Femslash Friday: Sansa/Brienne, A Lady And Her Knight

Watching Game of Thrones is an interesting undertaking if you’re a woman who likes women. One the one hand: hey, a fantasy series with lots of distinct female characters who are, on the whole, about as developed as you’re likely to get in a mainstream franchise set in a world that draws a significant amount of inspiration from ye olde chattel days. On the other hand: seven hells, does a lot of woman-hating happen on this show. You can argue about whether it’s a misogynistic series or just a series set in a misogynistic world (or both), but the fact is that the majority of the female characters’ storylines involve dealing with the worst dudes you can imagine. Like, would-literally-be-twirling-their-mustaches-if-both-hands-weren’t-busy-committing-all-this-sexualized-violence dudes.

So how to give these fabulous women the storylines they deserve? The answer is, as always, for them to give it to each other.

A disclaimer: these may be George R.R. Martin’s characters, but we don’t play by his rules. All characters who are minors in the storyline as it stands should be understood to be shipped only once they have reached an appropriate age, because just because GRRM thinks it’s chill for people to get married at thirteen doesn’t mean it is. Moving on.

The beauty of having so many female characters in the series is that the possibilities truly are endless. You want some femme powerplays? Can I interest you in some Sansa/Margaery?

Are you imagining me opening a trenchcoat to reveal innumerable pockets full of tiny women making out? I hope so.

You like femme powerplays just fine, but you prefer them with more fire and murder? Allow me to introduce you to Daenerys/Melisandre.

Think of your own “hot” pun, I’m not going to do everything for you.

You’re down with murder, but prefer more of a scruffy boi-ish vibe? Yara/Ygritte is here to fulfill your every desire.

These two already have the “lesbian merge” thing going on. Meant for each other!

We’ve got something for almost every taste (assuming your taste runs to white women, because this series remains a bastion of white patriarchy and weird, racial crowd-surfing). Try to stump me. You can’t. You’re in the market for blonde monarchs with arranged marriages, dead husbands, and incestuous histories who want each other dead? That’s pretty niche, but Game of Thrones gives you Daenerys/Cersei and doesn’t even judge you for it.

Their accessories are all pointy, so it’ll be convenient for them to try to stab each other post-coitally.

Have most of these women met in canon yet? Nope, because Game of Thrones has a thousand storylines and also because patriarchy. Is that important to my fantasy life? Not in the slightest. You could spend your time arguing with me, or you could spend it thinking about Ygritte and Yara having filthy sex by a fire they built after slaughtering a thousand dudes. Your priorities are up to you.

I’ll be honest with you, though, friends: I come here with an agenda. I want to show you the light of Game of Thrones femslash, yes…but I also have a particular pairing in mind. A beautiful pairing. A pairing that deserves its own series of seven thousand-page books. I speak to you of the power and the glory of Sansa/Brienne.

Nothing matters to me but this.

If the epic butch/femme vista you see before you is not enough to convince you in and of itself, don’t worry. I went to a liberal arts college, y’all, and I’m about to unpack some goddamn text.

Sansa

Sansa Stark is the character most hated by dudebro fans, which is how you know she’s actually the best. She starts the series as an idealistic believer in fairy tales (“All she wanted was for things to be nice and pretty, the way they were in the songs.” – an actual quote from the first book). The eldest daughter of a noble family, she idolizes knights and queens and life at court. Until, you know, all the murder. And manipulation. And being forced to stay engaged to this walking, talking frowny face:

This is Joffrey. You know that creeping sense of dread you get when you see a group of leering, shouting teenage boys out in public? Joffrey is the embodiment of that, only much worse.

Nothing good ever happens in Game of Thrones, especially not to Sansa or anyone in her family, and the other characters make sure to remind her of it.

“Sansa had no choice but to explain about heroes and monsters. The king’s councilor smiled…’Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day to your sorrow.’” — A Game of Thrones

That councilor ends up being a sexual predator who’s obsessed with her because she reminds him of her mom, so, you know, he’s not wrong.

WHO HURT YOU? Just kidding, I already know, it’s everyone.

Sansa watches her family members executed, is forced to remain engaged to an abusive blonde wig, narrowly avoids sexual assault, loses even more family members, and finds herself with absolutely no one she can trust. Her body, marriage, and life are used as poker chips by more powerful people, and she isn’t even allowed to sit at the card table. By the second book, her disillusionment is complete, displaying a lack of faith in the men around her that many of us may be familiar with:

Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women, and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing… the Hound hated knights … I hate them too, Sansa thought. They are no true knights, not one of them.” — A Clash of Kings

“They are children, Sansa thought … They’ve never seen a battle, they’ve never seen a man die, they know nothing. Their dreams were full of songs and stories, the way hers had been before Joffrey cut her father’s head off. Sansa pitied them. Sansa envied them.” — A Storm of Swords

That “Hound” she mentions is a warrior who hates knights so much that he refuses to be knighted himself. He is violent and cruel, but he still earns a small amount of sympathy from Sansa, because Sansa is the best and also too traumatized to know better. You can see him lurking ominously in the background three pictures up. They have conversations like this:

“True knights protect the weak.”

[The Hound] snorted. “There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.”

Sansa backed away from him. “You’re awful.”

“I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful.” — A Clash of Kings

Some (generally male) fans like to deride Sansa as “boring” and “stupid,” because they have terrible opinions and also (as previously discussed) because of the patriarchy. Many of them compare her negatively with her little sister Arya, a tomboy who solves her problems using edged weapons.

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