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Sunday, March 27, 2011

I don't do gender roles

What prompted this blog? A rather demanding question from a beta reader regarding my book Song of the Fairy Queen.
Why, she asked, is she going?
She meant Gwenifer, the Queen, who in the beginning of the book runs to defend the stairway to give her husband the King time to reach and defend their son. She went for two reasons, because it made sense for her to go and it furthered the plot. Oh and I hate screaming helpless women who let their husbands and children get shredded because they themselves might die. Personally, if I had kids I would kill the first person who even tried to harm them. That’s true of almost every woman I know.
And because I don’t do gender roles.
First and foremost because they’re not real. They’re a new construct and in terms of recorded history a fairly recent one at that.
Cave drawings are not gender specific, the line drawings represented there could be indicative of either sex. Given the low hip to shoulder ratio an argument could be made that some of those hunters were women. If one views such things objectively then the roles of men as hunters and women as sowers simply makes sense, since most men do have greater upper body strength while women have greater lower body strength. Neither gender is weaker or stronger.
A study of history finds many examples of egalitarian societies, including the Celtic, early Iranian and some eastern nations. All of them boast women who not only led their nations or tribes but went to war at the head of their armies.
For centuries British archeologists denied that a gravesite outside of London was that of a female gladiator. Why? Because according to Judeo/Christian history women were the weaker sex, to be defended by men. They were blinded by their own prejudices.
While many tend to think that Greece and Rome were the first major civilizations, the truth is there were many others before them and Egypt had existed for at least a few thousand years before them. Existed as a nation and as an astonishingly egalitarian civilization of remarkable longevity.  That was reflected in their theology. Isis and Osiris stood side by side as equals, unlike the later gods of Greece and Rome with their petty bickering and jealousies. In fact, Isis rescued Osiris after he was betrayed by Set. The goddess Ma’at stood in the place of Saint Peter to judge those who would pass into the afterlife, and then only if their hearts were pure. Sekhmet was the Goddess of War, as well as the Goddess of Healing.
We tend to think of Egypt only as the country of the pyramids that persecuted the Jews but the reality was quite different. For centuries before they’d traded both with the Jewish nations and many others.
Of course (ironic voice)  those were ‘pagan’ societies, much less advanced than our own, even though they gave us writing and numbers, art and incredible architecture our modern scholars find hard to duplicate. How was the groundwork to have been laid without them? But it’s easy to feel superior to those poor, ignorant, unChristian savages―who considered marriage to be a sacrament and an important ritual.
Keeping those pyramids and their hieroglyphics in mind, try to picture a single early hieroglyph that doesn’t or didn’t depict both husband and wife. In truth women in early Egyptian society enjoyed a status on a par with their husbands, both being seen as invaluable members of society. Women could participate in any career that men could, including the army, if so inclined. So much so their less liberal neighbors complained of it in their early writings.
Even the early Christians viewed women as equals, many serving as priests, until the first early versions of the Bible were codified. It was then that things changed, when few simple sentences in 1 Timothy, accredited to Paul changed everything.
Throughout history women have led nations and armies, and been pillars of learning. One may well have been the last Librarian of the great Library at Alexandria, Hypatia.
So it should come as no surprise to my readers that Gwenifer goes to defend the stair so her husband and son will live, or that High Priestess Irisi was originally a mercenary warrior, or that Ailith, Heir to Riverford, leads a company into battle. That they live and love as fiercely and furiously as the men who stand and fight with them.