Yesterday, news broke that Game of Thrones co-stars Kit Harrington and Rose Leslie, known in Throne-lore as Jon Snow and Ygritte, are now engaged. And six “Jon Snow and Ygritte: Best Moments” YouTube montages later, I got to thinking: Is Jon Snow a feminist icon? From his early days as Ned Stark’s “bastard” to his current status as King of the North (though he bent the knee to Daenerys, so this title is murky) Jon Snow has proudly stood beside his female cohorts as an equal. He’s become the paragon of how men who date powerful women—or have powerful women in their lives—should behave. He’s obviously attracted to power, which is fine. Wonderful, even! Because I’m not sure what year it is in Westeros, but here it’s 2017, and if dating powerful women emasculates you, you’re a cretin.
Jon and Ygritte actually started as enemies; their storyline kick-starts in Season 2 when they must huddle together for survival in brutal wintry conditions. Their relationship was a playful one, with Ygritte unloading jeer after jeer (“You know nothing, Jon Snow”). She was the strongest and most respected female wildling warrior, and it was her sharp, acerbic wit and unbending strength that bonded them. Even when we heart-wrenchingly watched the duo face off in the Battle of Castle Black, Jon nobly refused to hurt her. When a member of the Knight’s Watch struck Ygritte, leaving her to die, Jon holds her in his arms as her last breath passes her lips. It’s clear he held her to the highest regard—as a soldier, as a person, as a worthy opponent, and as a lover.
Currently in Season 7, Jon is engorged in a passionate Snowmance with Daenerys Targaryen, who is quite literally the embodiment of The Matriarchy (and, unfortunately, his aunt). Daenerys is exorbitantly accomplished, her full title being, “Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.” Casual. Most men aren’t just intimidated by her; they feel threatened, taking her accolades as a personal affront on their manhood and their ability to perform masculinity in its traditional sense.
But Khaleesi’s story is one of triumph through oppression. Since the very first episode, men have felt the need to dominate and control her. In the pilot, she challenges her brother Viserys for the first time; he lashes out, claiming he’d let 40,000 men and horses have their way with her if she didn’t marry the man of his choice (Khal Drogo). Khal Drogo, her first husband and leader of the Dothraki tribe, repeatedly rapes her and treats her as chattel throughout their “marriage” (which was customary of Dothraki leaders, until she usurped power). She has been assaulted, insulted, spit on, and betrayed by the male leaders of Qarth, the Good Masters of Astapor, the Meereeneese, The Sons of the Harpy, and The Wise Masters of Yunkai. Some rebels, like Dickon and Randyll Tarly, even chose to be burned alive by a dragon rather than kneel to her. But not Jon Snow. Sweet, beautiful Jon Snow, who turned into a pile of Carrie Bradshaw-like mush for her.
Though Jon refused to bend the knee to Daenerys when they first met, it was never about her, her gender, or what he believed her to be capable of. He remained respectful while maintaining his allegiances to the North. Their relationship, like Jon and Ygritte’s, bloomed from a place of mutual respect for each other’s strength and power. They were allies and equals before they were lovers.
The valiant, brave, honorable, sweet baby boy Jon Snow takes powerful women for what they are and understands the importance of elevating them. He emboldens his half-sister Arya’s proclivity for archery and combat, rather than berating her for breaching gender roles. At his most stubborn, when his half-sister Sansa saves his ass and outsmarts him in the Battle of the Bastards, he accepts his misjudgments and faults without being derisive or sexist. Most importantly, he doesn’t pick and choose what type of woman to support; he knows Sansa is feminine and cannot wield a sword, but he sees the power of her mind, while simultaneously emboldening Arya for her physical power. Snow is the embodiment of a strong male character free of the problematic machismo we see so often in real life and in entertainment.
I’d be hard-pressed to find a comparable male character, one who supports a female protagonist as unconditionally as Jon Snow does. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s best friend Xander is possessive, unsupportive, and judgmental of her. He never quite comes to terms with the fact that his friend, a girl, is more powerful than him—and isn’t romantically interested in him. Then there’s Fox Mulder from The X-Files, who repeatedly pulls the theatrical “you wait here while I go ahead” bravado even though his partner, Dana Scully, is laughably as capable as him—more so. Even Steve Trevor, in the latest iteration of Wonder Woman, has wisecracks about Diana’s female power. At times, it was a funny commentary on 20th-century sexism, but it was still gross and contemptuous. In The Hunger Games, both Peeta and Gale fought for Katniss like a piece of property. There’s the craven, bitch-boy Duke of Edinborough from The Crown, who’s the antithesis of Jon Snow. Then there’s the monotonous, unrelenting chauvinism that Olivia Benson deals with on Law & Order: SVU, House of Cards’ Claire Underwood’s daily verbal abuse from her apoplectic husband, Princess Leia, who was never even given her own lightsaber, and Hermione Granger who was infuriatingly under appreciated by Harry and Ron. And do not get me started on fucking Mulan.
While most male characters at least feel the need to comment on the “irony” of a woman in power, Jon Snow does not. Going forward, we need more who support and elevate female protagonists in the same way. Of course, this is a garish metaphor for our real-life female heroes. Looking back, Bernie Sanders could’ve taken some notes on aggrandizing Hillary Clinton after the 2016 primaries; Brad Pitt should’ve literally bent the knee to Angelina Jolie; and let’s not forget the female senators fighting to save healthcare for millions of Americans.
In other words, if you’re not getting the full Jon Snow experience from the men in your life, dump them. Or, as they say in Game of Thrones, “Valar Dohaeris.”