How Sansa Stark Is Redefining Feminine Power Both On And Off The Screen

How Sansa Stark Is Redefining Feminine Power Both On And Off The Screen

By Jillian Stacia

Sansa Stark is arguably one of the most divisive characters on Game of Thrones. She’s been known to repulse viewers with her naïve and immature tendencies, and she’s the character fans tend to like the least.

On the other hand, supporters of Sansa claim that she’s slowly emerging as a feminist leader and is carving out a new definition for what it means to be a strong woman in a world dominated and ruled by men.

No matter where you stand on the Sansa spectrum, she is hands down the most resilient character on the show – home girl has seen some shit. She watched her father get beheaded two feet in front of her, was tortured mercilessly by her fiancé aka the King, had no family or true emotional support system for six seasons, and was married off to a psychotic rapist, just to name a few.

And it’s true, Sansa certainly started off as a shallow preteen who was incredibly self-absorbed. But that’s basically every middle school girl I’ve ever met, myself very much included.

Like most characters in Game of Thrones, she has transformed since the beginning of the series. However, now that Sansa has matured and is acting like a strong and confident female character, viewers think she’s gone too far and will betray her brother/cousin Jon Snow because she is too ambitious and power hungry.

Essentially, she’s spent years being criticized for being too weak and passive, and yet the minute she starts to hold her ground, she is accused of being too aggressive.

Sound familiar?

It should. It’s basically the paradigm of what it means to be a woman in today’s society. You know the balancing act: one must be assertive without being aggressive. They must live their life in the narrowing chasm that exists between weak and bitchy.

And it’s funny. We say we want women to step into more powerful roles. We say we are ready for women leadership. But the moment that theory is tested- whether in politics or entertainment television – we reject the idea completely.

It reminds me of a quote from Ari Eastman:

“Everyone wants a strong woman until she actually stands up, flexes her muscles, projects her voice. Suddenly, she is too much. She has forgotten her place. You love these women as ideas, as fantasies. Not as breathing, living humans threatening to be even better than you could ever be.”

People spent years wishing Sansa was stronger. Yet when she finally stands up for herself, she has gone too far. Fans roasted her for being a victim, and now they are berating her for overstepping her boundaries.

And yes, there are many examples of female strength in the show that take a different path. But to me, Sansa is the most relatable. Sansa started off stupid (like most of us), had to learn the hard way (like most of us), got the shit kicked out of her by life (like most of us), and is learning how to act like a strong woman that reflects her own unique femininity and values (like most us).

Unlike other women characters on the show, Sansa embraces her femininity. She uses it to her advantage. She plays the game the best way she knows how. This looks very different from Arya’s example of strength, or Daenerys’ or even Cersei’s. But that doesn’t make it less valuable. In fact, some of the wisest characters on the show, like Tyrion and Littlefinger, have been noticeably impressed by her intellect and quick wit. And she brought up valid points when she confronted Jon Snow in the Season 7 premiere. Yet a majority of viewers still struggle to accept her for a valid leader.

It’s sad, but in today’s day and age, we still find ourselves getting upset when a woman enters into a man’s territory, even if that territory is a fictional character. Look no further than fans reactions to Jodi Whittaker being cast as the next Doctor Who. We’re constantly being put off by strong, challenging women, particularly if they have more traditionally feminine traits. They rub us the wrong way.

Maybe Sansa is power hungry. Maybe the show will turn her into an overly ambitious bitch that goes against her own family. Or maybe, she has finally learned to stand up for herself. Maybe she’s created her particular brand of feminine strength and she’s not afraid to use it.

Regardless, I hope fans will try to embrace Sansa for the strong woman she has become, instead of worrying she has gone too far. More importantly, I hope we can finally learn to stop putting women into two categories: weak and overly aggressive, and instead celebrate the powerful feminine strength that can be found in the gray area.


Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via Vanity Fair}

2 thoughts on “How Sansa Stark Is Redefining Feminine Power Both On And Off The Screen

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