Brave Danny Flint

TRIGGER WARNING: Abuse and sexual assault.

I’ve been reading the A Song of Ice and Fire novels upon which Game of Thrones is based.  I’m up to volume two, A Clash of Kings.  A fan-run Facebook group posted about a character named Danny Flint who is mentioned in the books.  Danny was a very young orphan girl who fled an abusive uncle.  She disguised herself as a boy and joined the Night’s Watch, a men-only military order guarding The Wall, a 700 ft wall of ice stretching to both ends of the continent.  The original purpose of the Night’s Watch was to guard the realm against ice creatures called The Others in the books and called White Walkers on the show.  As time wore on and less people believed in the existence of such creatures, the Watch devolved into a border patrol, keeping out the Wildlings. Their diminished reputation and dwindling numbers forced them to primarily recruit new members from prisons.

Danny passed as a boy long enough to officially join their ranks, however one night her true identity was discovered.  She was raped and murdered by the other members of the Night’s Watch.  Some say her ghost still haunts the Nightfort.  A mournful ballad was written in her memory called “Brave Danny Flint”.

Now, both the novels and the show are not without their issues when it comes to female characters, but I do give author George R.R. Martin some credit for making readers think about the lives of women in a medieval culture; be they peasants or princesses.  The fantasy genre is often synonymous with allowing the reader to escape, but Martin prefers confrontation.  Arya Stark disguises herself as a boy to escape being held hostage by Baratheons of King’s Landing.  Brienne of Tarth has all the makings of a knight but will never be named as such regardless of her bravery and martial prowess.  The only places in Westeros with any semblance of gender equality are Bear Island and Dorne.

If you are reading or watching these stories and you don’t come away from them thinking about gender roles and equality, you haven’t been paying attention.

Hear you now the sad lament
Of Brave Young Danny Flint
Whose parents died of sickness
When she was not but ten.

So off Young Danny went to live
With her wicked uncle
Who one night stole her maidenhead
So into the North she fled.

Oh Danny Flint you’ll never escape
The Fate the Gods have written
And life must seem the cruelest jape
Oh Brave Young Danny Flint.

North she fled to take the Black
And leave her troubles past
She cut her hair and changed her name
To Danny Flint the Brave.

At the Nightfort Danny took the oath
Thought a boy by all
And she hoped to live forever
As a Brother upon the Wall.

Oh Danny Flint you’ll never escape
The Fate the Gods have written
And life must seem the cruelest jape
Oh Brave Young Danny Flint.

Now Danny was so diligent
To keep from watchful stares
But one night as she bathed
Her Brothers saw her body bare.

These men were quick to break their vows
As they threw her to the ground
They took her honor then her life
While Danny made not a sound.

Oh Danny Flint there’s no escape
The Fate the Gods have written
And life does seem the cruelest jape
Oh Brave Young Danny Flint.

It is said Young Danny still yet walks
The Nightfort’s shadowy halls
A pale form singing sorrowfully
The loneliest, saddest song.

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling…

The effects of gender stereotyping on men.

What About The Men?  Why Our Gender System Sucks for Men, Too
excerpt from an upcoming book by Noah Brand & Ozy Frantz

Lindsay Ellis tweeted this article and I just had to share.

Now, fellow feminists, before you roll your eyes at that title, consider these excerpts:

Men who do not fit the box of hegemonic masculinity get all kinds of stigmatized. For instance, consider men who want to help raise their children. Stay-at-home dads and men on the “mommy track” often face disapproval and the belief that they “laze around all day” or “aren’t real men.” In public, men are all too often patronized as “Mr. Mom” or treated as though it’s exceptional and startling that they want to spend time with their children; it’s depressingly common for men openly interested in childcare to be called pedophiles.

*

Ultimately, the most important concepts in hegemonic masculinity are “strong,” “tough,” and “winner.” Each of these is code for a wealth of symbolism and subconcepts, so that “tough” implies both “stoically emotionless” and “does not seek medical attention.” “Strong” covers “supports his family financially” and “bench-presses more than his bodyweight,” among other things. “Winner” is the key to a Pandora’s box of competition and inadequacy, where the twin concepts of “loser” and “failure” lurk, waiting to consume men’s sense of self at the least excuse.

And, by God, THIS:

Then, too, many feminists have done excellent work in dealing with men’s problems. Stronger rape laws and paternity leave are just two of the benefits men have received because of feminism, and many survivors and many families are better off for it. Shelters, counselors and hotlines for survivors of rape and abuse, usually established by feminists, almost always also provide support for male survivors, support that would not exist otherwise. Groundbreaking feminist theorists like Michael Kimmel and Shira Tarrant have focused on men’s issues in addition to women’s. However, this valuable work has just made the problem clearer by highlighting how much more needs to be done. Freedom is not a zero-sum game. Liberating men from restrictive gender roles and gendered oppression is intrinsically bound up with liberating women from the same things.

Many feminists respond to arguments along these lines by saying that men ought to start their own movement, that they don’t see what feminism has to do with any of it. Unfortunately, this is the latest manifestation of an issue that has long dogged feminism and held it back: the inclusion problem. Feminism started as a movement by and for straight white middle-class women, and there were struggles over the inclusion of people of color, poor people, sexual minorities, trans people and the disabled. Many of these struggles continue to this day, and they all have one thing in common: the side of “we wish you well, but that’s not our thing, and that’s detracting from the important issues we want to deal with” turns out to be wrong. In fact, second-wave feminist lack of inclusion turned out to be wrong with such embarrassing regularity that the third wave gave up and invented a word for it being wrong: intersectionality, the overlapping and reinforcing structure of different forms of oppression.

Bold emphasis, mine.

This is a brilliant article that touches on so many great points with great clarity and focus.  This is a must-read for both the ardent feminists as well as the newcomers, especially the men who want to be more involved but don’t feel welcome to the party, in particular the section about the “safe landing zone”:

A lot of feminist communities don’t make good landing zones for guys who are still learning the ropes of gender questioning, who might still have a lot of work to do on their own problems and assumptions. These communities might be bad landing zones for many different reasons: sometimes, they might be a safe space (for instance, for survivors of abuse or rape) and so have no tolerance for questions that sound like victim-blaming; sometimes, anti-feminist trolling or harassment has made a community so sensitive that they lash out at well-intentioned but naive newbies; sometimes, they are intended for feminists to talk to other feminists and new people detract from this purpose.

That’s fine: it’s not any particular feminist’s duty to create a safe landing space. Education is often difficult activist work, and many people are not suited to it: it takes a lot out of you to answer the same questions about “But is there really a gendered wage gap?” over and over again, particularly when the people you’re answering feel like their questions are very original. You can’t have every place be a safe landing space for everyone: you’d never get anything done.

That is just one of the ways that masculism will benefit feminism. Because masculism can be a safe landing space for men entering into gender egalitarianism, the same way that feminism is a safe landing space for women entering into gender egalitarianism. It will engage with their problems and issues that they can see affecting their own lives. It will provide a supportive environment for men unlearning their sexism. It will answer the questions men have about gender theory and the realities of how sexism works in our society. It will socialize them into the norms of social justice work, such as call-outs and checking one’s privilege. In fact, it will do all the things that feminism does for women in similar situations, and that is an unambiguously good thing.

I can’t wait till the book comes out.