POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT.
“Not coincidentally, Sansa Stark is also one of the most classically feminine characters on the show. She…has a penchant for romance, castles and pretty dresses.
“However misguided Sansa may be at first (and her initial naiveté goes far from unpunished), she arguably gets a disproportionate amount of fan hate because she doesn’t fit the narrow “strong female character” mold we’re used to rooting for.
“While her universally (and rightly) adored tomboy little sister Arya rolls her eyes at anything ladylike and takes up a sword — a masculine signifier of strength — Sansa conforms to the role of the obedient noblewoman she has been groomed for since birth. Despite the fact that her grace, manners and innate ability to play the part of a lady are what keep her alive at court, it is for this transgression that she is deemed “incredibly annoying,” her mistakes not readily forgiven and her bravery overlooked.
“As young adult author Cassandra Clare points out, people hate Sansa not because she messes up, but because she has the audacity to do so while acting like a girl.
“The female characters we tend to applaud typically adhere to a particular formula for strength, one that breaks the patriarchal mold of how a woman should behave. This can be empowering, but the constant regurgitation of this one type of “strong female character” limits the kind of women we value on screen and dismisses the merits of those who prove themselves in a different way. Male characters aren’t confined by the same standards, and more stereotypically “feminine” traits like patience, kindness and adaptability shouldn’t be seen as inherently lesser than more “masculine” ones like physical strength or the ability to lead an army into battle.
“The intensely patriarchal Westeros gives women two paths towards success: they can either work within the system, or reject it all together. Arya literally pretends to be a boy to escape King’s Landing, but Sansa cloaks herself in the mask of proper lady-hood to survive. This shouldn’t make her unworthy of respect. It just offers an alternative narrative of how women may navigate a man’s world.”
This discussion gets even more interesting when you also consider how much the internet hated Skylar White in Breaking Bad (didn’t the actress receive death threats at one point for her character?). I didn’t like Sansa, but I don’t hate her. I’m more exasperated with her inability to fully navigate the world of nobility she was raised for; an inability that arises from her naivete in believing in proper lady-hood instead of seeing it as the mask it really is, like another young lady who has had more success in navigating the patriarchal court. I’m also exasperated with her tentative (and constantly foiled) attempts to escape King’s Landing to her mother/brother/Winterfell, all of which are no longer accessible or a safe haven to her.