Gender Equality in Our Fiction

One of the major concepts I [Layman Kingsford] wanted to keep in the forefront of my fictional reality (the setting that houses both Living Empires and Living Starship) is the notion that the various peoples and cultures evolved along lines that caused men and women to have equal footing in society.

What caused that to happen in the world of Evorstrom? Magic. 

I just stumbled across a wonderful essay by someone using the handle “ribaldremark” that talks about this very subject and specifically uses my favorite fantasy setting - the Malazan world created by Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont - to cite the exact same issue. She, for I assume it’s a woman, writes about it far more eloquently about it HERE than I could so I will quote her as it all applies exactly to Evorstrom:

"When creating the magic system, and more importantly the impact of that magic system, Erikson and Esslemont hit upon an easy way to make their world both definitively an epic fantasy secondary world, but also feminist and gender equal.

Magic could be learned by anyone.  There might be savants and geniuses and adepts, but anyone could theoretically learn magic.  As a result, magic was egalitarian.  From the smallest villages to the largest cities.  Magic was everywhere and it was part of the culture.

This one simple concept, that magic is actually part of the world’s system of evolution, seems straightforward, but it is surprisingly absent from many fantasy settings.

Their magic system was not demarcated along gender lines like Jordan’s Wheel of Time or Goodkind’s Sword of Truth.  The magic of the Malazan world can be harnessed by almost anyone.  It just required work, dedication and time to hone that talent.

And magic can be very powerful, it can be a unifier or at the very least a leveller of the playing field.  If male and female magic users have access to the same power then there is one less reason to treat them differently in the workplace.

But perhaps most importantly, healing magic was no longer simply the provenance of rulers, nobles and adventurers.  The majority of the residents of the Malzan world have access to healing magics such as Denul… albeit not always at the same rate.  But there are plenty of hedgewizards and witches, minor talents, and healers a plenty that could utilise various forms and aspects of healing magics.

So Erikson and Esslemont extrapolated from this.  People lived longer (barring a knife in the back or a sword in the gut, of course).  Both men and women remained fertile longer.  Infant mortality rates were dramatically lower as magic could be used to cure childhood diseases.  And this leads to the sociological change that birth rates would drop as people no longer felt the need to have lots of children in order that only a couple would survive.

As a result of having fewer children, women were not associated with the home as housewives and mothers, and were not confined to the role of baby factories.  Their society never evolved to the point where this became the dominant view of the role and function of women in society.

So as a direct result of magic, in particular healing magic, being part of the fabric of the world, women were completely emancipated."

© 2011  Cheeky Dingo, LLC