Game of Thrones’ men underestimate the women around them at their peril.

A woman you don’t want to mess with.

HBO

“So why is a nice girl on her own heading to King’s Landing?” asks one of Ed Sheeran’s band of friendly, well-meaning Lannister soldiers in Game of Thrones’ “Dragonstone.”

“I’m going to kill the queen,” replies Arya Stark.

There was an awkward pause before the men burst into good-natured laughter, seeing only a fresh-faced girl who might not even be old enough to share their blackberry wine, and not a trained assassin who’d just murdered several dozen of Walder Frey’s loyal subjects. It was a perfect encapsulation of how the show’s men continually fail to comprehend the power of the dangerous women around them.

The Season 7 opener was full of powerful women taking charge. Westeros—from the newly arrived queen in Dragonstone to the newly crowned queen in King’s Landing—has become a matriarchy. And yet, the world of Game of Thrones is one in which, much like our own, men fail to take women seriously, often at their own peril.

Whether it be Jaime Lannister assuming his sister Cersei—the woman who now sits atop the Iron Throne—doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into, the Northern elders rejecting the idea that women should fight in the battle to save humanity while sitting opposite Lyanna-fucking-Mormont, even the fact that Ned Stark didn’t share his swear-word-laden advice with his daughters (“He never wanted us to see how dirty the world really is,” explains Sansa), the women of Westeros are still treated as weak, ignorant, and in need of protecting by their male counterparts. And it’s going to come back to bite them.

Jon Snow, at first, seems to get it. Addressing his allies, he suggests everyone start training to fight—even the girls, who, he reasons, can wield a Dragonglass blade as well as anyone else. The gesture toward equality is met with some distress by the old white men of…

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