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Premise for a theocratic matriarchy I want feedback on

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 much more if we were that selfless.

There are only so many managerial positions available. A lot of what makes society work is time-intensive drudgery. Whether the child is male or female would make no difference in quality of life if that child spends a lifetime working the fields. And yet, fields must be worked. Mines mined. Horses shod.

I'd say there's also an odd assumption in thinking that just because women have special value in a society, the men have much less value. The women in this proposed society are valued for a) childbearing capabilities, b) magic use, and I suppose, c) "more rational and clinical" thinking. Putting them in the fields to work, or the mines, seems anathema. But these other roles in society are valuable, particularly for the families who would benefit most directly from having manual laborers within the family. They could choose to produce only daughters; but if they hold no expectations of having their daughters govern, lead a business, etc., or be paid highly to participate in magic rituals for defense, there'd be no special impetus for having only daughters. A family that has worked the mines for generations and earned special status within that milieu might well already have a family tradition of producing mostly sons. Not to mention that there could be a negative stigma for a family that puts only daughters in the mines: As if, that's really a waste of daughters, anathema to the principle value of females, and possibly (depending on the society) a kind of blasphemy.
 
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"I want my kid to be a garbage man, because working societies need garbage men"

....thought no mother ever.

"We need food on the table, and positions are always open at the mine"

....thought lots of mothers.

Much historical infanticide was a result of perceived economic advantage in having one sex (usual male) over the other born into the family. Sometimes a general sexism played a role, i.e., one sex (usually female) was thought to be an inferior sex.

The economic advantage was often to the family/parents. A son could bring in more wealth to the family. A daughter might require that a dowry be paid. It wasn't so much the thought that "My son will live a happier life because he's male" but that "My son, being male, will be able to earn money"–as a garbage man, for instance–"and that will bring more money into the family."
 

Annoyingkid

Banned
"We need food on the table, and positions are always open at the mine"

....thought lots of mothers.

Much historical infanticide was a result of perceived economic advantage in having one sex (usual male) over the other born into the family. Sometimes a general sexism played a role, i.e., one sex (usually female) was thought to be an inferior sex.

The economic advantage was often to the family/parents. A son could bring in more wealth to the family. A daughter might require that a dowry be paid. It wasn't so much the thought that "My son will live a happier life because he's male" but that "My son, being male, will be able to earn money"—as a garbage man, for instance—"and that will bring more money into the family."

The son is likely to be sent off to die in war and probably has alot fewer employment opportunities in a matriarchy than a woman. Especially if;
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.

In advanced, feminized societies -and if they have the tech make Golem-like mech suits, they are advanced- employers look for the qualities the women have. Not rash,poor decision makers

Even if a family had no aspirations beyond drudgery, you'd choose women for better decision making and rationality. Unless mining isn't machine operated and the workers are getting paid by the quantity they mine instead of a flat rate. Only then would men make sense. The fact is alot of drudgery can be done by women just as well. I have difficulty believing a mother would choose that and birth a male without state compensation.
 

La Volpe

Sage
Fifth, you make some excellent points here. I agree with most of what you said, but there are a few things that I'm pondering about now.

One, we seem to be working on the assumption that men will be better at combat and/or physical tasks in this world (even with the magic being exclusive to the women). Did I understand this correctly? If so, it would definitely make sense to have more men so that they can do the fighting.

However, population-wise, more women equals more eventual bodies on the ground. So wouldn't it be useful to a society (especially one that is in constant war with demons and whatnot) to have more people? I mean, a 50/50 population vs a 10/90 (m/f) population would have almost half as many people after just 9 months. And when you get to war, having twice the number of people with sharp things is probably going to earn you the victory.
 

Sharad9

Scribe
So I should dispense with the"choose the sex of your child" idea? What about the other aspects of reproductive control? Do they work?
 
However, population-wise, more women equals more eventual bodies on the ground. So wouldn't it be useful to a society (especially one that is in constant war with demons and whatnot) to have more people? I mean, a 50/50 population vs a 10/90 (m/f) population would have almost half as many people after just 9 months. And when you get to war, having twice the number of people with sharp things is probably going to earn you the victory.

I think much would depend on death/attrition rates vs birth rates, level of warfare (constant, sporadic, swarms or skirmishes?) and the role that magic plays in it. Babies will still need to be raised up before they can fight, and having more births specifically to increase the size of the fighting force would mean an explosion in the male population relative to the female population anyway, right, so....?

