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Wanna Throw a Ball, Slugger?

Or how society has become every young woman's overprotective Dad.

By Jessica BaileyPublished 4 years ago 8 min read
Regina in Mean Girls getting ready for Halloween, the sainted holiday of wearing the least amount as possible if you are female, way back in 2004. Regina was ahead of her time. 

Arya Stark. Right? I mean, I've not watched a paltry second of Game of Thrones, ever (totally true, on my life) and even I am aware of the two milestones the 22-year-old scrappy thing has reached in her young life. She's had a shag and killed a big baddie. Basically James Bond, am I right? As a consumer of Westernised film and TV this is how it goes: ol' James Bond shoots and leaves like its his job (which it kind of is, now you think about it), ooh about a million times by now so what's the big furore? Why should it be so different, so 'wrong' for a 22 year old female assassin to get hers? The day after, news headlines shouted of 'Fans Cringe at Game Of Thrones Sex Scene' and a million GoT Twitter fan accounts had conniptions that a girl should take control and own her sexuality in this way. It was all anyone talked about for roughly 48 hours, so I had to look see.

Maisie Williams, then. Successful, grounded young British actress that has portrayed the perpetually glum child warrior Arya Stark since 2011. She grew up on a show that lived by the rules of the two B's - Boobs and Blood. We have seen countless topless scenes from women on the show such as Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and countless other female extras in highly graphic scenes of sex and death on the show. And yet everyone always cheered on the young girl that out-skilled them all, male or female, in combat. And, I think, once memorably baked enemies of her father's into a big pie? Basically a tough cookie. Good old Arya. Good old, not-yet-identifying-as-a-woman, Arya. And that's not to say she, and by extension, Maisie hasn't dabbled in gratuity - beheading and stabbing blokes is pretty shocking stuff to get up to when every other British pre-post-pubensent girl is stressing about where they're going to place in the school Sports Day.

Maisie has been on the show since its inception, and since she herself was 14. Now, in 2019, when both Maisie and Arya are a healthy 22 years old, on the eve of a kerfuffle, she turns to a male friend to show her "what it's like before I die." It seems this is a scrape that she cannot hope to bake her way out of. The request is reasonable, for a 22 year old. I mean there was no '16 And Pregnant' in 1160 was there? And yet, friends, there's this thing called the internet.

Before we continue yes, I've seen the scene. Sorry fee paying network, but I've only literally seen about 1:31sec of Game of Thrones content, and it was merely for research purposes only, I swear. The scene everyone seemed to cringe at seems straightforward and tame for a show with inordinately high levels of scenes of rape, incest and beheading, to be honest. For those who don't know, Arya instigates sex, and assures the male friend that she wants to, giving her formal consent, and stating he should take "his own bloody pants off." Fair enough. In the scene we see her take off her shirt/tunic thing but her modesty is protected - in fact, the actress stated herself that the creators of the show issued her control of how much the audience is allowed to see. Yes, you may get a glimpse of sideboob but if you're noticing that, you're missing the point. Your eye should be drawn to the scars on her side, given to her in battle as a warrior far too young for her tender age. The whole thing should be seen as a young woman blossoming into a sexual awakening, her own power, her body, and her desire, owning it.

Yes, well tell that to Twitter.


"No, Arya!"

"I can't look. It's like she's my sister"

"Why have they gotta show this man!"

"I don't know how to feel about this."

Poor Arya. But poorer Maisie. Yes, I know that she's not actually doing it - but for dads the world over, merely hearing about anything related to womanhood is toe curling. Getting boobs, reaching puberty, bleeding, realising your child is actually, you know, a girl for real, is tough.Oh yes, Michael Sheen is of course doing his best to break the stigma and let Dads be glorious and knowledgeable about their daughter's monthly visitor, true. Sadly, however, there is no age, of daughter or father alike that the latter would voluntarily know a damn thing about their kid's 'first time'. Results show they would rather die in a freak ground-swallowing accident. And if they do find out about it, it doesn't often go well. So then: imagine 9.6 million dads reacting to seeing it on a big screen. Getting it now?

