Past Tense: Freedom and (Women’s) Rights

15 Aug

Any feminist who is against modern technology is an idiot.

-John Ringo

Fair warning – spoilers for Past Tense.


Back when Past Tense was being edited, Christine Amsden (one of my editors) asked why Julianne – Lord Whitehall’s daughter – came across as weak and unconvincing. (We did a little fiddling to make it clear that she had a more important role in the commune than was apparent at first glance.) But Julianne’s weakness – and she is weak – owes a great deal to her position in life.

Let me put this into some context.

When you are a child, the level of freedom you enjoy – even something as simple as going to bed at 9pm or 10pm – depends on your parents. You have no inherent right to set your own bedtime – your parents set it for you and you have no ‘legal’ recourse. Your parents have the right to make decisions for you and supervise your life. The average parent, I suspect, does not see his or her children as being capable of making his own decisions.

This is how women were largely regarded in the past – and in present-day states like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

To use Saudi Arabia as an (extreme) example, women are allowed to work … provided they have permission from their male guardian (father, brother, husband). It does not matter, legally speaking, if the woman wants to work; if her guardian says no, she can’t work. She is regarded as a minor in the eyes of the law; she has no legal recourse, no way to escape. She can’t even leave the country without permission from her guardian. Her freedom is wholly contingent on what her male relatives are prepared to permit her to do.

This was unfortunately true throughout much of human history. Women who were allowed to manage their own affairs were quite rare. Even a Ruling Queen might be expected to concede power to her husband. A woman accused of adultery could not legally defend herself; a woman who separated from her husband would find it very hard to get a divorce (and she might lose her children, if there were children). Those who say that women were protected in those eras ignore the simple fact that women were powerless, that their protection depended upon women playing the role society handed them. A woman who stepped outside society’s norms – by becoming a prostitute, for example – also stepped outside its protections.

You might ask why women didn’t resort to extra-legal measures. Why not poison a wife-beater … or simply slit his throat while he slept? But a person born during that time would know the answer. Without the husband, who would look after the wife and children? Who would provide for them? The husband’s relatives might take the house, kicking the wife and children out; the wife might discover that she had no legal standing unless she married again as quickly as possible. And if she’s too old to bear children again, she might not even be able to remarry.

And there were other problems. Women were often smaller and weaker than men – and medical care was awful. Death in childbirth was quite likely; infant mortality was staggering. (Julia Caesar, the wife of Pompey the Great (perhaps the richest and most powerful man of his time) died in childbirth.) Women did not have an easy time of it even when they were wealthy and powerful (or married to the wealthy and powerful).

Julianne has a striking amount of freedom, by the standards of her era. (Emily notes that Whitehall is the most progressive father in his era, which isn’t saying very much by the standards of ours.) And yet there are limits to how much defiance she can show. She cannot stand up to her father without running the risk of being ordered to marry someone her father chooses – or worse. Sneaking around and learning magic from Emily – like a Saudi girl learning how to drive – is her only realistic course of action.

Because it was Christine who said this, I thought of Cassie Scot, the heroine of four of Christine’s books.

Cassie Scot is a squib, if I may borrow the Harry Potter term. She’s the daughter of powerful magicians – and sister to several more – but she has no power of her own. And this has inevitable consequences.

Throughout her four books, Cassie is constantly objectified. Not in the sense that she is treated as a sex object, but in the sense she is constantly treated like a minor child. She is powerless in her community. Her very safety depends on protection from her parents; later, when she loses that, her (eventual) love interest makes decisions for her, meddles freely in her life (sometimes without telling her) and generally continues the tradition of treating her as a cute but wilful child, rather than a grown adult in her own right …

And the hell of it is that he (and her parents) has a point. Cassie may act like a confident adult, but it’s based on other people, rather than on her inherent power (she has none) or human rights (she has none of those either). She is staggeringly vulnerable. And so is Julianne. And so were far too many women throughout history. The powerful women were often the ones who were born to power, like Queen Elizabeth.