Too hard to know without more info!

But I'm not sure this is like Plato trying to design his Republic, where an ideal society is designed in a non-organic way. Much will depend on what the OP wants to do in the story; just about anything could be accomplished, with the right tweaks.
 
I think much would depend on death/attrition rates vs birth rates, level of warfare (constant, sporadic, swarms or skirmishes?) and the role that magic plays in it. Babies will still need to be raised up before they can fight, and having more births specifically to increase the size of the fighting force would mean an explosion in the male population relative to the female population anyway, right, so....?

Too hard to know without more info!

But I'm not sure this is like Plato trying to design his Republic, where an ideal society is designed in a non-organic way. Much will depend on what the OP wants to do in the story; just about anything could be accomplished, with the right tweaks.

The perfect situation for a good statistical modeling program. Set up the parameters, pit one group against the other, let the simulation run, and see who comes out ahead. Of course, the results depend on how good your model is, but you can tweak the parameters and run again as many times as needed to get a good feel for what the real result might be.

I remember doing this sort of thing back in my college days a few decades ago. Sounds like a fun little project for some statistical-minded person with time on their hands.
 

TheKillerBs

Inkling
The son is likely to be sent off to die in war

No he bloody isn't, why do you insist on this? Males are rarer and weaker, therefore a resource to be protected rather than the expendables that they were in human history. They have a completely different reproductive biology so you can't treat them as a human society, but rather as a different species with more females who are also stronger than the males. They would not send the males to war, not just because of that, but also, very likely, men would not be trusted in battle. The stereotype is that men are hotheads, therefore, the line of thinking will be that they'll die pointlessly because they did some foolhardy thing due to their need to satisfy their male ego. Instead, women, who besides magic, possess cooler heads and more rational thinking, would be better at warfare than men because they grasp strategy better and stick to the plan more than men.
 

Sharad9

Scribe
Magic is slow and time consuming. It is not the fireball throwing type. Therefore, they wouldn't be at the front lines.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
What about in a siege? Either offensive or defensive, there would be time for most any sort of magic. Also, there are magics that can gather intelligence, sow confusion, or do other things ... I don't have the details of what your magic does. But I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which magic would not be used in war, which concerns life and death.

For that matter, I see it being used in just about every aspect of society. In tax collection, for example. In law courts. Certainly in diplomacy; maybe in legislation. The suspicion of magic would sow mistrust in any village council.

And would not men, being without this power, be resentful, suspicious and even superstitious in the face of it? What sort of effect would this have on young boys? When do girls acquire power? Infancy?
 

Sharad9

Scribe
Magic is used in growing food, creating stronger than steel materials for buildings and constructs, creating crystal-like batteries that provide unlimited power for machinery but that wear down over time, making portals that can make short jumps from place to place, etc.

Magic is used in all walks of life, including war. However, it isn't like throwing fire or lightning at people. It's slow and time consuming, and may require other materials. This limits it's functionality in war.
 
So I should dispense with the"choose the sex of your child" idea?

That's really up to you. The idea opens up a can of worms, introduces other issues. But I think it can be used.

If you use the idea, you can introduce other factors to insure that women who are giving birth may have valid, equally important reasons for choosing to bear a son rather than a daughter. Men can have valued roles within the society even if they do not occupy all the positions of power. Certain traditions, laws, methods of reinforcing the male population could be created; for instance, something like China's old one-child policy for the lower classes, but maybe it's one daughter for every two men, or whatever.

You might also consider something else I mentioned earlier. Perhaps not all women can use magic. If controlling the sex of their unborn child is something related to magic, and some women do not have access to magic, then it would stand to reason that those women may have an equal chance to have sons. You could go a step further and say that only some women who possess magic have the ability to predetermine the sex of their child, i.e. it's a special ability that only a small percentage of magic-using women posses (perhaps these will turn out to be women in powerful positions, often.)

Another possibility: Only certain priestesses can use magic to set an unborn child's sex, for other women, for a fee of some kind, and these priestesses may refuse the service for whatever reason. Or say that the child must be born male. (They might be a type of Population Control Squad, heh, maintaining the ratio of men to women within the society. But I'd imagine that rulers, rich merchants, important leaders might often get preferential treatment.)

So there are options.


What about the other aspects of reproductive control? Do they work?

