The fact that her school project would most likely give this little girl a completely unrealistic and false expectation about the country in which she lives, troubled me no end. But, it was a Monday so I did what any other person suffering with an intellectual dilemma would do and I put my cogitation on hold for the weekly family get together to watch, yes, Game of Thrones.
From the start of the new season, the family (having all stayed off FB in order to escape spoilers) gather at 6pm at Coq Au Vins. We watch from 6.30 to 7.30 and then spend the next two hours, eating pot luck dinner and dissecting the episode. This is usually a loud and vociferous discussion (and not just because I am in it). Nine of us gathered this Monday, the usual eight - myself, Coq Au Vin, Macaron, Oeufs 1 and 2, my mother, Baguette and Trou, and the unusual ninth – my ex husband Foie Gras (his TV had exploded, a fate that nearly befell my head when I heard he was coming over. Humph)
We are a somewhat divided camp, since there are those of us who have read the books (myself, Macaron, Trou, Oeuf 1 and my mother) and the rest who are strictly TV series devotees (aka Philistines). While I have enjoyed the series (and maintaining a poker face while the others rallied behind soon to be deceased characters) I have felt rather a disconnect this season. Not because I don't know what will happen but simply because the action on the screen seems hollow minus the richness of the books. All the family book readers agree on this with the exception of Trou who is entirely in love with Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and is therefore willing to forgive anything. His devotion is so complete that Oeuf 1 now refers to him as Jorah (ie in love with her but never ever ever going to get her).
But I digress.
Oh, and for those living under a rock – spoiler alert!
Following the defeat and consumption of the utterly despicable Ramsey Bolton, a fierce argument ensued about who of those left had the best chance of taking the iron throne.
A testament to the brilliance of the series is that nearly all of us are rooting for someone different.
Trou, my mother and Oeuf 2 want Daenerys. Oeuf 1 and Macaron want it to be John Snow. Baguette is holding out for Arya. Coq Au Vin feels it should be Bran, and Foie Gras declares it must be Sansa. And me? Well I want it to be Tyrion. Yup, in a room full of wolves and dragons I am the only one who still loves a Lannister.
Foie Gras was, as usual, very quick to debate my choice. Having argued eloquently about how far Sansa has come and how John Snow is a complete loser who lost his head and nearly the battle with it (amid loud protests from Macaron and Oeuf 1) he said 'I can't believe that with all the strong women in this series, you, a feminist, aren't supporting a female for the iron throne'.
Ah there it was - GoT is a 'feminist' show because in this season in particular the women are winning left, right and centre (as opposed to previous seasons where they were mostly just naked or being beaten, raped or otherwise violated).
And that's my beef with it. Somehow this seems like token feminism. So token in fact that it has come only by diminishing the male characters in the series.
Some of this diminishing is quite literal. There are many male characters who are physically lacking in some way Tyrion (height), Varys and Theon (manhood), Jamie (hand), Bran (legs) and we are never allowed to forget these attributes (or lack thereof). In fact one gets the distinct feeling that Theon would have wanted the salt throne for himself if Bolton hadn't flayed away his vital parts. So it's kind of like he told his sister – I had one, but I lost it, you never had one, so the throne may as well be yours.
And if they don't have some vital part missing or out of commission the men in the series have been through some sort of trauma that has changed or will change them dramatically, John (died and resurrected), Beric (died and resurrected many times), the mountain (zombie killing machine), Benjen Stark (part white walker), Jorah (turning to stone).
One of the few men who is still playing the game with serious intent and still has all his marbles (see what I did there?) is Little Finger. And goodness me if the only intact (and again!) man in Westeros is Little Finger then we are all in a heap of trouble.
So yes the women seem to be winning, they are making alliances and vowing to mend the fences and stop the insanities of their fathers (all this while also exchanging mildly flirtatious banter to keep male viewers suitably interested), and they are taking their revenge on those who wronged them and learning to trust no one and count only on themselves.
And yet, I can't get away from the idea that these women are only excelling because the men around them are not their equals. Women will rule. But only because there wasn't a man strong and smart and wise enough? That's just not good enough.
It's possible that I take all this far too seriously. But like it or not, let's state the obvious - pop culture informs mind set and opinion.
So there you have it, a brief conversation at the dentists and a popular tv series and suddenly I am arguing gender equality in Sri Lanka.
Only there is nothing to argue about. Because there is no real gender equality.
Patriarchy - a much over used word in my opinion. I am only slightly more allergic to the over usage of this word than I am to the over use of the word feminist. Sadly, there isn't another word to use. That is what we have here in Sri Lanka – a raging patriarchy. It starts from Government and law and leadership and makes its way across and down, into every single aspect.
And that lack of equality sets the tone for everything else. I have the utmost respect and regard for the LGBT community here. Of course the same rights and privileges should and must apply. I admire their fight – but boy it's going to be a long one. Women in this country have not gained equality, so how will the LGBT community? Let's look at some statements most commonly heard among the patriarchy: A gay woman is a 'useless waste who needs a good doing over to show her what she is missing'; a gay man is 'worse than a woman' because he has the revered appendage but clearly 'doesn't know what to do with it'. The bisexuals are 'greedy and want it all', and the transgender community? Wait, they are just a joke right? 'And aren't all of them sex workers'?
There were a fair number of heterosexual women on the gay pride bus that toured the city recently. Someone observed that this was odd but of course it isn't odd at all. I completely relate – after all women know what it is to be discriminated against. So we show up. To stand with those who are in the same boat. To stand with those whose fight may prove even harder.
Can things change? I am ever hopeful.
There is a great meme going around that calls for boys to be 'held accountable for their actions. Just like girls'. And that's the thing isn't it? Women have always been held accountable, even when what we did or didn't do shouldn't account for anything. When we were abused, beaten, raped, when we were harassed, over looked, under paid; when we were expected to look pretty and keep our mouths shut, to be thin and sexy but definitely not slutty, to be smart but not smartER.
Boys will be boys? Then let's teach them how to be better boys. Not by diminishing them, but by making them respectful, kind, considerate people who are not threatened by a woman's strength or brains or beauty or charm or sex appeal, by the attention she receives or the money she makes, or by anything about that simply makes her who she is.
Let's do two things – first let's start taking more of an interest in changing laws and policies and dictates. Let's lobby for changes that benefit women and fight against those that don't. Let's do more. Let's make more noise.
Second, let's raise better boys. It's that simple, that complicated and that fundamental.
Boys and girls raised as equals. One gender shouldn't have to be diminished so that another can rise.
Someone told me recently that blogs should be written so that people learn something. That would be useful. But I think blogs are just about opinion, and the freedom to share that opinion. The biggest positive impact is sometimes simply on the writer, that feeling of - there, we have said it, the thoughts are out of our heads and on the page. We understand ourselves a little better for it. Phew.
And now, because all this has made me feel much better, I am going to have my customary glass of warm milk with cinnamon and head to bed.
Because that's what I do - I drink, and I know things.