There’s an article about Game of Thrones I read a while back (I haven’t read much of the books or seen the TV series.) This was often true of real life too. Queen Elizabeth I was a skilled ‘man-manager,’ even though she was the Queen. Her sister (Mary Tudor) and her cousin (Mary Queen of Scots) were far less skilful. Elizabeth was in consent fear of what would happen if one of her courtiers gained enough power to just take her, which hampered her ability to be an effective war leader. (Her generals would often ignore her orders, justifying it to themselves on the grounds it was what she would do, if she was a man.) This lead to an erratic balancing act that came all too close to disaster.

And while commoner women were often good at carving out niches for themselves, they were almost always very much second-class citizens.

These days, women have rights – and legal recourses. If a marriage goes badly wrong, a woman can go to court and get a separation. A woman can live on her own; a woman can work to earn money, to live a life apart from her former husband. And medical care has advanced to the point where death in childbirth is relatively rare and women are no longer enslaved by their reproductive systems. But this was not true in the past. Our understanding of the past is always limited unless we grasp the limitations faced by the men and women who lived during that era.

It was never suggested, in my entire life, that my parents would determine who I (or my sisters) would marry. But I have known people (boys as well as girls) who knew that their parents would eventually choose their marriage partners. They often felt they couldn’t defy their parents, because in doing so they would defy their entire community. This problem would not be strange to our ancestors, even those a mere century before us.

There is no shortage of romantic stories about women going back in time to marry a brave highlander, a handsome cowboy or a swaggering pirate. But most of those stories tend to overstate the romance and understate – badly understate – the hardships of the time. Or how few rights a woman would have, if her husband turned nasty.

And that is something we really need to remember.


It isn’t easy to bring this front and centre in Schooled in Magic, even though the powerlessness of powerless people has been a major theme in the book from the start.

Magicians are believers in power, nothing else. After female magicians became relatively common – after the ‘Curse’ was understood and defeated – sexism largely faded from the magical community. As happened in our history, the growth of self-made powerful women boosted the position of all women. Emily does not face blatant sexual discrimination in much of the series because she’s joined a community based on equality, with men and women competing on equal terms. Even during Past Tense, her position is somewhat ambiguous – Whitehall and Bernard consider her a honorary man (although they would never express it that way). Emily has relatively little to do with the other girls in the commune, save for Julianne.

Even in the ‘present,’ Emily doesn’t really spend any time with ‘normal’ girls. Alassa is royalty – and the heir to the throne. Imaiqah is from a merchant family, where daughters are educated and certainly expected to play a role in the family trade. Aloha and Cabiria (and Melissa) are from magical families, where power – magical power – is more important than gender. (The Gorgon, not being completely human, doesn’t count.) Only Frieda (and Nanette/Lin) come from profoundly (and not without reason) misogynist societies and neither of them really want to talk about it. Obviously, there are servants and suchlike – in Whitehall, in Zangaria and Cockatrice – but Emily doesn’t sit down to talk with them. They would be too awed by her to say a word.

Indeed, even back on Earth, Emily never had the opportunity to develop feminine social skills, let alone masculine ones.

Which means, unfortunately, that there are large swathes of her society that she won’t truly understand, or will only be dimly aware of … a problem that will only grow worse as she grows older.

36 Responses to “Past Tense: Freedom and (Women’s) Rights”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    While I think you underestimate the social power that women have held even in societies where they lacked political power, you have a good point.

    I’d note that English upper-class women were the ones to establish if a woman was “respectable”.

    An upper-class male could marry a lower-class female but the lower-class female very likely would not be accepted into High Society which was controlled by the Grand Dames of Society.

    But as you said Julianne’s role would be limited by what her father (later her husband) would allow.

    Note, it would be “interesting” if Emily did get her nose rubbed in the “facts of life of lower-class women” of the Nameless World.

  2. Bret Wallach August 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

    Chris wrote: “If a marriage goes badly wrong, a woman can go to court and get a separation.”

    Is that how it is in Britain? Here in the US, if either spouse decides for any reason they no longer wish to be in the marriage, they can go to court and get a separation, without any valid reason whatsoever.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 15, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

      Likely the same in Britain as the US but Chris is making a point about the differences in time period.

