Sunday, July 17, 2016

More on the matriarchs

In my orc post I mentioned that some of the orc tribes are matriarchal and that matriarchies don’t seem to work. At least they haven’t worked in Earth’s history. I don’t claim to be a feminist, but I don’t consider myself a sexist either (what is the antonym of feminist?). OK, so maybe I’m a bad judge of me, but what I am going to say here is a theory others have developed after doing some semi-decent research. I don’t know how true it is, but there seems to be something to it, so at the risk of offending just about everyone, here we go:

The theory is that matriarchal societies are doomed to failure because women have an instinctive trait to protect and try to better their children. Any time a woman gains power, she uses her power to advance her children, even if it is to the detriment of the “state”. So in other words, the queen wants her son to be king even if she knows he is unable to do the job.

Why do I think there is some truth to this? Well, we have some historic examples of this. In fact, the only powerful women in history that I could come up with that did not do this (put their children before the state) were those who did not have children. I’m not saying that it is true 100% of the time; but I’ve thought up about a dozen decent examples that seem to bare this theory out.

Want another stupid reason? I was watching this Chinese film recently with really bad dubbing into English. It was about some Mongolian chief, and the chief’s wife is begging her husband to kill his nephew, another chief’s son, because the nephew will eventually cause succession problems for her son. This isn’t proof, but it shows that even other cultures (in this case an Asian one) find a mother putting her children before the state as a standard trope.

This has caused me to rethink some of my cultures in Fletnern. I think I subconsciously built this in, at least in small doses. I’m not suggesting that this is a historic fact and everyone needs to establish it as the standard in their fantasy worlds, but that is what we’re building here: fantasy worlds. Believe it to be true or not, it would make for some really cool political adventures. Queen hires party to protect her son, but then explains that the only way to protect him is to kill his older cousin. Queen places son on throne, only to be the power behind the throne, to the point of rivals needing to have her removed from power, by any means necessary. You take it from here!

1 comment:

  1. I think that this could work well for elfs too. Given the long lives of elfs, I think that this idea of mother's sphere of protection and influence centering on their children, and the counterintuitive yet inevitably very caste system of broken (matured) socialist regime, coupled with very low birthrate and long maturation times in reproduction; well, yeah, this fits the bill!
    Imagine being a royal cousin and potentially having to wait for hundreds of years instead of just years for a chance at the well, as evidenced in the Deverry Series by Katharine Kerr, dwindling elf cultures come to see their prime breeders as very precious indeed! In her novels, the elfs were nomadic, having lost their ancient home almost a millennium earlier. The younger elf women were not explicitly a higher caste, or reverred, but their needs and opinions were valued and they had much sway, especially in the nomadic setting where war was not a "the boys gets sent off to X" thing, it was wherever the whole tribe is! In this way, the breeding women and elder women (older mothers) were both proficient in as many types of skills as such as the men, they just didn't go to the front line. The elder women did, and those who were infertile / chose not to have children.
    Your article made me think of the first world here; middle class (Real middle class - $200k+ earners) are occupied by men and women who often for several reasons cannot have their own biological children, and select donors, and sometimes women who decide to have a child by donor without a husband / partner, etc. Now, affording this kind of thing is out of this world for us peasants, but it's very common higher up the income scale. Mothers-in-planning can peruse catalogs of donors for specific traits, and, being both wealthy and influential, as well as good self-advocates, they tend to coddle and steer their children to what they deem to be success.
    Back to elfs, though; it seems to me likely that for an elf woman to have a child, that will live a very long time, not to mention gestate long and be in her nurture for a lengthy period of time, the mother might be very choosy about the traits that she wants. It's a huge investment for her, especially in a dangerous setting.
    Anyway, just rambling, hope this makes any kind of sense. I do very much believe that the key here is the tribal situation, in terms of this form of matriarchy. Also, it seems, there can still be a predominantly male martial class within a matriarchy (duh, ants!) and that, minus the legal structures of our our patriarchal past, women can and have certainly held much sway in communities, perhaps moreso than they do today, looking at modern politics and village, town, city councils, parliaments and congress, etc. The more primitive political structure, with its more militia than professional mindset, coupled with easily manipulated social factors, suddenly create myriad possibilities for fantasy races / cultures.

    Great series of articles!