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I am exploring the concept of a matriarchy where females control access to most avenues of power, and where men must fight for equality, an inverse of the real world. The setting is one where only women can use magic. All females can access it as it is naturally inborn. It requires training, some females being stronger than others. Magic takes the form of spells and rituals, is time consuming, and requires multiple components. However, it is very powerful and forms the bedrock of society. It is often combined with technology to form a sort of magitech civilization. Finding ways to use relatively useless men to fight effectively would be highly useful; creating magical weapons and tools to give men a chance against female wizards would be useful. The loss of the magic-clad soldier could be cheaper than losing the powerful wizard who equipped them.

We should expect the usual hyperbolic social power curve. So we'd have many women who, despite using magic, are peasants, prior to the equivalent of an industrial revolution. Hedge magic to grow crops and the like. Again, being able to enchant tools to have the men do grunt work becomes useful here, boosting male productivity beyond the simple mundane. Such a society, where armies of expendible men fight for their wizard-queens, and lesser wizards generate weapons for them to use in these proxy-wars, while women who where less good at magic get relegated to hedge-magic, could go on for a while.

The creation of better enchanted tools, where a guide of male-dominated artificers who design and build mundane items to be enchanted, could lead to a technological signularity. As these tools become able to rival and eventually exceed the productivity of a competent wizard at doing various tasks, not only does half of the population become no longer a dead weight on society, but the ability to store value longer than a wizard concentrates on a spell grows the economy. First at a few percentage points faster than population growth, and eventually faster. The society that embraces this technological revolution and (limited) men's liberation would experience an increase in power. The art and craft of using magic and technology efficiently together, making lesser wizard's and men able to produce goods, weapons and resources at increasing rates, could raise a backwater isolated community to being a regional, then world power in the matter of centuries or decades.

Locally, socieities that mimic this technomagic revolution keep up; those that do not are overwealmed. The leaders of this revolution start to spread over the world, drawing on magical and technological resources via a growing trade network. The increased agricultural productivity and reduced death rate from pointless wars gives them a large population, and their trade craft can destroy entire wizard-citadels if they don't bow down and obey. Still, remnants remain. The idea that men are more expendable and women are in command (the matriarchy) is part and parcel of religion, society, military and trade. Men carry the enchanted weapons of war and are the blunt edge of the knife. Women command and maintain these weapons and tools, and are only used in combat when everything else fails. Safe "core" zones are built (be they ships or forts), with soldiers deploying out from it in conflict. Women only engage in combat in extreme situations, or in defensive war; it is better to waste a hundred men clad in moonshine and steel than one combat wizard.

With a tradition of a large female:male ratio, the binary family is unlikely. So, women form "covens" of family support. These covens practice a communal marriage system. Men marry into a coven and are considered possessions of the coven that own them. They are selected for their skill in some trade, social status, appearance, manual labor, etc. men also carry the blood of being a powerful wizard; so the male offspring of powerful wizards becomes valuable that way. A naval vessel will have one or more covens on it, with the crew being owned by that(ose) coven(s). Men can be traded or lent from one coven to another; but men without a coven are considered unnatural and unsafe (feral).

The magictech revolution resulted in men having more rights than they used to; covens can no longer do whatever they want to their men, they have some limited human rights. In some societies men may even have to actually consent to being owned by a coven. Extremely liberal covens exist that let their men have lots of freedom. Some women take a man into a coven and don't manage them at all, as part of "men's liberation". This satisfied the law, while thumbing its nose at tradition.
 
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The notion of the "evil matriarchy" has been done a great deal. The most well-known is the Drow.

The primary issue with these sort of set-ups is that they lack a reason for existing other than a transparent "thought experiment" by the author. All societies develop the way they do for specific reasons. In order to make this scenario believable, what is the reason for the society to develop this way?

In an oppressive societal structure, rule one is that you never give the oppressed easy access to power. The idea that this matriarchy would equip men with weapons (advanced, magical weapons on top of it) is absurd on its face if, in fact, the goal is to keep men oppressed. This is dictatorship 101: take the weapons AWAY from those you want to oppress.