    • chrishanger August 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

      That’s true in the UK too – I was just talking about female rights, not male rights.


      • Johnz86 August 17, 2016 at 9:39 am #

        There is huge difference between modern legal systems. In my country marriage is defined as partnership between two in order to start family. The judge looks at the state of relationship and one party needs to prove that the family unit is not longer viable or the divorce proposal gets rejected. There are many legal systems that treat this differently. Some consider the marriage as business arrangement, others in the past could consider it as ownership agreement.

  3. Billy August 15, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    Quote: (I haven’t read much of the books or seen the TV series.)

    You might want to watch the series * Game of Thrones someday. It is very good.

    The thing though about Game of Thrones is they spend 10 million per episode and it does look like it.

    But, there are all kinds of things going on, yet you can only see small parts of what is going on and then after a hour (Each episode) it ends.

    And everyone is upset that you could not see more of what was going on.

    I will say it is a very Adult show so kids and people who are prudes etc should not watch it.

  4. shrekgrinch August 15, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    I get a real laugh when I see a show like CW’s “The 100”, which totally romanticizes post-apocalyptic society for women. Follow that up with all the bitching about how women are depicted in The Walking Dead, etc. and clearly Feminists deserve their reps as being ‘out there’. Or at least very, very ignorant of actual history or just plain in denial of it when it violates their Narrative.

    Whereas women as depicted in Vikings…especially thrall women…tends to be more accurate. Same for the film adaptation of Book of Eli. And I believe both are also on the feminist hit list for that along with the others I mentioned, too.

    And they REALLY hate it when one points out that the world’s oldest profession is really the second oldest profession. The real, true oldest profession is hunting & protecting (dominated by males). Women doing what little they can to secure such services thus created the second oldest profession. Once again Say’s Law trumps Keynesianism — even 100,000+ years ago.

    • robert godfrey August 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

      As soon as firearms (or to an extent even bows) are introduced the strength advantage of men is to a large part negated (hell you can even argue that with melee weapons such as swords speed matters a hell of a lot more than people give it credit for, swords are not crowbars, and women have won world invitational events before now). Men can be deadly with weapons, so can women, they have (on average) less force and bare knuckle men are more dangerous but the weapon itself is a force multiplier, and skill counts, both sexes can acquire it with training.

      • Shoeless August 16, 2016 at 6:00 am #

        Umm, Guns maybe. Although only more modernized ones. Early muzzle loaders take a surprising amount of muscle to load quickly not to mention mass to absorb recoil. You mentioned the Bow. Much underrated by modern enthusiasts this weapon takes an enormous amount of strength. Putting an arrow through armor takes bows of at or over 100 lbs of pull. Then you consider volume. Try lifting that weight over and over and over. Every shot is a weight lifting rep.
        With melee weapons i think you are overlooking part of Chris’s point. Women can overcome men when the women are highly skilled. At high levels of skill speed can come in to play. But who would teach a women to fight in older societies. While a few women are better than men in melee sports the vast majority of the time it is the other way around. With military training you aim for the best odds. Witch even today means you train men unless you have a political axe to grind.

      • sjallen343 August 16, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

        Even modern firearms aren’t magic. Two situations to explain:

        1. Soldiers at war. Standard infantry kit is 60kg/132 pounds. That’s armour, pack, food, water, ammunition, weapon etc. For a fit man that’s doable, you just need to shuffle a bit, jog a little and settle into a nice rhythm. For a fit woman that’s her entire body weight. A modern grunt is expected to be able to march 20 kilometres (12 miles) in around two hours and be able to fight at the end of that for days on end if need be. At minimum, with that weight. Been there, done that. If you can’t do it then you won’t pass the basic course until they lower the standards again.

