I always find it kind of weird that matriarchal cultures in fiction are always “women fight and hunt, men stay home and care for the babies” because world-building-wise, it makes no sense
think about it. like, assuming that gender even works the same in this fantasy culture as it does in ours, with gender conflated with sex (because let’s be real, all of these stories assume that), men wouldn’t be the ones to make the babies, so why would they be the ones to care for the babies? why is fighting and hunting necessary for leadership?
writing a matriarchy this way is just lazy, because you’re just taking the patriarchy and just swapping the people in it, rather than actually swapping the culture. especially when there are so many other cool things you could explore. like, what if it’s not a swap of roles but of what society deems important?
maybe a matriarchy would have hunting and fighting be part of the man’s job, but undervalued. like taking the trash out or cleaning toilets: necessary, but gross, and not noble or interesting. maybe farming is now the most important thing, and is given a lot of spiritual and cultural weight.
how would law work? what crimes would exist, and what things would be considered too trivial to make illegal? who gets what property? why?
how would religion work? how would you mark time or the passage into adulthood? what would marriage look like? if bloodlines are through the mother, bastardy wouldn’t even be a concept – how does that work?
what qualities would be most important in a person? how would you define strength or leadership? what knowledge would be the most coveted and protected? what acts or roles are considered useless or degrading?
like, you can’t just take our current society and say you’re turning it on its head when you’re just regurgitating it wholesale. you have to really think about why things are the way they are and change that.
One thing to bear in mind is that hunting—at least, the sort of hunting we think about when people say the word, going out and bringing down a big deer with a big spear—really isn’t all that necessary. Sure, you need protein, and in most situations that protein is going to come from animals, but that covers a very wide range. How about fishing? Build a little dam system and it practically takes care of itself. If you’re on a coastline, dig for clams. Small game can be caught in snares. And, of course, there’s farming of all sorts. The idea of a strict gender divide in food production is usually bullshit, but if it wasn’t, the “women’s” part—the gathering—is the crucial one.
You can play with that several ways. If you do decide that the women’s role is hunting, maybe it’s partly that way because it provides vastly more leisure time. Four days out of five, the women sit around and maybe make strong womanly things like spears (while doing powerful feminine tasks like nursing infants, because biology isn’t going to change that much) and socializing, whereas the men have a steadier, heavier workload. Or maybe, if the men do hunt, it’s fully recognized that that’s not where the real food comes from, although it’s very nice how much you try to help out, dear. Perhaps this society doesn’t hunt at all in the traditional sense; perhaps fishing and herding provide a perfectly serviceable protein supply. So, if you remove that source of muscle-flexing entirely, what becomes important?
I really like the way you think, @lyricwritesprose.