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Premise for a theocratic matriarchy I want feedback on

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Sharad9, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    I have an idea for a setting with a magic theocracy that i would like feedback on. This nation operates as a matriarchy with women in most of the top leadership positions. After listening to opinions from others , I discovered that most find it unrealistic for a matriarchy to remain in power for long without men seizing control (bigger, stronger, etc). So I tried to make a setting in which women are seen as more essential and to justify the social heirachy. The culture is not meant to be completely misandric or dystopic, but it does have its flaws and it's stereotypes of the sexes.

    Suppose you had an inverse of the Bible creation story, where woman was create by god first. Man came from woman''s womb to serve and protect her, and play the complementary role. religious reverence would be given to the sex that gives birth, seen as a symbol of divine authority to bring new life into the world. Women would have the innate ability to control their reproductive functions. They can determine the sex of their child in the womb and choose to make it a boy or girl. They can also carry to term, pause, and abort at will. Magic would also be present in the world, but only accessible by women. It takes the form of rituals and would be powerful, but slow, exhausting, often require multiple ingredients, and time consuming.

    Most of humanity is united against supernatural forces, such as demons, monsters, and other things that exist outside of reality. Magic has become essential to the survival of the human race, and forms the bedrock of society. It is used with technology, healing, alchemy, among other things. Golem-like mech suits, crystals used as batteries to power machinery, barriers meant to keep these monsters outside of reality from crossing over or banishing them in worse case scenarios, and enchancing materials and weaponry are some of the ways magitech is used in everyday life.

    Although magi tech can be used by anyone, women are the only ones capable of accessing magic directly. Religion has formed around their ability to access these powers, which are said to come from god, and the ability to create life (which is also viewed as a form of magic). This has led to women being seen as sacred and more "valuable". Females are discourged from soldiering and warfare, due to the religious taboo that to take life interferes with the ability to give life.

    I tried to take some positive and negative masculine and feminine stereotyes from real life and incorporate them, but also change what society deemed important. Men are valued for their physical strength and prowess, and for their protective nature. However, they are hot headed and emotional creatures. Not stupid by any means, but prone to making poor decisions and acting rashly. Women, by contrast, are perceived to be more rational and clinical in their thinking.They are nurturing, better able to cooperate to achieve long term goals, and are the glue that holds society together.

    I would like to know what people think about this premise. Does it work as a believable setting? What works and what doesnt? What ideas or conflicts can be fleshed out to make a matriarchy feel "realistic"? What would be the consequences of women being in complete control of reproduction and how would it affect childrearing?
     
    pmmg likes this.
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Sounds good to me. Write it :)

    I think the only thing I might take issue with is abort at will. Where in, this would seem to not be a mystical function, but a physical one. Women can certainly abort at will in any sense, as they can do many physical things to end a pregnancy. A more mystical use might be to conceive or not conceive at will. But once conceived, the life created would have to be destroyed. I would question if God, who decided here to create Eve first, would want that. Rather than a willful act to undo what has already been created.

    I might also question, if magic can be used to create life, are the men needed at all for causing pregnancy? I am not sure if you meant that sentence in that way. But if magic is all that is needed, then men might not even be seen as something that could be desired.

    The question you ask at the end, about how would it affect childrearing, well, you are already rewriting all the rules for society. If women are in charge they might choose to switch a lot of the gender roles entirely, and so just about everything, including child rearing, would quite likely be different.

    However, none of the above raises enough red flags for me to not just go with it. You get create it all. I think it sounds like a fun experiment. I am interested already in what you might come up with.
     
  3. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    Creating life still required a physical union between man and woman. However, males do not pass on their genes, but their "spirit". The spirit is basically the life force of a human being it also contains the seat of consciousness. Their personality, ethics, values, and everything that makes that person "them" is housed there.
     
  4. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    Creating life still required a physical union between man and woman. However, males do not pass on their genes, but their "spirit". The spirit is basically the life force of a human being it also contains the seat of consciousness. Their personality, ethics, values, and everything that makes that person "them" is housed there.
     
  5. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

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    Oh, this is interesting!

    So, the children all resemble the mother and her family members physically, but resemble the father and his family members spiritually and temperamentally? Neat!
     
  6. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    Well what I meant was that a man's spirit interacts with the genes in a different way. As a result, everyone looks unique. But they tend to have the personalities of their father.
     
  7. staiger95

    staiger95 Scribe

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    If you plan to alter the genetic progression inherent in biological reproduction, then you should be cautious to consider how that would effect biological dimorphism within the society. You mention males being big and strong, but remember that males only became 'big and strong' to compete with other males for reproductive rights. Consider within your society what would be the desirable traits of each gender and how those would be selected and nurtured. If magic gives control over so many aspects of reproduction, think of what traits men would be selected for in terms of 'passing on their spirit'. This could result in a relatively few jealously guarded (and controlled) 'studs' within a predominately female society, with the females themselves restructuring into differing castes of birthers, warriors, sorcerers, etc.. Just things to consider.
     