        2. Civilian life. In most parts of the world you cannot just wander around with a firearm. Mildly illegal. It’s legal in the US, but how often do you see it with a real weapon? (Pistols are not a real weapon, they are a defensive last resort. If you care to test this statement then I’ll let you have 30 free shots at me with a pistol from 200 metres. I’ll shoot back one singular round with a rifle when you’re finished then go ahead and laugh at how easy that bet was to win.) Carrying a gun also makes you a target for anyone with bad intentions and half a brain. Add to that, a gun can be taken off someone quite easily in close proximity especially if there is a large strength difference. You cannot so easily take the male/female strength difference away.

        Who is the clown that presumes that because men are generally stronger that woman are generally faster? Bad clown! Faulty logic! Sit! Stay! Flexibility and speed are functions of training. A male can train them just the same as a female and when both are untrained the edge goes to the male. When both are trained then the edge goes to the male again. Huge amounts of muscle make you slower, (not glacier like) but to get to that level you need to train in nothing but raw strength for years. Most people don’t do that and wouldn’t know how to if they wanted to, you cannot accidentally get as big as Arnold. Google Conor McGregor vs the Mountain. McGregor is much faster and pound for pound the best UFC fighter in the world but even he couldn’t avoid the grapple and his punches really didn’t do anything. The big guy thought the whole thing was hilarious.

        Females are generally better shots than males in the beginning. Males tend to muscle the weapon around rather than getting in a proper firing position, thus making a less stable firing platform and having poor groupings as a result. But if both firers know what they’re doing, a male will be able to perform at a more consistent level for longer because he has the muscle and endurance to hold that stable platform.

        Caveman analogy time! Men and women were designed for different things for very good reasons. No matter how hard he tries, no man will ever be able to give birth. Can’t happen. The greatest thing in this world is the gift of life to another person and only women can do that. Awesome stuff that is, nothing can compare to it. So what did men evolve to do in return? Protect women by being bigger, stronger and faster with a natural predilection for spatial reasoning, aggression and violence. Putting a man against a woman is stupid and counter productive from a man’s perspective.

        Bringing it back to the topic, this is how females came to be in that dependant role. If a woman wants to survive against an angry man, she needs to find a stronger angry man to protect her. Once that behaviour became ingrained it led to a belief that women always needed a man to protect them. Not always true, but fear does not care about fairness or how things should be.

        What was I saying? Not sure, but there’s a couple of points there for you to be offended and wrong about. That’ll cheer you up.

      • R Godfrey August 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

        Just to be clear, in case I wasn’t, I do not expect as many women to pass muster as men, I would be surprised if more than 10% of combat units where ever women short of a catastrophic war with conscription, what I was trying to argue is that weapons and armour are enough of a force multiplier to mean that exceptional women can equal and beat above average men, and should certainly have the right and duty to attempt to be good enough.

        On upper body strength and bows: yes, you need to be strong, but early bows far less so than later, for instance the Mongols had female troops, usually in scout and skirmish roles, and they where expected to use the same recurve as everyone else, to do so, for anyone to do so, you start training as a child, without that no one will be great at battlefield archery, the people who demonstrate it now are far better than me, no way I will claim otherwise, but not as good as even the average archer of the past.

        On female soldiers: the Soviet Union used them, their combat records, especially the sharp shooters and the Night Witches, are frankly awe inspiring.

        So, to return to the point: a hunter gatherer stone age society will treat women as property, this becomes how society works, it becomes religous dogma, when technology comes along that make it less necessary, the structure is enforced, and if history is any guide with increasing violence. The only way this could have been different is if women had got good at cutting throats, they did not.

      • chrishanger August 22, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

        That’s basically true


      • chrishanger August 16, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

        I’m not an expert, but as i understand it early bows (even later bows) require considerable upper-body strength to use.


      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 16, 2016 at 4:39 pm #


      • Don Yu August 16, 2016 at 11:13 pm #

        I think that present equality of women in developed countries is not from power of violence but with economic progressed enough that brain is better or equal to the strength giving women financial power thus more value then before. But even here there is inequality in pay.

        The more important is law and order where “might is right” is less so. Where sociality put protection of people (children and women) who can’t as a priority. This is not universal in the present around the world.

