Everyone knows there are differences between boys and girls, but what we don't know so much about is what those differences mean, or where they come from, or how they might change the way we organise our world. So, if girls can do anything, why do boys rule the world?
Should have been Sansa, right?
Gwendoline Christie, better known as Brienne of Tarth, called Game of Thrones an equal-opportunities show. Women got to fight, die, love, fear, doubt, inspire, honour and slaughter everyone within reach just as much as men. There were as many great roles for women as for men, and women had as much chance as men to sit on the Iron Throne.
Christie sold it short. Most of the best characters in GoT were women. Most of the best leaders, even allowing that the definition of a "good leader" might be in dispute, were women. Most of the weaklings were men – actually, were there any weak women at all?
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Most importantly, what women did was more likely to drive the action. This was by far the most important contribution of Game of Thrones to mainstream Hollywood storytelling.
While Jon Snow stood around pouting, doing little more than adorn the sets, women made things happen.
So, was GoT a feminist triumph? Did it reflect a new world order out here in dragon-free land?
It wasn't always so. When Game of Thrones began, it quickly redefined the permissible, even by HBO's permissive standards, for both gratuitous female nudity and rape. The women characters, on the whole, watched the men do despicable things and took their turns having those things done to them.
But that changed. The execution of Ned Stark and later of Joffrey were blows against the "natural" order, and the emergence of Daenerys from the fire signalled the end of any suggestion that order should naturally be male. And when Dany taught Khal Drogo how to do sex, the underlying assumptions of nearly all our mythmaking and storytelling, thousands of years of it, got burned to a crisp.
It's hard to overstate that: is there any myth in any culture known to us today that goes where GoT went in that episode?
Eventually, most of the habitual nudity disappeared. The sexual violence didn't, but as the series wore on it had more purpose in the storylines and there were always, sooner or later, terrible consequences for the perpetrators.
That's called having your cake and eating it – showing the sexual violence and then wreaking moral vengeance on those responsible – but at least the moral dimension was clear.
Did Game of Thrones tell us who we are and who we want to be? That's what stories do. Even when they're set in fantasy worlds, they're still about us.
They're always about us. Before the pretenders to the Iron Throne, there were gangsters: Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister are no less part of us than Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone. So what did they tell us about boys and girls?
Here are four things to stack against each other: each one is true, but put them together and do they even make sense?
1. Until toddlers are old enough to have learned there are such things as boys and girls, and which one they are, they exhibit no gender-based preferences at all.
2. As they grow, girls do better than boys on almost every intellectual, social, creative and motor-skills-based measure you can think of. Even physical strength, the obvious exception, only really becomes an issue at puberty.
3. Despite that, there's no good reason to believe that either women or men are smarter or more able than each other.
4. Men rule the world.
We know girls are different from boys. There are so many ways in which it's self-evidently true, and so many more we think are self-evident but probably aren't true at all.
Girls learn to walk and talk and tie their shoelaces earlier, boys can read maps and girls make stronger friendships. Boys are more assertive, girls are more thoughtful. Boys are more confident, girls are more modest. Girls don't take risks and boys don't understand personal safety. Boys like outdoor things and girls are more fond of reading. Girls have more self-discipline. Boys have more fun. Girls are better at teamwork, boys are more natural leaders. Men are better at dealing with pain. No, women are. Men are more comfortable with success. Women are better at dealing with rejection. Women are nurturing. Men are better at killing things. Women go to the bathroom in pairs and men wouldn't dream of it.
At least in public, there does seem to be some evidence for that last one.
Also, there's this: make that list even 20 years ago and many people would want to say men are better at business, maths, all the arts, nearly all sport, politics and anything else with power attached. Oh, and comedy, because women aren't funny.
But now we know those things aren't true. Well, we're supposed to know it.
Researchers have struggled to find significant neurological differences between the sexes. Among very young girls and boys, there are no gender preferences for dolls, toy cars, dress-ups, books and building blocks. Or pink and blue.
Upbringing accounts for far more than we like to think. Boys who get lots of practice throwing and catching a ball develop good spatial skills. Girls who are expected to verbalise their feelings get good at doing it. Gender differences arise because from an early age we encourage those things to happen.
Got a little girl who can't catch the ball easily? Don't worry about it. Got a little boy who's the same? Keep trying.
It's not just that we steer kids in one direction or the other. Before long, they steer themselves.
In their first few years, children learn enormous amounts about who they are, how the world works and what their place is in it. Much of what they learn comes from watching and copying.
So when, from about the age of 3, they learn about genders, they look for behaviours that show them how they're supposed to fit the gender divide. The girls are playing with dolls? Your little girl wants a doll.
Experiments have tested this with children just entering this phase, by offering them the reverse: a boy shown other boys playing with dolls will probably want to do the same. The same is true for girls and toy trucks.
For small children, learning about the world is about learning how to fit into it. They learn decisively and in simple, binary ways. This is the right thing for you to do, to like, to be, and that other thing is the wrong thing.
(There are also children for whom this doesn't readily compute. Kids who don't embrace the typical behaviours, but are confounded by them. This story is about the nature of cisgender differences between boys and girls, but there's no suggestion it covers the full spectrum of gender identity.)
Most parents know this. From the age of 4 to 6, your kids want the same kinds of toys, the same kind of birthday parties, as the other kids who are like them. And if there's one thing you absolutely have to get right, it's probably the quantity of pink.
That would be, for many girls, more than you might think. And for most boys: absolutely none at all.
