So, yes, I’m only six years late to the party on this one.
In my own defense, HBO just became free (to us) last month.
I’m still cheap.
So, given the painful and aching void that Season Six of TWD left in my soul, and a weekend on pain medication that left stringing more than two written sentences together a task I was not willing to take on, I found myself so intrigued by GoT that I commenced to binge-watching it at my earliest opportunity.
All six seasons.
In one week.
Kids, don’t try this at home.
I did have a new “TV Boyfriend” (an official Thing I found out about on Facebook.) ….
No. Not kidding.
Let’s be clear as just how pathetic this crush is: this is directed solely at a fictional character. My husband knows. He gets Danica Patrick.
There is no known therapy.
In all of this, however, a blog post was born.
It all started when I read the review of the most recent episode in The Atlantic. They pointed to a moment in the episode when I’d paused the button and commented to my husband, who nobly hid his annoyance that I’d interrupted Candy Crush.
My comment went something like this …
That moment when women were going to be trained, bothered me, and I’m a feminist. In that time, such a policy would have been ill-advised from a biological and economic standpoint.
Well, you’d think I’d have said Sensa Stark (my TV mentor) should have tried harder to make her marriage to Ramsey Bolton work! I’ve been called “imbicilic,” “daft.”
Oh, well, I’ve been called worse by better folks and my own in-laws (but let’s not confuse the two). Ho hum.
My point was, in the fictional universe that is GoT, Lyanna Mormont’s determination, while admirable from a modern, feminist perspective, puts her house and her kingdom in jeopardy on several counts.
1. She makes her small house vulnerable to external attack from the outside or internal disintegration.
If you send every able-bodied person off to fight, who’s going to run/defend things at home? Because I’m a huge fan of a) antiquity, b) the apocalypse, and c) science, my first thought is who is going to run shit at home?
We’re talking harvesting crops, running machines (yes, they had them, and they were powered by people or animals, who were, in turn, powered by people), raise children, cook, chop firewood, bandage wounds, etc.
Not to mention, enforcing the law during the war. Because you know sure as god made little green apples, the minute all the strong, able-bodied people take their weapons and march off to fight, that’s when all the real human cockroaches are going to crawl out from the metaphorical woodwork and mess with what’s left.
Who’s going to handle that? The ten-year-olds or geriatrics left behind?
In addition to the less-than-benevolent residents you have lingering behind to worry about, there’s all the outsiders who know that Elvis has left the building. A smart (but inethical) lord might get the clever idea to hold some strong people back, and attack her small estate while everyone else is off fighting the White Walkers.
And who’s going to defend that little kingdom against god-only-knows-what that comes around then?
2. She makes her small house vulnerable to decline and disappearance by attrition.
In the course of my colorful career, I heard a project manager try to explain to senior management and the rank and file why the timeline for a certain multi-million dollar project was unrealistic, to put it kindly:
Just because it one woman can make a baby in nine months, that doesn’t mean you can make the same baby in one month with nine women.
Any ideas of sexism (and I don’t see it) aside, he was trying for the umpteenth time to point to the fact that a cake takes as long as it takes to bake no matter how many cooks working on it: some things take as long as they take. Period.
When it comes to the survival of any community in tough times, it’s a numbers game. And when you’re decimated by war, even a war you’ve won, the name of the game is upping the numbers as fast as possible. Many women can make more babies in nine months than a few women can.
This rather crude point is based on something I read a few years ago about communities, tribes and small kingdoms in antiquity: long-term success was all about being able to grow in numbers, and you had two ways to do that: integrate other communities either through conquest or alliance (marriage, annexation), or – here it comes people, the ugly nasty truth – reproduction. This argument was used to explain why many cultures determined membership on matrilineal lines.
It takes about slightly less than two-decades to generate additional strong, contributing members of the community. And even longer to see true growth.
This is all icky and too calculating for us sophisticated, modern folks. Of course, we face a planet quickly dying from the overpopulation of a bunch of fools who broke the thing in about a century. We have different problems. Folks in antiquity may have found our ideas on birth control pretty upsetting, too.
The best case scenario here, that the Whitewalkers lose, still leaves a huge problem, because you know (again, sure as god made …) people are going to die. Lots and lots of people. And you have to replace those people fast.
So, even if everyone defeats the White Walkers, if too many people in your House die to come back and rebuild/repopulate, your community dies off in less than two-three decades anyway. Yours becomes a Pyrrhic Victory. Without substantial growth, the best you can hope for is that your house becomes subsumed by another. And then you’ve lost your legacy, Lyanna.
3. Blindly sending everyone you have builds the opponent’s resources.
If I send 200 bodies to fight the WhiteWalkers, and have 50% losses, I’ve just given them 100 new fighters. If I send 100, and have 50% losses, then I give them 50.
Add that to the Whitewalkers, because those little sonsuvbitches don’t die. They just get up and fight another day. Along with your people who just got killed.
We saw this at work in the Massacre at Hardhome.
So, in holding some people back, you’re depriving the opponent of a needed resource.
Another reason it’s foolish to throw people onto the battlefield like logs on a fire is that it’s pointless.
This war, as Jon already knows, isn’t a matter of bodies, but of weapons. Bodies won’t win the day, but the right tools will. Enough fire and automated weapons of Dragonglass (I admit I’m pretty immersed in the fictional universe as I type this), and you can compensate for the men.
And of course those pretty little dragons. Those might make up for a few bodies.
Now, teaching *everyone* to fight is crucial. But my point is it’s unwise to *SEND* everyone away to fight.
4. Sending all your men (and women) eliminates any recourse in the event of initial defeat.
Sensa Stark (the true brains of the operation) knew this at the Battle of the Bastards. Jon Snow took everyone he had, against superior numbers, into battle and they got creamed.
It was looking like a 1999 USC Gamecocks’s football game.
Sensa, however, held some men back until the last possible moment, then brought them in the game. She waited to see how the battle was going.
The result? Victory.
But do you think she would have humiliated herself enough to use the Knights of the Vale if it looked like Jon Snow’s half-baked battle plan was going to work? Of course not. She’d have sent them home.
I stand by this theory as very sound. According to Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, the Army sent young OCS graduates to the war theater to learn, because they knew they’d need a post-war force when the combat draftees were relieved of duty.
The resulting Facebook row resulted in all sorts of conjecture, many of which suggesting that in withholding some of the baby-making population (which could do double-duty and manage the infrastructure at home), I doomed the entire GoT universe to Death by Whitewalker. Some pointed out that women in some ancient cultures did, in fact, fight.
No argument here. Great idea.
Just don’t send of every man, woman and child between ten and sixty to fight is all I’m sayin’.
So what would I have done?
- draft all the men between fifteen and fifty.
- take volunteers of all women between fifteen and thirty-five, with a goal of 40%-50% of the population as fighters. It sounds mean, but any women who don’t want or can’t have children get to fight. Everybody contributes.
- draft all women over thirty-five.
In my (admittedly pragmatic) point of view, this approach doesn’t diminish women. In fact, recognizing child-bearing, and child-rearing asserts the absolutely crucial women play in the long-term survival of the community.