The waves of disapproval took many forms. YouTube had a veritable wellspring of die-hard fans either sitting alone in bedrooms, or sitting in judge-y groups in Living Rooms, bars and sofas the world over. As they filmed themselves watching the episode (yes they really do that) the wide selection of videos I chose at random overwhelmingly balked, yelled, and exclaimed at this tame scene of tender female empowerment. And that's when I realised something had gone very wrong. You simply cannot talk about periods to a group of 21st century men, but you can guarantee that they have seen a vulva in all it's airbrushed, porn-y glory. They wince when you talk about giving birth but salivate over the two means of feeding your baby that live in your shirt. The gap is real. And I'm not talking about that infernal Thigh one. I'm getting overheated, and take this opportunity to turn to my comedy GodMothers Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler to put it better than I ever could:

If you've watched Game of Thrones since 2011, this was always bound to happen. The women on the show are fair game, it's expected of them; it comes down to the fact you knew Arya/Maisie when she was little. And not only that, she then had the temerity to grow up and experience sexual desire. That, inherently by this society, cannot be accepted. They'd rather you go from running around in the garden with a water pistol sneering at boys, to quietly entering a room, locking the door, and not coming out until it's 'safe' and you look like Melinda Messenger, circa 1996.

And yet the reaction of disapproval, even mild aversion to Arya's Take Charge moment is unusual. Famously, a British Tabloid published a countdown on their website until British Harry Potter actress Emma became 'legal' at 16 (age of consent in the UK). Much outrage/titillation of Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Britney et al has sold many papers. We are not new to the practise of sexualising the too young, a fact that makes this Arya aversion in particular just as unusual as it is worrying.

Generation Snowflake, as we have been so lovingly Christened, is charged with many things, and 'ruining' even more: like letting you lot ruin the planet with carbon emissions and grass roots level equality - I know, pesky kids. However, these issues have a Millennial Mouthpiece so where is the acceptance of female empowerment as standard? Is it all hot air and we're far more backward then we thought? Do we all want to look like friends to us all, the world, the planet, but not to opposing genders and minorities? Is it buried in not wanting to look perverse? Young women have to learn about sex sometime, and this healthy example shows a young woman of age and a bit making an informed, and confident decision. There is no carbon emission from that. The point is, we'd rather watch a young woman slit countless throats than take charge of her own body, and that is woeful, people.

This troubling backlash has a heavy shadow connected to it indeed if the next generation of girls see it spouted like gasoline on social media, on TV, in the media. The message that owning your own sexuality is 'gross' 'wrong', 'not right' could set us all back decades. Goodness knows the Zac Efrons, Biebers and Ryan Goslings of this world were allowed to seamlessly shift from Mickey Mouse Club to Lothario. Why is that a societal norm? Why do we measure male public shifts from kid star to film star differently to female? And do we hurt men too by dictating they must be Playboys of the Western World? Nuns and Rakes. We've been here before. In 1782. Yes, of course we need to protect the Millie Bobby Browns and the Jacob Tremblays of this world, but not bruise them; we need to encourage them to express themselves freely and safely, not follow fame's blueprint. Is that really so hard?

So what can be done? More, you fools, more! More representations of girls of various sizes, ethnicities and sexualities finding themselves, and owning it, more announcements of the awesomeness of becoming a woman. And what's more, if you see it anywhere done right; thoughtfully, fairly, and with empowerment, share it against the tide of the self-righteous Armchair/Desk critics. Fight back. Tip the scale and speak for yourself. Failing that, write for yourself - you don't need men in LA writing it for you. Just a thought.

And really, come on Patriarchy. We don't need a thing that seems and feels totally weird to us girls anyway, that of becoming a woman, to become taboo too. It's not polite, fair, and done long term, could bring nasty results. Good for Arya. She got her some. And I hear did very well on the battlefield the next day. Sisters are doing it for themselves. Just remember, anything they can do, we can do bleeding.

As put in Maisie's own words herself:

Let women live. We'll literally all die out if you don't.


About the Creator

Jessica Bailey

I am a freelance writer, playwright, director and lecturer from London. Self professed nerd, art lover and Neurodivergent, vegan since '16, piano player since 7 - let's see...oh and music, lots and lots of music

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