photo: Getty Images

"Game of Thrones" has the potential to become the most honored narrative series in Emmy Awards history on Sunday night (September 18), after a mixed-bag sixth season which did, thankfully, find a way to tell the Westeros story without relying heavily on sexual violence against women.

After the controversial fifth season aired yet another rape scene, the women leading the series — Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Maisie Williams, Natalie Dormer, Carice Van Houten, Gwendoline Christie, and especially Sophie Turner, the star of said rape scene — were repeatedly pelted with questions about feminism, the show's depiction of violence against women, and sometimes both at the same time. 

It was understandable (and, due to a former editor's insistence, I myself asked Williams one such question), but I can understand why, when Season 6 premiered, Williams expressed frustration about the topic on Instagram. Basically, Williams seemed frustrated that she and her female costars — over, say, Peter Dinklage — were being treated like they not only write and edit "Game of Thrones," but are somehow more responsible than their male costars and producers when it comes to speaking up about feminist issues. Because when you examine how all of these women live their day-to-day lives, they further feminist causes without even having to say the big F-word (which, of course, is still important) like the badass queens of Westeros they are.  Such as...

1

When Emilia Clarke repeatedly argued for (nude) body equality on "Thrones."

Sure, "free the peen" isn't the most overtly serious of feminist causes. But Clarke has been adamant about the fact that, if the nude female form — hers included — is going to be on display so frequently on "Thrones," then the male should be, too. The pervasiveness of the male gaze in Hollywood and its many effects on women is important, so kudos to Clarke for speaking up for equality. 

2

When Maisie Williams fought back against sexist headlines.

The Daily Mail is a garbage fire that shames women for having bodies, using bodies, daring to exist in public spaces with bodies, sexualizes bodies, and so on and so forth. Williams is from England so she undoubtedly knows this, but that doesn't mean she should take their bullshit lying down — and I'm so, so glad she didn't when they focused on her boobs instead of her charity work earlier this summer.

3

When Williams also supported a baller charity that prevents child abuse.

Wililams is a huge supporter of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which aims to stop child abuse in the United Kingdom. Her work has reportedly raised thousands for the organization ... and yes, working to stop the sexual abuse of children is absolutely 100 percent a feminist cause. 

4

... And then pointed out how ridiculous anti-feminists are in the first place.

In an interview with EW, Williams recalled being asked if Arya was a feminist back when she was 12, and therefore "didn’t even know what a feminist was."

"And then someone explained it to me," she continued. "And I remember thinking, 'Isn’t that just like everyone?' And then I realized everyone is not a feminist, unfortunately. But I also feel like we should stop calling feminists 'feminists' and just start calling people who aren’t feminist 'sexist' – and then everyone else is just a human. You are either a normal person or a sexist. People get a label when they’re bad."

5

When Lena Headey authored a badass feminist essay for her daughter.

G'night from sunny lovely Yorkshire ????

A photo posted by Lena Headey (@iamlenaheadey) on

When it comes to the women of "Thrones," Cersei is queen both onscreen and off. Headey, newly a mother to a girl-child, wrote an inspiring essay for Plan International titled "My Daughter," on behalf of Plan's "Because I am a Girl Safe Future for Girls" project in Egypt.

"Geography dictates my freedom as a woman, geography and the women before us who fought for our equal political voice," she wrote. "The inequality that is all too prevalent all over the world is so great and so frightening. We owe it to our sisters who have no voice, and no chance to be heard, to speak up."

I am having a baby girl in six weeks. You have all been so lovely in your messages to me, and I thank you for that. 

My daughter will have freedom of choice. She will be free to dance, to sing, to be educated in the fields that spark her passion, to marry if she wants, to marry WHO she wants, to remain single, or to fall in love with another woman. She'll be able to wear what she wants, put on lipstick, and read books that spark debate and expand her mind.

She will be loved, protected, respected, and celebrated. 

All these things that should be, and will be, basic human rights, are a promise to my daughter. My humble request is that you give what you can and maybe - just maybe - we can bring about the change we all wish to see."

6

When Gwendoline Christie supported Annie Lennox's feminist charity.

The Circle works to improve "women’s lives, empowering women to earn a living and giving girls the chance of an education, fighting HIV and AIDS, adapting to climate change and protecting women’s rights" in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

7

When Natalie Dormer fought for equal representation in film.