        What Emily is experiencing in Nameless world is that both power of violence and financial power can be equally enjoyed by both male and female magicians. But keep in mine only female magicians enjoys this special social power.

        This what I wanted from Emily in the Nameless world is economic progress for service part of the economic percentage grow and law become more pro protection of the weak. This is why her been baron was important as she can be very influential doing the above.
        As a story following Emily then what is happening in right but as social progress then not been baron is not good.

        Also where is the conversation about the children in the Nameless world? Emily not been baron is really bad for that. No education and economic condition to allowing it. Also infant mortality would be horrible even with healers since there is few for the many. While children and elderly will be less valued because of they are less productive for basic survival. As I said Emily as a magician, not been baron is good but for the powerless like the children and women bad.

      • Jacqueline Harris August 18, 2016 at 2:04 am #

        I think Emily has started the social and economic changes already. I don’t think she has to steer it. Political systems were already going into place and people were moving off the farms into cities increasing the urban development. I loves labor won the chest maker mentioned that Emily’s people were some of the wealthiest people. Emily reformed the laws. It’s like Emily already sowed the field and now things just need to grow. It’s just needs more time and Imique is there keeping the barony together. I think things are in a good direction.

  5. G August 15, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    All the more reason for Emily to spend more time away from Whitehall…and to stand up for herself more at Whitehall and every where…

    • chrishanger August 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

      The next two books will be away from Whitehall.


  6. PhilippeO August 16, 2016 at 3:42 am #

    Nice Article.

    Agree wholeheartedly with all this.

    there is indeed a myth / legendary past among eco-feminist that idealize ‘Time of Goddess’ a mythical time before Indo-European that matriarchy and goddess worship apparently exist. So far no archeological evidence of such thing actually existing. Indeed, while matrilocal and matrilineal societies exist, no actual matriarchy actually found by anthropologist. And while women in hunting gathering society usually had much better lives than women in agricultural society, that society is still dominated by males, curiously amount of food women ‘gathering’ or whether women is allowed to hunt/trap animal didn’t always correlate with amount of women power in society.

    • PuffinMuffin August 17, 2016 at 12:06 am #

      You might say that women have a power to avoid being conscripted for violent pursuits such as war and hunting. That’s no small thing.

      As far as the matriarchal society goes, I do believe evidence has been found of this in Celtic burials. However, all this came to an end when a certain city in Italy started conquering all and sundry.

  7. PuffinMuffin August 17, 2016 at 12:00 am #

    What an interesting post. First off I would suggest that your editor is a victim of the modern trend towards “kickass babes”, especially in scenarios where the weapons are sharp, heavy pointy things. You do sometimes get women like Brienne of Tarth, but not very often. Alas, what we do see on screen so often is stick insect women with thin arms waving a plastic sword around. Entirely unrealistic, but still swallowed without a blink.

    As far as the meat of the post goes, I think the attitude towards women in the society you are basing it upon goes back a long, long way. It’s based on the ability of women to bear children, which is a resource of huge value to a tribe. If you’ve ever done population simulations, a starting point of having lots of women and few men can redress the balance and survive far more easily, as opposed to one starting with few women and lots of men. And no doubt the men in the former scenario have a lovely time too, but that is another matter.

    Therefore, the tribe will want to preserve their women. The best way to do that is to restrict them to bearing and raising, and leave the rest to the men, who after doing their bit to create a child are considerably more expendable than the women. This is not actual oppression. This is a society reacting to biology in order to preserve itself. It is no more oppressive than forcing the men to risk being killed in order to hunt for food or defend the women.

    However, this arrangement has plainly far outlasted its need. Arguably, it was out of date in medieval times. But cultural folkways do take a lot of changing. As an illustration of this, consider Hatshepsut, the second confirmed female pharaoh. She was depicted in statuary with a beard, in order to make her an honorary man. Her mortuary temple is well worth seeing, although it gets a bit hot there.

    Finally I would like to recommend an excellent book: it’s “The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer. It really does cover a wide range of subjects within the period, and not just attitudes to women. Some of it just beggars belief, the past really is an alien place, or another planet. Which brings us neatly to the author’s setting.

