Monday, September 07, 2009
Social Resources and Women's Power
Social resources in the Demish world
Tina and I will post two original messages each over the next week. One a day. Writers are invited to connect the topics to their own artistic interests. And if you don't write, there's life, reading and media examples to draw on.

In a culture where women rule only the social sphere, do they have any real power? Or can whatever semblence of power they possess be brushed away by men should woman-power dare to oppose male goals? History suggests the guys trump the gals when push came to shove, but maybe that's most true of royals and nobles, and less so of everyday households. Or maybe the distortion is due to the kind of things history focuses on. Plenty of women could have won all kinds of domestic battles without it getting into the history books, even if the triumphs were critical to the lives of themselves, their children or their sphere of influence.

In parts six and seven of the Okal Rel saga I explore the gender-differentiated cultures of the Demish. The Silver Demish, in particular, are neo-Victorian with regard to women's roles although they lack the Victorian passion for everything shiney and new. Maybe my own disillusionment with never-ending change in the real world made me interested in portraying a sympathetic - if often humourous(1) and far from endorsing - view of arch traditionalists. Earlier books in the saga contain hints of women's importance on the home front in the Demish world, proving I always viewed Demish women as far from powerless. Or was the Vrellish liege Di Mon right, in Part 1: The Courtesan Prince when he dismisses male deference to a lady in a Demish parlour with "as if make-believe gallantry could compensate for the real disparity of power between Demish genders that lay behind the playacting."

  1. For example, see Interdicted by the League of Women, an excerpt from the draft of Part 7: Healer's Sword, in which Amel is served notice he must mend his ways if he wants to be accepted by Demish society

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I think it's interesting that you bring up the Victorian era.

Even though women of the era were instructed and expected to be domestic and not interfere with the political realm, Queen Victoria managed to bridge both worlds. True by this time most of the true power was with the Prime Minister and thus the people, and also true is that Queen Victoria herself was perhaps the reason for that womanly expectation, she was still quite able to influence legal, social and political reforms during her rein.

However, she was an icon of domestication. When her husband Albert died she retreated into her family instead of continuing on with the political mantel, which further entrenched the idea of "a woman's place".

So can a woman who is supposed to rule only the social sphere, have power outside of that sphere? Is the social sphere a place of power to begin with? I think we need to approach this differently since we no longer live in a Victorian-like era.

Our social spheres have not only expanded, they have weakened. Social networking has allowed both males and females to connect around the world but we no longer have the same kind of influence over these people. I would argue that a women's rule of the social sphere is gone, it has been eroded by the equality women fought for over the last century.

So perhaps the real question is, what can women replace as our social sphere of influence that men don't already control, or would fight us to keep it?
Tough stuff, Tina, but I fear you're right. Expanded, diluted and along with the many "goods" the changes have made us all citizens of the world with no grandmothers or communities to account to for our behavior. A lot of 60s-style Science Fiction celebrated the break with tradition and social control that was portrayed as holding people back a theme I recognize in my own treatment of Nesaks and the negatives of Gelack culture. But like my interest in the Demish, in my latest books, I think the general preference for fantasy these days is because we miss seeing relationships portrayed as more important and cultures as things to be respected, not shattered by "progress". I'm still pro-science. But I think we need to pay more attention to the human systems science interacts and bring back disapproving grandmothers with clout.
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