Natalie Dormer is welcomed to #SDCC by #Joffrey. #comiccon #GoTSDCC

A photo posted by gameofthrones (@gameofthrones) on

Dormer doesn't seem to enjoy answering questions about "Game of Thrones"'s relationship with sexual violence — she instead points out it's "not my job" to defend the show, but rather to act in it. (Spoiler alert: not anymore!) 

This is A) totally her right and also B) correct, because she doesn't write the show ... but she is a proud feminist and advocate for women in film IRL. Heck, she's even currently writing a film herself!

"Women are over 50 percent of the population. ['The Hunger Games' is] one of the few films that actually represents us," she told Daily Beast in 2014. "What we’re aiming for in the industry is not to go, 'Girl power! Wave the flag!' We want to get to a place where the gender is irrelevant, because then it’s about the personality, and about the story. What I love about 'Mockingjay — Part 1' is that President Coin or Cressida could have easily been played by a man, and if you look at 'Interstellar,' the Anne Hathaway or Jessica Chastain roles would have been men years ago. I’m glad that cinema is catching up to what television has known for a while: that three-dimensional, complex women get an audience engaged as much as the men. I’m a feminist in the true sense of the word. It’s about equality."

8

... And also had a pretty damn firm grasp of what feminism actually is. (No, we're not trying to beat you up, guys. Though we will if we have to!)

photo: Splash News

"It really is crazy that the word 'feminist' can have negative connotations in 2014," she said in the Daily Beast interview. "It upsets me that the younger generation of women think it’s a dirty word, and associate it with a kind of militantism or a sense of female superiority. It’s not. It just means liberation, and equality."


9

When Sophie Turner acknowledged that the patriarchy is all too real.

I had a blast! Thanks @variety (tats are fake)

A photo posted by Sophie Turner (@sophiet) on

Turner, an actual queen, does not comment publicly on social justice issues like Williams and Headey do. HOWEVER, she did recently give an interview to HBO that acknowledges the patriarchy ... and that's something, right?

"Jon, especially in the beginning, underestimates Sansa, but as time goes by he sees her proving her competency. I think the social boundaries of the time period that 'Thrones' is loosely based on means that these men still view women as less capable of battle planning or anything to do with typical seemingly “male” activities. Patriarchy, even in this fictional world, is very real."

10

When Carice van Houten sounded off about her insane amount of nudity they make her do on "Thrones."

photo: HBO

Houten certainly doesn't hold back when it comes to discussing gender disparity behind and on screen — she's even expressed ambivalence about constantly having to strip down in freezing Arctic temperatures to play Melisandre. 

"I feel like [nudity] has been a weapon for a lot of women in the past and men have taken advantage of women’s bodies," she told Guardian. "It’s true, I think, and therefore probably very painful sometimes to watch. It’s not my favorite thing to do — at all. I really don’t like to take my clothes off on a set where everyone’s wearing fucking North Face jackets. But in Melisandre’s case, it’s definitely a weapon she uses."

11

... And also about the sorry state of female roles in film.

photo: Splash News

"The scripts I see sometimes for movies ... The women are 'sassy' and 'sexy,' whereas men get descriptions like: 'You can see that his past has done something with him,' 'he’s intelligent,'" van Houten continued. "It’s very sad. Sometimes there are moments where I feel like we haven’t come far at all. TV in that sense is definitely way more progressive. They’re interesting female characters — not just doing the dishes, waiting for the man to come home and being worried about the children."

12

When Nathalie Emmanuel got deep about "Game of Thrones"'s complicated relationship with characters of color.

Black women's issues are feminist issues, period. That's what intersectionality is all about. And while I get that it's Emmanuel's job to talk nice about "Thrones" so she couldn't call out its astounding whiteness in her interview with Salon, I do respect the thoughtfulness with which she answered the interviewer's question about her feelings on playing a slave.

"It’s definitely something you have to acknowledge," she said. "But people have asked me in the past whether it bothered me — the fact that there’s not many people of Black origin on the show, and then the ones that are have come in and been slaves. But I just feel like, for whatever time period this show was set in, the reality is, if you were not a rich white person you would have been a slave. History just shows us that, right? 

"It is such a hard thing, but I feel like what’s so great about both [Missandei and Grey Worm] is that, yes, they were slaves, but they’re very good at what they do. So, even though people might see that as a bad representation, I think it’s not because they are also both very smart, educated people as well — which is a positive thing, for sure. I definitely think about that because it is obviously a part of every Black person’s history in a way, even though we’ve come so far."