Cersei Lannister is not a feminist, but is still interesting from a feminist perspective: a short essay.
Alright, full disclosure: I have only seen the show for Game of Thrones. I know, I know, bad fan. I need to read the books. Bear in mind that everything I’m about to say is based solely on my interpretation of the SHOW. Thank you.
So, Cersei Lannister.
I’m going to start by saying that I LOVE Cersei. I think she’s super interesting, super complex, multi-faceted, and a wonderful example of how to write good antagonistic female characters without being gut wrenchingly sexist in the process. She’s not a good person, but she is a well written and often sympathetic one.
That being said: Cersei Lannister herself is not a feminist.
She basically says it herself. The gods have decided that men should rule the world. Cersei believes that. She accepts that. She simply resents the fact that she was born a woman. When we talk about “internalized misogyny”, Cersei is a textbook example. She truly seems to believe that women are inherently weak, and curses the gods for making her one of them. If only she had been born a man.
But this, of course, makes perfect sense for her character, and really says a lot about Patriarchy is Westeros.
Cersei was raised by men and around men. Remember that her mother died in childbirth with Tyrion. She had no strong female role models, no women to show her that women have strength and worth beyond all the sexist gender roles thrust on her. No one taught her about sisterhood, or supporting other women. She was a product of patriarchy alone.
No, she was raised by her father, surrounded by men, and raised to believe that all the gender roles pushed on her were inherent. Just look at how she and Jaime were raised. Here we have two kids who, as children, are nearly identical, and yet Jaime was pushed to have power, to be a knight. Cersei was taught to knit and to make babies. Cersei resents that. Of course she does.
Look at her marriage to Robert: emotionally and physically abused, compared to a dead girl, cheated on*. She is completely disempowered. She can not take power in the “normal” male channels because of her gender, unlike Dany, she has no dragons or armies to help her. And she does not recognize (like Margaery) how to cull power from female channels. Of course she is angry and struggling and manipulative, trying to grab at the power she can. How else can she protect herself from Robert and everyone who wants to see her and her children dead?
No one ever told Cersei that these gender roles are wrong, that they can be challenged. She learned them all, and then believed “But I’m not like that. I’m not like OTHER women.” Rather than seeing the flaws in the system, she saw herself as an exception.
This, of course, is a very relatable thing. I myself spent a good part of my teenage years thinking that I “wasn’t like MOST girls.” After all, I liked to read, and watch anime, and didn’t give a fuck about make-up. It wasn’t until college and an exploration of feminism that I was able to unlearn that misogyny.
Cersei hasn’t unlearned it yet.
She’s not a feminist, but as a feminist, I think she’s a really interesting character to watch. Here is the effect of patriarchy and internalized misogyny. Here is the outcome of women being taught and socialized to hate and distrust other women. And what a commentary that is.
What do yall think though?