    • Christine Amsden August 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      As the editor in question, I will state unequivocally that I am NOT a victim of the “kickass babes” mentality and that my own writing is, in fact, intended as a scathing rebuke of this mentality. I disagree with what Chris said about my own Cassie Scot series (although I gave him free leave to state his opinion … we’re all entitled to our opinions 🙂 ) My main theme was that power comes in many shapes and forms. Women are often seen as weaker or less powerful for a variety of reasons, straight-up magical prowess is just an abstraction of real life in that regard, but strong women have existed throughout history despite the legal and physical constructs surrounding them. Women can be brave, intelligent, and compassionate — just to name a few. Cassie has a couple of shining moments, but she never kicks ass. She wants to because, well, modern kick-ass nonsense, but my hope was that she and the reader go through a journey that would lead them to discovering how strong women can be without that.

      As for the point I made about Julianne: I haven’t read the revisions, to tell you the truth, so I don’t know how much of my issue Chris cleared up with a few easy suggestions I made. But in the version I read, Julianne was awfully afraid of marrying a man she loved and who was going to let her do the thing she wanted to do more than anything else — learn magic. She was also rather afraid of an adoring father based on nothing more than lawful possibilities rather than social likelihoods. I had a few other concerns, but the changes Chris said he made should have cleared those up and anyway, I respect the choices an author ultimately makes in his or her own book. This was important to Chris (clearly, since he took it a step further and wrote an article about it). As it happens, I disagree with most of what he’s said in this article about the powerlessness of women throughout history and am working on a rebuttal that I’ll post on my own blog soon. 🙂

      In the meantime, I just want to be clear that I am NOT a victim of kick-ass mentality and that was NEVER my point about Julianne.

      • chrishanger August 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

        Julianne’s fear, basically, is that she’ll marry Bernard and her father (who is Bernard’s master) will forbid him to teach her magic. That’s why she’s holding out for him to get his mastery, though even that holds the danger of him deciding to put off the training indefinitely (i.e. forever) because he wants children too. And then Emily comes along.


  8. Paul August 17, 2016 at 3:52 am #

    Emily seems to have made clear her thoughts about the stupidity of the fact that the allied lands remain fractured due to internal politics in the face of the threat posed by the necromancers. She seems to feel that the actions of leaders within the allied lands are short sighted and do not deal with the threat of the necromancers. However, Emily herself wants to be a teacher, when in reality her power and especially spells should be used to defeat the necromancers. She is being just as short sighted as the rulers of the allied lands, perhaps even more so, due to her ability to kill necromancers with the nuke spell. I hope, as she continues to mature and develop a strong sense of pride she will be able to realize that while she has no love of war, she is needed to help stop the necromancers. As Void said in the first book, Emily will have repaid his rescue if she becomes a sorcerer who can stand beside him and face the necromancer threat.

    • Jacqueline Harris August 18, 2016 at 2:17 am #

      Why can’t she do both? Be a teacher bringing up powerful magicians and a fighter? She seems to be training hard to fight with Daniele and and Miles. Most wars are hurry up and wait. Sure when they invade they need her but what happens when the necromancers stay on the other side off the mountains? Is she just supposed to sit there? No she can be using her skills to teach and train up powerfully magicians. In the Army most drill sergeants and instructors have long time military experience and have been deployed multiple times. And yet they are devoted to teaching why can’t Emily strive for both?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 18, 2016 at 2:35 am #

        Going along with your statement, there’s “what she would enjoy doing” and “what she believes is her duty”.

        It’s “her duty” to help the Allied Lands win the war against the Necromancers and she definitely sees that as her duty.

        While Emily has decided that she enjoys teaching, like you I see no reason that she can’t do both (at least at separate times).

        However, Whitehall like most Magic Schools strongly prefers Teachers who have practical experience in what they teach.

        So while Emily may in the future become a Teacher, before she does, she’ll have to be “out in the world” gaining such practical experience.