  8. This is interesting and well thought out.

    The only thing that confuses me is the ability to abort at will...if women have so much power they can determine the sex of their child in the womb, can they not choose when and when not to conceive? Control their hormones/ovulation?...
     
  9. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    Yes. But I was thinking they should have it just as an option. Since they have that much control, it made sense to me. You don't think it works?
     
  10. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    I was thinking that males who conformed to conformed to masculine ideals of the culture ( loyalty, protective, muscular, dutiful) would be the alpha males of society. Those who support the social structure and reinforce it's values and traditions would rise in power and influence, but their authority would ultimately come from their female relatives.
     
  11. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Men have no such thing. Men need to be socialized into becoming white knight providers for women. Especially magically empowered women who need no protecting. In a matriarchy, women are dominant and can leave relationships easily, and take the kids, and make the father pay for them still. Men have no guarantees of loyalty no matter how much work they put in. Women would have no social stigma against sleeping around and cucking a man. Having a higher status man impregnate and the lower status provider raise it. Single motherhood is norm in a matriarchy .Men would have no due process allowed against rape charges/violence against women (listen and believe/yes means yes) etc. More men would stay single than stay with a domineering, combative, nag of an empowered woman who could kick you out on the street anytime, take the kids, while having you fight wars for her and toil yourself toward a short lifespan. Simps are made, not born. Oh and you'll have a massive boy shortage, as women will choose the more valuable sex. A reverse China.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    When you say matriarchy, and positions of power, what do you have in mind? Monarchs, sure. Judges? Heads of corporations or business partnerships? Village elders? Commanders of armies? Teachers? Doctors?

    In any of these, it seems to me that magic would trump everything, so you would have males in none of those positions, and many more besides. In fact, in any socio-economic-political-religious role, it feels like you would need an explanation for why a woman was *not* in that role. If I'm on the right track, if that's how you are thinking, then I do see a couple of issues.

    One, you will have a manpower ... *ahem* ... womanpower shortage. (huh. interesting. spellcheck underlines womanpower but is untroubled by manpower) Er, where was I? Oh yeah. You will have a womanpower shortage. And a surplus of males. Maybe even a plethora.

    Two, this is more of a question, are positions hereditary or elective? If the latter, can men stand for office? If the former, what happens when the line fails? There is a third way, which is by co-optation. Historically this rarely works well or for long, but you could probably sell it.
     
  13. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

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    If they can determine the sex of the baby, then I'd imagine the society would be 90+% female. And all the males are simply kept for their necessity in the reproduction process. And you don't need many males to have a good reproduction rate, since their direct involvement in the biological process is very short compared to a woman's. In fact, they'd have a better reproduction rate, and have a huge population growth, unless the men are kept only for a certain caste of women.

    Women are more valuable in our world. As mentioned above, you don't need many males to keep population growth up. E.g. if you have 100 men and 20 women, you can get maximum 20 babies every 9 months (excepting twins and the like). While if you have 100 women and 20 men, you can get 100 babies every 9 months.

    So because of this, women are inherently more valuable from a biological point of view. That's why men and not women went out to fight and hunt -- it wasn't worth risking a woman's life.
     
  14. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    A variety of men competing for women keeps the genepool at a high quality. But if women with their own group preferance* decide the sex, and if women have higher status in a matriarchy, you will have hardly any males born at all. Then these few men are sent to war and die, your society ends. Game over.

    *"Women are wonderful" effect - Wikipedia women's in-group biases were 4.5 times stronger[5] than those of men
     
  15. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    I took some ideas from Iroquois culture, in which men and women had separate roles in society. Society would be broken down into semi independent matrilineal clans Females would focus more on matters that keep society running. These are the business leaders, judges,teachers, etc. However, they wouldnt normally get involved with politics directly. Since magic is basically the bedrock of society, they are it's most important members and would be too valuable to risk. Clan mothers would elect males as "leaders" to run day to day tasks. However, true authority would lie with their female relatives who could remove them if neccessary.
    The idea was to create a world with men as external leaders but with a women centric culture. Rather than men having agency, women wield their agency through men. Does that make sense?
     
  16. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    I would think that reproduction would have to be regulated to prevent a gender imbalance. Instead of men regulating women like most of our history, women regulate each other. Sex and reproduction would be seen as separate. The former would not be a concern, but the latter would be strictly controlled.
     
