I want to object to the notion that Eowyn is worth more than Arwen, and propose that this is founded upon a sexist value system in which a woman’s worth is based upon what she does.
Over the years I’ve had this debate with quite a few people, and, admittedly, it’s usually instigated by me because I get tired of seeing the way Arwen is treated. This shows up in several ways: the main argument looks like this: "Aragorn should have married Eowyn because Arwen is useless. All she ever does is sit around and cry."
Look, first off - what’s the basis for somebody being "of use"? And to whom should they be "useful"? Are we talking useful to Aragorn, here, and if we are, am I the only one who sees that as inherently problematic? I sure as hell hope not.
Let’s assume that either woman’s worth is tied to their usefulness as a Queen, then. Eowyn is the niece of a King and has spent her entire life in and out of the thrown room advising her uncle. Arwen is the daughter of a Lord, is several thousand years old, and probably deals with administrative duties as befits a woman of her station in an egalitarian society such as the one the elves foster. Both of these women are qualified to be a queen.
Maybe it’s more about which one is more of a badass? Okay, so Eowyn dresses as a man and rides out to battle because she doesn’t want to be caged into a gender role - one which she is constantly having to fight off, most notably because of Grima, but also because of her uncle and even Aragorn. She should be allowed to make that choice, and, yes, she should be cherished for it. It takes immense bravery to stand up and fight to be the person you desperately want to be.
But what I take issue with is the idea that Arwen is somehow lessened because she accepts her role. (I also take issue with the idea that only traditionally masculine things like riding horses and killing orcs are exciting and badass, but okay.) I take issue to the way people portray her as a flighty airhead, or as a piece of furniture, and they use excuses such as "she has such a small role" and "well, obviously she didn’t get out much" and "she’s just there as an extension of Aragorn" to imagine less of her. I mean, come on - if you can’t see her as having a vital and active role in Rivendell, perhaps that’s more on your inability to imagine a strong woman unless somebody else does all the work for you, and less on her necessarily being useless unless she’s out kicking ass and wielding a sword.
I love Eowyn, and I fiercely do not want anyone to wield an inch on the love they have for her. She has fought to be who she is, and who she is is vital and wonderful and important. She doesn’t need to be with Aragorn to be that way - she doesn’t need to be with Faramir, either, but the fact that she is with him doesn’t lessen who she is, either. It doesn’t mean she’s compromised her fearless heart.
And I love Arwen. And if she is a little more quiet, a little more bookish perhaps, that doesn’t make her less worthwhile. Tolkien sadly gave us very little information about what sort of a life she led, but I doubt she’s just sitting there embroidering for hours every day or having inane conversations about how lovely the canyon looks in autumn: and if she is, well fuck you for judging her. If her projects of worth are more traditionally feminine, and if that somehow makes you think she’s worth less than a woman who takes on masculine projects, fuck you for that, too. Feminism doesn’t mean the invalidation of traditional modes of being; it means expanding the modes of being so there are more options for women than before.
Also, so what if she chooses mortality to be with a man? A man who underwent sixty years of sleeping in swamps, wearing the same tattered muddy boots, eating only what he could find or hunt - yes, because he wanted to be King, but also because there was a father who said not until you are King of Gondor and Arnor combined? I don’t think you can successfully make the claim that she’s sacrificing without reciprocity, and I don’t think it’s okay to discredit the idea that she had dreams, too: dreams of the kingdom she would help to heal, dreams of the life she would help make and the people who would call her their beloved Queen. Arwen is a healer like her father before her, I think - but she’s not a healer of a person’s body, but of a body of people.
And that is why I love both my beautiful ladies and refuse to choose between them. They are both worth loving, regardless of what man they are with or why that man did or did not choose them. I refuse to give credit to the idea that you can determine a woman’s value by what sort of usefulness she has (to a man, to a country) - women, like men, like everybody, are inherently worthwhile as human beings. And I don’t agree with this notion that preferring swords or books swings that pendulum an inch in one direction or another.