Men would not be "useless" in this society, but the work they do would be relegated to "men's work." Farming, construction, manual labor. This work is essential to the survival of society, but it would be devalued and diminished for purposes of maintaining the status quo (think of "women's work" and how we pretend to value it and yet it is significantly underpaid and underappreciated in society). Men would not receive higher education because they would be expected to go into "men's" work, while women would get advanced education in magic, technology, etc etc.

The big thing is a female-led society is not going to be the mirror image of a patriarchy, which is really all you are doing here. And by trying to address the issue as simply a mirror image, you may in fact be missing the larger cultural reasons for the oppression of women in society in the first place.

Societies have traditionally developed to control women because women of female sexuality. The ability to give birth has traditionally been the defining aspect of womanhood. And it is something men have desperately felt the need to control. The need to control female sexuality is the root of most of the misogyny and patriarchy in modern cultures. This is why something as simply as birth control is considered such an important development in the history of women's rights. A woman that can control her own fertility is a woman with her own agency.

So you can't just "flip" the roles without understanding that base context. Your society needs a REASON to develop in the way you are addressing.
 

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(I see Julie has already responded, basically the same thing but smarter. I took half an hour to type this up, so I'll post it anyway. ;D)

It sounds like you have a perfectly good book here, but using questionable buzzwords like men's rights, and overusing the word "females" when "women " is a little more respectful, would alienate a lot of potential readers, women, and most feminists in general. (There's nothing flagrantly offensive in your post, it's just a little off from the current politically correct parlance that a lot of us use these days. But feminists are your ideal reader base for a with witchcraft-themed book, so tread lightly. )

I suggest hiring a lot of sensitivity readers and maybe read a few books in the wheel of time series, because I think Robert Jordan dealt with this this gendered power-structure very well.

Also, saying it is like a reverse of the real world, is going to offend people too. I mean, I try not to enslave women and arm them with power weapons in my day to day life. But in addition to offending people by insinuating this is how we treat women now, you also risk offending people by implying that women would feel compelled to enslave men if the tables were turned.

I guess what I'm saying is, it all sounds interesting and well-intentioned, but I would do everything you can to downplay the social commentary. Bill it as a straight up urban fantasy and let people draw their own conclusions.
 
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I should probably disclose that I have an unhealthy bit of knowledge on this subject. :eek: ;D Neiyar: Land of Heaven and the Abyss was my first published RPG and it was a matriarchy. But it was built using sociological concepts and years of research on the topic. I studied sociology in college and it is a field I find fascinating. I have also taught seminars on world-building at various cons.
 
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dianapersaud said:
Wasn't there a thread exactly like this sometime last year?
It is a common concept that I see a lot in gaming and fantasy communities. it seems original to the OP most likely because there are so few good examples of it being done, so it feels like it has never been done.

As I said, the fundamental issue with this thought experiment is not understanding the root reasons for the oppression of women in most cultures in the first place. Without the basic foundation on the WHY of this cultural issue, it is difficult to address it appropriately in fiction. You can't just flip the roles and expect it to work, because flipping the rules ignores the reasons for the beliefs.

it is the same reason why those well-meaning but generally useless social experiments like "make one group wear green shirts and everyone be mean to them" don't work. Because they are based on the assumption that racism is actually about skin-color only, but the fear of otherness goes beyond mere skin color and without examining those root issues cosmetic experiments don't achieve any real goal.
 
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Puddleduck said:
I totally agree with you here, though I disagree with your assessment as to what the reason for women's oppression is. I see it a bit differently (basically, I think it's about power, and control of sex is an expression of that power; I don't think men as a whole much care about female sexuality in and of itself).
You have to realize that what we see in modern male behavior is the result of thousands of years of cultural evolution. Men may not consciously think much about female sexuality, but how often do they ascribe negative qualities to women who engage in the same sort of sexual behavior as their male counterparts? A man who has multiple sex partners is a hero. A woman who has multiple sex partners is a slut. A man buying a box of condoms is "being responsible." While a woman trying to get birth control pills is a whore. From dress codes in high school to monitoring how women dress in public (i.e. "if she didn't want the attention she shouldn't have worn that"), unconsciously there is still a strong desire in culture to control female sexuality.

