Jon Snow Isn't The Feminist 'Game Of Thrones' Fans Think He Is

by Caroline Gerdes
Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

From the second Jon Snow landed at Dragonstone, worlds collided on Game of Thrones. Fans were naturally curious about how Jon would fare in Daenerys' kingdom. Dany's world was built with the power of women and underrepresented groups. Jon Snow's power was built in a world where men are given everything (whether they're bastards or not). As much as you may adore him as a character — Jon Snow and Daenerys' meeting highlighted that Jon Snow isn't the feminist Game of Thrones fans think he is.

When the big moment finally happened, Missandei introduced Daenerys with a lengthy list of titles and honors. Davos simply presented Jon as Jon Snow. This got a laugh, but also set the stage for the difference in leadership and privilege between the two. So, when Dany asked Jon to kneel before her and accept her as queen, and Jon refused, it made sense in the moment and given the setting. However, there was something particularly troubling about this scene, especially considering a conversation Jon had with his sister Sansa just two episodes prior in the Season 7 premiere.

Jon and Sansa initially butted heads over Sansa's desire to give the castles of the Northern families to more loyal families as punishment for their fathers' decisions to back Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards. Jon disagreed.

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

When Sansa pointed out that the families "broke faith," Jon refused to take the families' ancestral homes and declared, "I'm not going to strip these families of their ancestral homes because of the crimes of a few reckless sons. ... I will not punish a son for his father's sins." But, this is exactly what he did, to the letter, to Dany in Episode 3.

When Jon would not bend the knee to Dany, she asked, using the same phrase as Sansa, "You've travelled all this way to break faith with House Targaryen?" Going against his previous words, Jon refused on the grounds that Dany's father burned Jon's relatives and that "he would have burned the Seven Kingdoms." Dany explained that her father was "an evil man" but asked that Jon forgive her for things her father did that she could not control.

Here's this powerful woman, who is completely acquiescing to Jon's frustration. She's offered an apology, asked for forgiveness, and asked that Jon simply gives her the respect that her title and position require. Sure, Jon goes down on his girlfriends and doesn't rape people and is one of the kinder people in Westeros. But kindness alone does not a feminist make. Jon stood his ground in hypocrisy and refused to bend the knee to Dany.

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Jon dismissed Sansa for the same opinion he used against Dany. He refused to listen to his sister, whose claim to Winterfell is far stronger than his, BTW. He also refused to listen to Dany, who is an actual Queen, not just a King voted in by people who don't seem to care that Jon — in being a bastard who was in the Night's Watch — breaks all the requirements of an actual ruler.

At this point in their meeting, Jon has no idea of the adversities and suffering Dany has faced on her journey. To him, she is a beautiful, young woman with a list of titles, a fancy surname, and a giant castle. Jon is being judgmental and dismissing her legitimate claim to the Iron Throne.

Actor Kit Harington basically confirmed this when he discussed his motivation for Jon in a recent Entertainment Weekly article; he offered,

“But then again, you’ve got to take yourself out of the mindset of the viewer. As far as Jon knows, he’s just meeting this queen he’s heard of and trying to negotiate with her — he’s not meeting Daenerys, who the audience has been watching for so many years. That helps with the surprise of it. He walks into the room and doesn’t expect to see such a beautiful young woman of similar age to him. Any young man’s reaction is going to be, ‘OK…’ but he puts that aside, because he has to.”

Ah, so Jon thinks Dany is a pretty, rich girl. He completely discounts her because of her age and her beauty — as though someone young and pretty cannot possibly take her ruling seriously. What's most distressing about this though is that Harington explains it away by lumping Jon in with all the men of Westeros. "Any young man's reaction" isn't a good explanation for discounting a woman.

That's why Jon's "feminism" can never be true feminism. He is all too ready to dismiss a woman simply because that's what young men do in his country. It's not wrong, but it is disappointing. Jon is a hypocrite in the worst degree, shaming men who aren't decent to women, while doing the same himself. It's easy to be against someone like Ramsay (whom Jon despises particularly because of what he did to Sansa). But, when the lines are more grey than black and white, he errs on the side of the patriarchy. It seems that Jon Snow isn't the feminist hero fans think him to be after all — and that may set him up for a great fall against these powerful women this season.

Editor's Note: This article has been modified from its original version.