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How much Anachronism is too much?:
I'm writing a story that takes place in a psedo-Medival Europe fantasy setting. This takes place on a world that is explicitly not Earth, but involves some minor Fantasy Counterpart Culture. (Asian-esque East, etc.) Some Deliberate Values Dissonance would be used (women are expected to marry/have children, few people who how to read/write, some arranged marriages, taboo against interracial marriages) But I'm wondering if I could have some anachronistic elements without it seeming too out of place like: -Women wearing pants, without it being seen as cross dressing -Most marriages being based on choice (only mostly it'd be more of a: "here's three choices, pick the one you like best" sort of thing) -Women can own their own property, as long as they aren't married or under the juristiction of their father -Inter-gender friendships aren't viewed as uncommon -Reliable medical care (although much of it involves magic) -etc. Any thoughts/tips?
edited 7th Oct '12 8:13:10 AM by TheMuse
None of those are actually anachronisms, technically, i could for all of these point to cultures as far back as antiquity where they were the case. Heck, the Scythians and especially Sarmatians fit almost all of them at once. (Reliable medical care would be debatable. Does that mean widespread access to medical professionals, or does it mean medical care of much higher technological level?)
I think that there's nothing wrong with writing fantasy settings where women aren't oppressed. I mean, it can't be an anachronism, because you're not writing history. You're inventing a whole new culture and using our cultures as inspiration. I mean, what are we going to say - inventing a new world where dragons, magic, etcetera exist is just fine. But you can't put women's equality in there, goodness no. So I think you can write the culture however you want as long as it's consistent with itself.
Be not afraid...
MadmanI agree with Loni Jay. Who says fantasy cultures need to have real-world historical values? Incidentally, the fantasy story I've planned for this year's Na No juxtaposes ancient Egypt with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade together in time, which would seem anachronistic outside the fantasy genre.
edited 7th Oct '12 5:11:58 PM by Jabrosky
Thanks, I wasn't exactly sure because having modern day gender values in medival-esque setting isn't something I've seen in alot of Fantasy. (at least not in books I've read)
edited 8th Oct '12 11:15:23 AM by TheMuse
I've seen it in a few. A couple have even gone the route of having a society where traditionally women were able to fight etc. just as much as men were, but then there is some sort of cultural or religious change that tries to make them 'get into the kitchen' in the first place - for example, the latest Tamora Pierce books, or those Lyn Flewellyn books. In some ways, widespread magical contraception helps with this. I've sometimes thought that it seems a little lazy (giving the world contraception so that you can write characters with sexual mores identical to modern women) but I think I've changed my mind now... trying to make characters with views similar to our own isn't always a bad thing. It would certainly have an effect on your world. And after all, why shouldn't magic be able to do that?
edited 8th Oct '12 4:51:55 PM by LoniJay
Be not afraid...
Wolf1066For a start, there have historically been a large number of societies where the women have been of equal standing to the men and have fought alongside them in battle. "The propensity to fall pregnant" never stopped any of that. It's rather over simplistic to think that "women staying at home" is a natural consequence of being the ones who bear children. For a start, there have been means of contraception for thousands of years, ranging from herbs that are natural abortatives to condoms made from animal intestines, so "Magical Contraception" - or any form of contraception - is not the issue. The issue is societal, and different societies had different thoughts on equality of the sexes. Read some of the Roman historians on the subject of the "Barbarian" tribes and the women and you'll get quite a different picture than the "quiet stay at home women-folk" usually associated with those eras. Contrast Roman women who had to sit at their husbands' feet with Gaulish and Briton women (aka "Celts") who could wield political power, own lands and fight and were treated as equals by Gaulish and Briton men. The whole Boudicca thing stemmed from arrogant Romans not being willing to share the estate with a "mere woman" - and a large number of tribal men basically stood up and followed this "mere woman" against the Romans for their affrontery. (For affrontery, read "beating and raping Boudicca and her daughters".) When you have a lifestyle that includes sporadically raiding your neighbouring tribes and defending your homesteads against raiding tribes, anyone with sufficient limbs to pick up a sword is a combatant. While the women may have tended to gravitate towards working around the homestead to look after the children and the men tended to be the ones going out to raid or hunt or tend the stock, if a raiding party arrived while the men were out, who do you think it was who held the homestead against the raiders?
…a whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one [Gaul] in a fight, if he calls in his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, begins to rain blows mingled with kicks, like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult”- Ammianus Marcellinus
The women of the Celtic tribes are bigger and stronger than our Roman women. This is most likely due to their natures as well as their peculiar fondness for all things martial and robust. The flaxen haired maidens of the north are trained in sports and war while our gentle ladies are content to do their womanly duties and thus are less powerful than most young girls from Gaul and the hinterlands.- Marcus Borealis "content to do their womanly duties", indeed! Fucking Romans!
