape – on both sides of the Narrow Sea. Dothraki Raiders and Westerosi ‘nobles’ alike engaged in sexual assault as a matter of course. (Think Nigerian girls, or Kurds, or Yazidi.) But those violations didn’t raise the ire of the Social Justice League to the level of the most recent outcry. Sansa, though, is extremely white, and was raised in relative privilege, moving in (and yes, being tormented by) the highest circles of power. Maybe the folks getting outraged on Sansa’s behalf find her much more relatable, in the same way that SJWs remind us that missing children of color get far less media attention than missing white children.
It raises the question: why do Brazile, McCaskill, and others value the lives of the poor and darker-skinned characters less than that of Sansa Stark? Why have they championed this White Wealthy Privileged girl over the many others raped in the series? Don’t #FictionalBlackLivesMatter?
Easy Fictional Outrage
It’s been over a year since Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls from their school in Nigeria. Beyond their initial engagement in the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign, there’s little evidence that SJWs have been able to remember that REAL girls were abducted and ACTUALLY raped by Islamic militants, even though when rescued, many have been found to be pregnant. ISIS is storming through vast territory in the Middle East, proudly raping children as they go, and yet there isn’t even a hashtag campaign for those brutalities.
But it costs something to advocate for real rape victims. It takes more than a hashtag, and you can’t change the channel. You can’t read ahead to the Bad Guy getting his comeuppance (if he ever does), or skip past the gruesome details to the part where the heroine finds comfort and perhaps a greater inner strength. And real rape victims have the added complication of being, well, real. You actually have to do something when confronted with the crime of rape. Real things, like go through the criminal justice system, help a victim face her attacker, try to see that actual justice – not merely ‘social justice’ – is done.
Perhaps we’re finding that Social Justice Warriors can’t wrap their minds around real, actual rapes and real, actual rape victims, or advocate for real justice; instead they seem to prefer to focus on highly scripted fictional accounts such as on Game of Thrones or in Rolling Stone Articles. Fake outrage for fake rape – why not? The outrage is so much more fun that way, anyway, right?