  9. Paul August 17, 2016 at 3:54 am #

    Also, the Schooled in Magic audiobook is available on Audible.

  10. William Ameing August 17, 2016 at 9:06 am #

    An interesting book to read is “The Red Queen” by Matt Ridley for a scientific view of why sexual reproduction developed and in what environments where asexual reproduction is still important. (Asexual is in harsh physical environments, while sexual reproduction is important when competing with many parasites and diseases). The best part of the book for this discussion is late in the book when he discusses the many different systems developed by our hominid relatives, sexual roles, warfare/competition/murder, etc. You will find it interesting to compare with the above discussions. In some of our related species, the ONLY (almost, aside from fathering the children) thing the (really big and strong relative to the females) males are good for is to keep other males (of the same species)(Great Apes and others) from murdering the children of any strange females they meet including when they take over control of a band of females from another band of males (even lions do this). While in other species the males are not much different in size from the females, but they have really large testicles (for their body mass) for sperm competition with other males because the females of the band are constantly mating with every male in the band so that their children do not get murdered by males who are sure that they are not the fathers of the children. There are many different systems and they have a lot to do with how each species hunts/gathers its food, particularly the size of the groups and how much they split up to gather that food.

    He also has a long discussion of monogamy versus polygamy in many different historical human societies and the reasons for the differences.

    He also spends a lot of time discussing the different strategies that males and females pursue to succeed in the reproduction competition of various species, particularly humans.

  11. Big Ben August 17, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    Change starts slow, but I suspect in the next few decades we will see traditional gender roles in the western world completely equalized, if not actually reversed.
    In America 60% of all students studying for undergraduate degrees are women, and that percentage has been steadily increasing since the 1980’s. As more and more women (and fewer and fewer men) enter college/university and go on to ever more advanced education, within a few generations they will hold an ever increasing number of the most important jobs – doctors, lawyers (who go on to become judges), chemists, professors, entrepreneurs, etc. Pretty soon the only careers males will be a shoe-in for are the jobs that require brute strength, and thanks to technology and mechanization, those jobs will become an ever smaller percentage of the economy.

    For example:
    Modern railroads are built almost entirely by machine, with relatively minuscule human crews compared to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, which required thousands.
    There used to be thousands of men (and almost no women) working the docks in a big port city, doing much of the work by hand – now it’s a few hundred at most, of both genders, operating the machinery that does the heavy lifting.
    Modern farming is almost entirely mechanized, as is most mining, road building, etc.
    … A woman can operate a machine or drive a tractor just as well as a man. Physical strength is becoming a requirement of the past, even in heavy industry.

    And yes, in warfare and combat I believe males still have an overall advantage, but look at the conflicts we’ve been fighting recently. Vietnam was the last large-scale infantry war America fought, where soldiers routinely had to strap on that heavy rucksack and carry enough ammo and supplies on their person to tromp through the jungle for days or weeks on end.
    Everything since has been primarily armor and air (Desert Storm), modern Calvary (driving around Afganistan and Iraq in Humvees and Strykers), drone warfare or relatively small special forces actions (taking out Bin Laden). Most troops don’t march dozens or hundreds of miles on foot anymore – they’re driven in or flown in.
    The days of hundreds-of-thousands of foot infantry tromping across Europe or Asia are over. A single military drone can accomplish more in many circumstances than a company of infantry – and get it done faster with fewer friendly-forces casualties.
    I mean really, if you were a rag-tag terrorist army in Syria or Iraq what would you rather see coming at you, 1000 infantry on foot or 10 American drones loaded out with a world of hurt, that could drop the pain, fly back to base or an aircraft carrier for reloads and be back overhead in an hour or two? And a drone can be flown just as well by a man or woman, thousands of miles away from the combat zone, very little physical strength required.