Yes, it does boil down to power, but the exercise of that power isn't arbitrary. It is fundamentally tied to centuries of conditioning regarding what it means to be a man. Much of what we see today of toxic masculinity is rooted in this. It is a fascinating field of study when you start digging into it.
 

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Matricentric culture is at the heart of my trilogy, but it takes place 5,000 years ago in Sumer. The book posits a matricentric or gynocentric (different from matriarchal) arrangement established as a unified male/female reaction to war. Of course, the protagonist finds herself embroiled in the inevitable corruption by a few, who eschew the nurturing aim of government for personal power.

My research spanned many years, but after my first draft I came upon Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade, in which she shows over the millennia how rarely humanity has posted a woman in charge of political affairs. I recommend the book for anyone interested in the subject. An easy read.

My website has a reading list of historical and archaeological evidence for female rule in many forms, dating back thousands of years into pre- and proto-history, including matriarchal, matricentric, and matrilineal. (See Gimbutas). It's important to understand to which type one is referring because the societal implications can differ widely.

The task of characterizing the various factions, both female and male, involved when an individual plots to reverse roles made me consider carefully how I present each character. My readers seem to appreciate the dive into history, but mine is not based in any factual record because there were none for the period. I hope the OP can make it work because of the emotions involved on both sides.
 

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Do remember that even in societies with oppression, it's not all whipping and beatings. People still care for each other.

Men would still have responsibilities, organizing themselves in male activities. Presumably, men would not gain any status from doing women's stuff, but would gain it doing men's stuff. They will have bought into the system. Some jobs, like footmen and doormen, would remain male, because those jobs involved lifting and toting. Most manual labor would remain male. In many ways, the lowest classes would remain exactly the same because there's a lot of practical reasons why men did the heavy lifting and the women didn't. What would change is the reasoning of natural rights.

Of course, if you plan to write an over-the-top style novel, all of this means nothing. Have a conflict every 2,000 words and go. Lean into the madness and the mayhem.
 

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Having an interesting world is great, but make sure you have a good story in there, too :)

How much readers care about the plausibility, consistency, etc. of the world in which a story takes place surely differs by genre. There are loads of successful, popular stories - in books, but also television and movies - that take place in worlds that compel me to exclaim "It's wildly implausible that anything like that could come to exist, or continue to exist for more than like five seconds." It often bugs me, but many people clearly don't care that much, or just don't think about it. Presumably because they still find the story compelling.

Anyway, just something to keep in mind. Once in a while I come across a book where the author has obviously spent a lot of time and effort building a world - and it might even be a really cool, and completely plausible, world - but the characters and story are just too weak to make it worthwhile.
 

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Everything that Julie said is totally accurate. Otherwise, I am reminded of that Nicholas Cage meme screaming about bees in that film where there is an evil island of women in a witch coven who treat men like objects. It's kind of the flip of patriarchy, with its focus on the objectification and inequality, but with women. What's odd is that you see this same kind of thing spun in a "positive" way a lot where women lack any traits like non-violent conflict solving, complex empathy, etc. and just lash out swords and "kick-a$#".

I think it's natural to want to explore flipping roles, messing with gender normative constructs, and dabbling in "What-if", but before acting on it you need to see the reason for why things are the way they are in truth, which can be complex and murky unless you dive in headfirst for a bit (and even then it's still complex, but at least you'll make sense of some stuff). And like someone mentioned, don't use "females" where women suffices - it conjures up images of a certain type of person (these people use this word along with things like "breeders") and will turn off people.

Hope that's a little helpful :)
 

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o.k. . . . . there were a bunch of reports and I didn't have time to read through earlier but I have now. I think this thread is a fine topic for discussion -- keep it professional as it has been and I don't forsee any problems. But we will be keeping an eye on it.
 

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The Wicker Man vs. Dungeons and Dragons? I suppose it would sell.

That is, if you are writing a book? Because it's not clear from the post.
 

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I'm out ... no way am I getting into this one. Good luck.
 

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Aside from the obvious, the thing that jumped out to me is that with the addition of unevenly distributed magic... gender isn't going to be the important part it's the magic. The gender thing is really just a bit of heavy-handed allegory at the point.

Plus, if magic is hereditary, then men would still have some power in reproductive politics because they could sire higher quality witches.
 
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