This Wednesday, March 8, marks the annual celebration that is International Women's Day, and boy did the women of Westeros deliver. Game of Thrones stars Emilia Clarke and Sophie Turner — who play Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark, respectively — both penned thoughtful, intelligent essays about their feminism online.
And perhaps most interestingly, both women mentioned how controversially sexual moments involving their characters inspired them to become the women's rights advocates they are today.
Clarke, writing for Huffington Post UK, began by admitting that, thanks to her upbringing in an "equal earning, equally managed household" that treated her the same as her brother, she didn't realize until "much later" how much feminism is needed.
She also admitted that there are days she feels like a "guilty feminist" whose "understanding of the bigger issues of inequality aren't enough." But since she now has a platform, and has played multiple characters who "have given me an insight into what it feels like to be a woman who stands up to inequality and hate," she felt up to the task of editing the All Women Everywhere edition of Huffington Post UK.
"Do I get treated equally at work? Not always," Clarke explained. "Does every woman? No, and the statistics back that up. Do I get asked questions at press junkets by men and women alike, specifically because they will get headline grabbing responses coming from a young woman? Yes."
Clarke is undoubtedly speaking of questions on Thrones nudity; questions she's been asked ad nauseam since Season 1. Quotes from Clarke exclaiming that Thrones should "free the peen" have made headlines countless times, because she is correct — quotes like that will always get press attention when they're coming from a young, attractive woman.
"If you've watched Game of Thrones then, spoiler, you will have seen me in the nude," Clarke continued. "There are plenty of ways in which people want me to respond to questions about this fact. And plenty of reasons why I do not feel the need to justify myself."
Turner, meanwhile, has arguably dealt with even more daunting press attention than Clarke has, because Sansa Stark was raped. The "huge reaction" to this Season 5 scene "shocked" Turner, but it also inspired her to give back. After doing some research, Turner became involved with Women for Women International, which helps women in war-torn countries (Turner visited their program in Rwanda) rebuild their lives.
"At first I was angry," Turner wrote of the backlash to her scene. "I was angry that there is such a taboo surrounding rape and that depicting it on screen was seen as vulgar. Sexual violence happens every day all around the world and yet for that to be represented on television, when other forms of violence are so often represented and more importantly, accepted and even welcomed in some cases, was considered disgusting instead of important. It made me think: why such a taboo?"
This anger then turned to "excitement" for Turner, as she became eager to get involved and give back to rape survivors personally.
"What made me want to work with Women for Women International was the plan that they have in place for women survivors of sexual violence and war," Turner continued. "They not only set out to raise money to help women support themselves financially, but they provide a year-long training programme to teach women business and life skills that will help them to rebuild their lives, helping them not just to survive, but to thrive."
Turner then named several "incredible" Rwandan women she met on her travels, and vowed to "help raise awareness of the work of Women for Women International, share the stories of the women they serve, and the issues women and girls face globally."
"Ultimately, I hope to help them build their network and raise much needed funds to help more women survivors of war," Turner concluded.
We don't know whether Daenerys Targaryen or Sansa Stark will be left standing once the Game of Thrones has been won, but one thing is certain — Clarke and Turner will be standing up for women in real life forever.