What happened to finding their own place in the world, expressing themselves in opposition to the expectations of others, deciding to be different? If that happens, which for many it does, it will be later. Even when they do get to it, they will have assimilated far more cultural baggage than they are probably aware of.
It's not just about toys and favourite colours, the things it's easy to outgrow. Children's behaviours and their understanding of what the world is – key elements in forming their personalities – run far deeper and have a far more lasting impact.
Boys watch the men around them, in the family and the community, on television, and they learn an essential truth. To be a man is to believe the world was made for you, and you can, therefore, shape it to your needs.
It's delusional, but that's the condition of being male. You don't need to believe you personally will succeed because of this, but you do know most men behave as if they are succeeding. At least, that's how it seems.
The socialisation of boys is outgoing: it's about giving them the confidence that they can achieve.
Girls are explicitly taught something very similar: girls can do anything. Every girl hears it repeatedly in school and from popular culture and many hear it from their parents and adults too.
But they also notice that it doesn't seem to be true. From an early age, they see other girls and women fitting in, not making the world work for them but accommodating themselves to the way it already works.
They see men who are unusual and prepared to take risks and break rules being praised for it; they see women doing that and being condemned.
Girls learn they might be clever and skilful, but they also learn they have to negotiate a place for themselves in a world beset with rules, and further that the rules are not obvious. Boys are barely conscious there are rules at all.
It makes a big difference that the prime minister is a woman, and there are many other women in positions of authority, many of whom demonstrably are changing the world. But relative to men, the numbers are low. They are, still, the exception, and they do, still, get publicly hated for it.
So, can girls do anything? Some can and do. But it must seem to many girls that either it's a lie, or most women chose not to. And why would that be?
In school, girls outperform boys on pretty much every measure, including the "boy stuff": mathematics, the sciences and everything requiring spatial skills.
And a 2016 study of 200,000 children around the world suggests co-ed classes might provide the best opportunity for boys to catch up. It found that boys learn reading skills best in co-ed classrooms with at least 60 per cent girls.
Why? Perhaps boys in a clear minority are less likely to dominate or disrupt. Perhaps because at 60 per cent there are enough girls to set the standard: boys are less likely to drag down reading expectations for the whole group.
Girls go on to dominate tertiary achievement levels, too, and have spread into more fields. Girls began to outnumber boys in law and medical schools only in the Past decade or two; now, the same trend is showing up in engineering and the sciences.
So what happens to boys, having learned the world was made for them but discovered in practice that they're coming second?
Some double down in order to succeed. They set goals, work hard, develop a moral code, learn social skills and do great things. Sure.
Some get resentful, and with that comes anger: if they're not going to be given their natural due, it's got to be someone's fault. The girls' fault, obviously, but perhaps also the fault of feminism or activists or elites or some kind of intellectual theory peddled by subversives and other schemers.
Many fall back on the things they learned young that they are good at: being more confident and assertive, demanding attention, being more determined to get what they want even at the expense of others. Being physically stronger.
For the most part, it's not extreme. We don't live in a war between the sexes. But milder forms of these responses are common. Resentment and anger express themselves in sexist jokes and demeaning behaviour. Bullying manifests itself in the habitual expectation your needs will be prioritised. Misogyny has found a happy home on the internet and in the minds of many men.
That's the world girls have to negotiate.
It's tough. It's tough for boys, too, especially those who do not fit the mould. If you're meant to be confident, blokey, chill, relaxed in the knowledge things will work out for you because why wouldn't they, and you're not that guy, life can be an awfully difficult struggle.
For those boys, the world can look like a place where girls achieve and boys have fun. Where boys don't let anything bother them, or don't let on that anything does. And if you're a boy who finds it too hard to fit into all that, you might start thinking there's nowhere for you to go.
So many questions. We could start with this one: how do we take pressure off young people, especially boys, so the suicide rates come down?
If there are no discernible gender differences between girls and boys as babies, but girls do better in school, does that mean our schools are teaching boys wrong?
It's nearly 50 years since the "second wave" of feminism popularised by such powerful leaders as Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer, and nearly 40 years since the great social and economic liberalisation that followed. But the secular, "progressive" Western world is awash with what often looks like hatred for women.
Is that more evidence we're teaching boys wrong?
If girls achieve better than boys growing up, but boys turn into the men that run the world, what's going on?
Is it possible to raise children without stereotyping them into gender roles? Is it desirable?
If we really wanted to make society safe for women, what would we have to do?
If we really wanted to make society open to boys and girls to flower in every different way they wanted, what would we have to do?
What are the lessons of Game of Thrones? Sansa did not win the throne but the arc of the whole narrative turned out to be hers. She is the world made new.
Not made wholesome, mind. She's learned cunning and cruelty, and she told us the cruelty meted out to her had made her who she was. That's not purifying fire, it's corruption by pain.
But she was the weak, abused young girl transformed brutally into a woman, abused all over again and become a survivor. She filled herself up with courage, wisdom and purpose, and she learned a wide set of skills. Her innocence was destroyed but her worldliness was affirmed. That's a story worth telling, a story for our time.
Bran got the throne, but he's more god than king. Sansa will rule. Her world will not be perfect. Shock news: while those without moral purpose make the worst rulers, being the most morally pure isn't the essential attribute of the best.
Sansa's world will not be made for women, or for men. It will be full of both. But you can be sure, the men will be expected to behave better than they used to behave towards her. That's fair enough.
"If girls can do anything, why do boys rule the world?" is part one of a series on society and gender roles.