…because I think I made a decent point, and I haven’t written in a while, and I think the treatment of rape in the Song of Ice and Fire series is brutal and fascinating and a very effective piece of worldcraft and storytelling.
(This is my comment on Jen McCreight’s post. If you don’t know Blag Hag, and are interested in atheism/feminism/genetics/other fun stuff, you should follow her. I say this even given her recent overabundance of kitten photos clogging up my Google Reader.)
RE: the general dominance of medieval Europe as the background for fantasy stories: I feel like Game of Thrones looks at the role of women in an atypical, exceptionally brutal, but realistic and ultimately feminist way. Most of the fantasy I know really just ignores women, except for the obligatory Strong Female Character and the damsels in distress. Martin has a parade of awesome (and terrible) female characters, but he’s also unsparing in his depiction of what happens to non-noble women in that world. The fact that he’s constantly referring back to rape and prostitution as just part of the world, to the point that they eventually become unremarkable, is (I think) an extremely effective commentary on the general social structure. It’s a useful parallel to the various female characters’ stories of trying to break (or live within) the social rules for noble women.
That said, I don’t expect that the show will be nearly as effective in that regard. I don’t expect that even HBO will have the stomach for a half-dozen casual rapes every episode. Interested to see how they handle it in future seasons, since (I think) the only one they’ve had to deal with so far was the Dothraki.
I didn’t clarify this in the comment, but I think the depiction comes out as “ultimately feminist” precisely because it’s so brutal: there’s no way to argue that the society portrayed isn’t profoundly abusive.The horror of living in such a situation became much more real to me from reading the series than it has from documentaries or advocacy presentations. By catching people in fiction, when the goal is to become engrossed in the world and share an experience with the (fictional) characters, it overcomes the skepticism and (conscious or subconscious) barriers that go up when hearing about atrocities in the real world.