Reproductive control has been a major issue in our world for important reasons relating to the empowerment or disempowerment of women, i.e. due to many factors in our history and societies, but I'm vaguely wondering if a different society with a different history, like yours, will place such emphasis on reproductive control for maintaining power within the society. I don't know. I do think that if women are already empowered and fill most leadership roles, reproductive control will organically become an effect of this. But I wonder about cause and effect here, the order of these two things.

More generally, I wonder if you may have heeded warnings about the realism of your society by going a bit too far in the opposite direction. A metaphor. Someone tells me that the meal I placed before them is cold, so I get a blowtorch and burn it, and then burn the table down, in response. Heh.
 
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skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I have to ask: why are you doing this? Why create this alternate reality? Just to see where it might go? Or to make a specific point? The former is just world-building. The latter is writing. Each brings with it its own constraints and possibilities.

You might look at some of Ursula Le Guin's works to see examples of how to handle gender roles in order to make a point. And for just plain good writing.
 

Sharad9

Scribe
It's more of a world building project. I wanted to build a "realistic" matriarchal setting to see how different it would be from our reality.
 

Annoyingkid

Banned
No he bloody isn't, why do you insist on this

Because the OP states that women do not fight in war. So men must. And as they're assailed by supernatural enemies, Men would be sent off to die in war.

As for men being weaker, who says they have to be?

And would not men, being without this power, be resentful, suspicious and even superstitious in the face of it? What sort of effect would this have on young boys? When do girls acquire power? Infancy?

Get resentful for what? I say let the women have their fancypants magic. Men and boys instead train their bodies and cunning to perfection like Batman. And coming up with plans to neutralize their girly magic if they ever abuse their power. And no girls allowed! One can only do one thing at a time. If women practice magic they're not practicing martial arts or shooting as much. etc.
 
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Lisselle

Minstrel
You could look at examples of Matriarchal societies in the Animal world, and see how they succeed. With Hyenas the female clitoris is as large as the male penis, and the females are bigger and more aggressive, so the lines between male and female as we judge them are blurred. Hyena societies are truly interesting.

I like the contrast between Chimpanzee and Bonobo primates; Chimps are Patriarchal and Bonobos are Matriarchal. As a general outline of how their societies work Chimps use warfare, aggression and dominance to control their tribe, and Bonobos use sexual displays, touching, grooming and female camaraderie to manage their tribes.
Apparently Bonobos are our closest genetic cousin.
 

Russ

Istar
Hey S9,

What an interesting and thought provoking question.

I have read this thread, and would like to repeat for you the advice my wife got from her writing mentor on a number of occasions. That advice is simply "go deeper".

Now it this context it means discarding a whole heap of preconceived notions. Many of the posts above simply take an aspect of our world (let's call it patriarchal if we dare) and then change it in a way a patriarchally raised individual suspects a matriarchal system might work. It is hard to escape all the assumptions of our western capitalist culture, but that is really what you have to do when you take on a project like like this.

For instance, when AK says:

"I want my kid to be a garbage man, because working societies need garbage men"

....thought no mother ever.

What he is really saying is "thought no mother raised in a capitalist stratified patriarchal society ever."

People in different cultures think differently. Very differently. There have been cultures were parents were honoured to have their child sacrificed. That is a tad worse than being a garbage collector.

You can start from a blank slate. Your culture may value roles and ambition differently. The idea of sacrificing may be revered instead of accumulation. There is no reason to believe that women would not chose to have male children if they could control the gender of their child without certain modern assumptions.

You have a completely blank slate when you build your own world. In a fantasy world you don't even have to obey the laws of physics or have a good grasp on how evolution really works. Evolution is a very tricky beast, and many things you read about it on the internet are quite flawed.

Do your best to completely discard almost all of your assumptions about human behaviour and society and start afresh. Then you have a shot of producing something really amazing.

As an aside, you might want to have a look at Margaret Murray's work on pre-Christian matriarchal cultures. The cultures she wrote about almost certainly didn't exist, but her, and certain feminist spirituality writers like her might well have some material that could inform or inspire your work.
 
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People in different cultures think differently. Very differently. There have been cultures were parents were honoured to have their child sacrificed.


Please give me a (non fictional) example of a culture in which people are ok with other people murdering their children for religious reasons.
 

Russ

Istar
Please give me a (non fictional) example of a culture in which people are ok with other people murdering their children for religious reasons.

Are you suggesting that my statement is inaccurate or just hoping I will do some research for you? :)
 
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