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Ladies’ Primer: Out of Character

This article is written as an OOC document, a companion piece to this IC document

The Role of Women in Westeros: Maiden, Mother and Crone

It is often confusing to play a woman on Blood of Dragons, as we all bring our real world sensibilities into the game with us. The fact is that women in Westeros occupy a role that is subordinate to men, and in such cases where a woman does achieve a degree of her own power, is understood to be the exception, not the rule. This is a general guideline to playing a woman in Westeros, and any questions about your particular character should be directed to Balerion or Nymeria in-game.

Maiden

First of all, a woman has little or no say over the direction of her own life.  When she is unmarried, her father makes all decisions for her, and she has no recourse to anything he does that displeases her.  A man will often defer to his wife in regards to a daughter’s day-to-day upbringing, but he is her ultimate authority in all things. 

A maiden will learn what she needs from her mother and her septa.  She should be taught to sew, weave, embroider and do other needlework as necessary in order to provide her family with clothing.  The attention she pays to her needlework is often used as a measure of her personality, since she must display the necessary patience and forbearance to run a household of her own one day.  If she is lucky, she will be taught to read, write, and cipher, so she can help in running that future household.

If she is of sufficient family to have a septa, she is expected to learn charity and humility.  Her septa has the power to punish her for infractions, to assign her menial household chores to teach her humility, and is a constant companion to guard her virtue.

Virtue is very important to a maiden.  While it is a good thing if she understands the plight of the less fortunate, any hint that she has acted with impropriety can ruin her.  Sex before marriage is not done unless the girl is very, very stupid. Even bedding a betrothed can be grounds for ending the betrothal—after all, who wants a wife with so little self-control?

Mother/Wife

The role of the wife is to obey her husband in all things.  She is no longer her father’s property, but her husband’s.  Her job is to give him sons.  She is not to deny him her bed, and failing to produce children can be grounds for annulling a marriage, though a simpler expedient is often an “accident.” Her body is not her own. Again, her virtue is her most precious commodity. She has to be very careful that no one can cast aspersions on her, or cast doubt on the paternity of her children.

Her responsibilities outside the bedchamber can vary, depending on her husband’s situation. She is expected to contribute to the clothing of the household, to its provisioning and overall maintenance.  She looks after the daughters.  Her sons, however, though she might love them very much, are her husband’s to educate. A woman in Westeros understands that sons must become men. It’s a brutal world out there. 

She is also responsible for elevating the household tone.  She can sing or play an instrument, dance, hunt with a short bow, hawk, or do other things to ensure that the house is a happy one.  She can read aloud.  She should reflect her husband’s wishes, but also serve as an example to him and everyone else.  No one is perfect, of course, but this is something for her to strive for. Her husband, as always, is the final word on what is allowed in the house. If he says no dancing, there’s no dancing, no matter how much she might love it.

Crone

Losing her husband does not liberate the widow.  She is still expected to fill her role as an example to the house, and she will submit to her son now, or whatever other family male assumes the head of household role.  In many ways, she simply continues as she has lived.  She should remain virtuous and not engage in love affairs, as these reflect badly on her children and the family she has married into.

Another option for the widow is remarriage. This is, of course, at the discretion of her late husband’s family, or sometimes (if she is young still) of her birth family.  As is the case of any first marriage, subsequent marriages rarely have anything to do with what the woman wants, but what benefits her family best.

Lastly, she can go into a motherhouse or become a septa.  Many widows choose this route as it allows them to continue to be useful, particularly those who want to continue being part of a household with daughters. This sets a fine example to the house she has left, as it shows that she is virtuous to the very end.

None of this means that it is impossible or necessarily restrictive to play a woman on Blood of Dragons. We all make our own place in the world, and the IC world is no exception.  While the above expectations are the norm, there is great scope for roleplay in chafing against one’s place, in leveraging one’s own position for political gain, or risking the consequences of defying the roles. Gossip, for example, is a powerful tool for making or breaking reputations, which creates a ripple effect of shifting influence in the world of men as well. It is possible that a woman might be more politically powerful than her husband, depending on birth or connections; women in Dorne can inherit, for example, and it is not unheard of in Westeros, either.  The challenge lies in making the thematic restrictions work for you!