  17. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    But why would men even go to war in this scenario? They're a rare reproductive resource and weaker since they have no access to magic. It makes no sense that they would risk their men like that.
     
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    The biggest potential trap would be to begin with the idea of homogeneity and construct your society from that basis.

    In general, I think your ideas will work. But I think it'd be a mistake to visualize that society as if any single point within it is like every other single point: This household is like every other household; this neighborhood is like every other neighborhood; this family living on the edges of society is like the families who occupy the upper echelons; this individual is like every other individual; this man is like every other man and this woman is like every other woman; this woman's view of men is like every woman's view of men, and this man's view of women is like every man's view of women.

    In a realistic society, there will be great variation.

    If you begin with a limited extreme and universalize it, and make that the absolute and universal nature of your people, institutions, etc., at every point in society, you could possibly end up with something like La Volpe's description of a society that is 90+% female and men are around for their role in reproduction only. Or you could end up with Annoyingkid's prediction of a society that would drive itself to extinction long before your book begins.

    But I think these are unrealistic views, or at least rather limited.

    First, I assume that your society is still around because it developed in ways that permitted and even encouraged its continuation. So I'm curious to explore those factors that ameliorated the effects that extreme homogeneity and stringent absolutism would otherwise have wrought on your society.

    Second, I think that you've already given some clues about those ameliorating factors. I'll look at those:

    You haven't said that all women can access that magic, nor that every woman's access is equally strong. So I'm curious about this, and I'd suggest that you include variation in these things, for reasons I'll explain in a bit.

    Magic is not the sort where you can launch a fireball at a suddenly violent aggressor—including male aggressors—or whip up chains to restrain an attacker. There is at least one burden to magic use, then: complexity, involving time constraints and resource restraints. This limits its use as a vehicle for domination (including of men), although by "limit" I don't think we should disregard those effects altogether.

    As La Volpe has said, evolutionary paths have already followed a route for humans in which women are valued for their childbearing while men rush off to hunt and fight; so, this isn't particularly new. Also, in our society, the women's childbearing has been utilized for segregation of roles, already, i.e. institutionalized. But you've added some factors that are ahistorical and that lend weight to this segregation. In our own history, male domination of society could work (whether you like it or not) because most major warfare could be resolved by force of arms, whether interstate or intrastate warfare. In your society, this is not the case. So I can see this history of your world reinforcing the notion of segregation of roles in the way you propose. Religious and social norms could place greater emphasis on the idea of protection of women—even men would recognize that their own survival depended on these women.

    But, the magic these women use is slow, resource-intensive. For comprehensive defense, they would need the "physical strength and prowess" of men.

    So...so far so good. I can buy this.

    But I would suggest drilling down into various different layers of your society to find the true variation within that society.

    Perhaps what works in the humans vs demons/monsters dynamic would work in intrastate conflict, i.e. powerful women in conflict with other powerful women within the society. Each may well have powerful magic, but it's slow; keeping a personal army or bodyguard of men around would be a good idea. Merchant women may well need a sturdy set of transporters for their goods, to prevent thefts. Women who lead thieving guilds or assassin guilds—i.e., crime bosses—may well need dependable men for protection and for doing various dirty deeds in the night where danger levels are greatest. Perhaps other dangerous jobs in the society would be the province of men. (I.e., women are so valued naturally, they might not be placed in direct danger.)

    Also, if you have variation in access to magic and magical proficiency among the women, perhaps those who have none or only limited ability would be more prone to have men in their employ and lots of sons. Men can work, earn a living, provide protection.

    Basically, men are valued for more than their role in reproduction.

    I'd look at the way women are not universally valued to the same degree, don't have identical status—among themselves, also. I'd look at the effects of economic inequality. I can see the way some women in powerful positions wouldn't want lots of daughters in a society because daughters are competition. The boss of a crime syndicate might not want her subordinates producing powerful magic-using daughters by the bushel-full. If a society has great need for men, perhaps the ruling families would have more freedom to produce daughters but would restrain the production of daughters among the lower classes—need the men for the army, labor, etc., and don't want lots of powerful competition being produced in the lower classes.

    So...there are plenty of ways to go about creating a vibrant, self-sustaining matriarchal society in which only women can access magic while also having great reproductive control.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017
  19. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    Some stipulation among lower classes that only men can be born, while daughters may be restricted to higher ups.
     
  20. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Women tend to want the best outcomes for their children, so will choose the sex with the much higher quality of life. There would need to be powerful personal motives to choose the lower status sex knowing their baby will have a much harsher, poorer life. Asking people to forego personal gain for the long term good of society doesn't work. We'd all be vegan and take the bus/cycle and donate blood much more if we were that selfless.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017

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