    So all this talk about which gender makes for a better archer is fun in the abstract, but really, who would you rather see coming at you over the horizon, 100,000 male archers on foot or 1 Predator drone piloted by a woman? Actually you’d probably never see the drone, just hear a few seconds of ever-increasing sound as the missile streaked in and then ……

    Or for an extreme, sad example, take the recent terrorist attack in Nice where the scuzzball drove a truck through a crowd of civilians. As far as simple physical requirements, a female could have just as easily drove the truck. Or strapped on a suicide vest, or fired an AK indiscriminately into a crowded theater. So why is it that most such attacks are carried out by men? Could it be that the women, no matter how repressed and uneducated, are simply smarter?

    I believe that is a large part of why patriarchal/traditionalist/extremist societies around the world dislike the “west” – they know in their hearts that thousands of years of male-dominated tradition are coming to an end at an ever-accelerating rate, and if they don’t change with the times (especially in regards to educating both genders) they’ll become more and more irrelevant.

    • Big Ben August 17, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

      Or for a REALLY extreme point of view, if every single male on the planet suddenly disappeared (beamed up by aliens, killed by a manufactured plague or sent willy-nilly to the Nameless World) there are enough frozen embryos and sperm on ice to keep humanity going with sufficient genetic diversity to easily avoid extinction.
      Making us guys strutting around today 100% irrelevant.

    • robert godfrey August 17, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

      on the suicide attacks issue: the attacks are mainly committed by men (yes their have been female suicide bombers) because young men can more easily become nihilistic and given to extreme narratives (as an interesting aside, ISIS documents, recently captured, show that they prefer recruits with low understanding of religion, it makes them easier to indoctrinate, and more likely to volunteer for suicide attacks, this may feed into why the recent attackers had not been under surveillance, we had been looking for the wrong thing) Cults, extreme political movements, knightly orders, etc have taken advantage of this for centuries, it is easy to give a young man something to die for, if he feels desperate, or put upon enough. Women also fall into that trap, but the response tends to be (again isn’t always) different.

      • chrishanger August 22, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

        I recall a study of suicide bombers in Palestine that concluded that most female bombers did it because they believed they had been shamed in some way, either by the Israelis or their own people.


  12. Jacqueline Harris August 18, 2016 at 2:28 am #

    A really great comment Chris one thing that I like about your stories is that you really consider the historical and world perspective. It adds a lot of realism to your stories. Julienne maybe have been very limited in her freedoms but she was her own character and think that’s more important. One thing I would like to see is for Emily’s social circle to widen a bit more. Poor Emily seems more isolated then ever. One thing the headmaster said was that Emily had more friends then she knew. Do you think Emily will ever actually break out of her shell a bit more?

    • chrishanger August 22, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

      I think she will . But she’s always going to like the privacy of her own head.


  13. William Ameing August 18, 2016 at 3:18 am #

    I think that Emily has at least an awareness of what non magical and the very poor people can do, primarily because of her background coming from Earth, but also because of book 4 and the other non school books, i.e. books 2, 6 and 8. True she has not had much time to meet them so far, but she knows that they can do a lot more than most of the magician class think, who only value magical abilities and power.(Lady Barb is an exception, and maybe some other Healers, or magicians from non magical families)

    It will be interesting to see if she can foster the equivalent of Whitehall for non magicians who are not going into military careers. Stronghold already does that for potential warriors both magical and non magical.

    One problem with the development of present day cultures, particularly Western, is that the ability to read well is being squeezed out by all of the other audio visual entertainment and communication media. There are not that many children who would rather read a book than watch TV or a movie, or use the social media to talk to their friends. The problem is that like all skills, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it, and most of them do not get enough practice at it. As an example, I am a life long book worm and math science nerd, and I read the last two Harry Potter books in about 7 hours each when they came out. Most of today’s children can not read that fast, even when they do like the Harry Potter books. You need to be able to read well to do well in college and more advanced careers.Yet many of todays cultures, particularly inner city, place no value on the skills they will need to get that education; in fact they place a negative value on those skills and education in general. They probably value mathematical abilities even less.


  1. Defining Freedom and Power: A Rebuttal | Into the Dreaming - August 19, 2016

    […] of the bestselling Schooled in Magic series (which I proudly edit), made some assertions about Freedom and (Women’s) Rights. In it, he has this to say about my own Cassie Scot […]

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