A Celtic woman is often the equal of any Roman man in hand-to-hand combat. She is as beautiful as she is strong. Her body is comely but fierce. The physiques of our Roman women pale in comparison.- unidentified Roman soldier of Marcus' period And from the Celtic tribes own lore we have tales of heroes being trained in the martial arts by women as well as the whole point behind the "Tain" was a dispute between the king and queen over who had the most riches - a dispute that would never arise in Rome because the minute a woman married, all lands and treasures she owned became the property of her husband... just as she did. And then there's the women of the Amazonian tribes who fought alongside their men and spawned an entire mythology about a society where the men were submissive to a race of Warrior Women. Sexual Equality is not "anachronistic".
edited 8th Oct '12 6:50:25 PM by Wolf1066
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
"The propensity to fall pregnant" never stopped any of that. It's rather over simplistic to think that "women staying at home" is a natural consequence of being the ones who bear children. For a start, there have been means of contraception for thousands of years, ranging from herbs that are natural abortatives to condoms made from animal intestines, so "Magical Contraception" - or any form of contraception - is not the issue. The issue is societal, and different societies had different thoughts on equality of the sexes.Ah no, actually it isn't. What is required is not contraception but medical technology that puts child survival at modern levels. In ancient times, men fought because men were expendable. A small tribe can lose almost all men and still be able to reproduce at a full rate being back to normal numbers within a generation, but a woman can only bear a child every 9 months and a limited number of times. While it's rare that any warfare happens on a level that large, smaller losses just extend the problem for a while. A small tribe that unnecessarily risk it's women will lose population numbers over time and die out (or more likely simply be conquered when they're too few to resist). What is required to allow women to play an equal part in warfare (not to be confused with equal political rights) is not contraception, but population growth that allows for losing women. Until the industrial revolution, humans were a scarce resource, and it was the exception rather than the rule that a society had rapid population growth. For most of human history, populations grew very slowly, or were even stagnant for decades.
The whole Boudicca thing stemmed from arrogant Romans not being willing to share the estate with a "mere woman" - and a large number of tribal men basically stood up and followed this "mere woman" against the Romans for their affrontery. (For affrontery, read "beating and raping Boudicca and her daughters".)This is hardly a good example for complaining about roman misogyny. The romans were going to annex the kingdom of Prasutagus anyway, they pretty much always did that with allied tribes. If he had had any male heirs they would have likely been killed or sold into slavery. I'm not saying that Boudicca and her daughters were lucky, but Boudicca wasn't deposed because she was woman, she was deposed because the roman empire wanted those lands, and that's the way empires act.
edited 8th Oct '12 7:30:03 PM by McKitten
Wolf1066The tribes were not necessarily small, and, as history has repeatedly shown, women have been equals - as combatants as well as "politically" and socially" - of men in various cultures at different times, which rather renders moot any argument against women in historical societies being combatants. It happened, despite any "logical rationale" why it "shouldn't". I rather think the immediacy of an invading force and the prospect of every man, woman and child being brutally murdered where they stand trumps any considerations of who is "expendable" when it comes to defending the tribe. Only in cultures such as the Romans, where women were treated as possessions with "womanly duties" and were too frail and weak (by the Romans' own assessment) to fight does it become an issue - if a Roman woman tried to fight, she'd surely perish. In societies where both sexes are trained in combat, the chances of individual survival are increased - a "Celtic" woman taking up the sword is likely to survive. The point is that in even a historically accurate setting, you can have equality of the sexes and Action Girls if you choose the right culture and time period, so having them in a fantasy setting is perfectly justifiable (and there are plenty of Real World historical examples on which to base the fictional cultures whence they come.) And as to "Roman mysogyny", I point you back to the words of Marcus Borealis above. Sadly, our society can be traced back to the Roman Empire - which goes a long way to explaining the sexual inequality in Europe for much of our history. And for the record, it was Roman military tactics that won out against the Celtic tribes, not any attrition of the tribes due to "risking their breeding population".
edited 8th Oct '12 8:05:48 PM by Wolf1066
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Self-defense is not the same as elective warfare. The women in the celtic tribes did train for self-defence (not uncommon even in highly misogynistic cultures) but did not take part in war if avoidable. The problem is with risking the women unnecessarily, if it comes to the civilians already being under attack, they're not increasing the risk by fighting back. I did not claim the romans won against any of the european tribes because of outbreeding, i said they did what they did because rome was an empire. If we'd want to compare them on a level playing field, we'd have to look at carthage and egypt, but neither of those were any less misogynistic than the romans. And all of them were far beyond the simple forming stages of culture were such attitudes are established. The time when a culture develops its attitudes towards male/female roles is much earlier, and while it can shift slowly over time, once power hierarchies are established they're hard to get rid off. Sometimes it simply takes a lot more progress to provide the circumstances that allow such attitudes to change. In a way, that's similar to democracy, there are a few cultures throughout all time periods that were (some more, some less) democratic, such as the north-american native tribes, the ancient greeks and republican rome, or switzerland and venice during the renaissance, but for the worldwide spread of democracy, a certain level of cultural and technological development had to be reached. (most importantly: the beginning of mass media, mass literacy, and the end of almost everyone working as subsistence farmers)
Guh?I don't think there's really any point at which you can say a setting has "too much" anachronism, unless of course it wants to be historically accurate. In this case, you're not, so I think the answer to that question is entirely up to you. What I would suggest though is giving serious consideration as to why these societal conventions turned out differently in your world than they did in the real world, as it could help immensely in fleshing out your story.
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