LunarFire

Women In Control of (Written) History

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I'm going through a re-read of both books before November, and I came across something really interesting in Way of Kings. 

Shallan doing some research with Jasnah and mentions the footnote of sorts, I believe it is in the context of King Galivar. The impression that I got was that the footnotes included by the women authors are something that the men in their society aren't really aware of. Commentary of text that isn't widely known. I absolutely did not catch this on my first read and the whole concept felt pretty explosive to me. Men are considered to be so important due to their place in war, however, it is women who truly hold the knowledge and the keys to the past. In fact, there are most likely SO many things that the men are not aware of that are hidden behind being unable to read, and that aren't explained by women.

As I'm writing this I'm remembering that male ardents are allowed to read. Considering most of the knowledge I hold about ardents stems from Kabsal, who we later learn is not the most trustworthy, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that there is much knowledge being hidden or contained by women and ardents.

The implications of this are profound I think.  

Thoughts?

 

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You mentioned that ardents are allowed to read. This gives the impression that men, in general are not allowed to read, but that is not the case. Their society seems to teach that it is unmanly and just something they don't do. It's not forbidden it is just odd and out of place.

I don't know if the knowledge about the footnotes is "hidden" but it is certainly not broadcasted and tried to keep quiet about. The footnotes would, be really handy for making sure that knowledge is not lost or at least clarified. For instance, if a king was dictating a autobiography it would be important to get his side of the story along with a outside observer; I imagine the king would be a tempted to place a emphasis on his own image rather than truth.

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4 minutes ago, Ammanas said:

You mentioned that ardents are allowed to read. This gives the impression that men, in general are not allowed to read, but that is not the case. Their society seems to teach that it is unmanly and just something they don't do. It's not forbidden it is just odd and out of place.

I don't know if the knowledge about the footnotes is "hidden" but it is certainly not broadcasted and tried to keep quiet about. The footnotes would, be really handy for making sure that knowledge is not lost or at least clarified. For instance, if a king was dictating a autobiography it would be important to get his side of the story along with a outside observer; I imagine the king would be a tempted to place a emphasis on his own image rather than truth.

A man reading is considered a little bit more than odd/eccentric. It is something considered almost taboo by the culture. If it was just an eccintricty thing, then Storm Wardens would not have a problem learning to read/write in women's script. Instead they are basically developing their own separate language from glyphs to be able to read/write without using the alphabet that is considered actually reading/writing. That is a huge amount of hassle that nobody would bother with if it wasn't a very serious taboo. There were other things pointing towards it being a major deal as well. Consider that Dalinar/Sadeas kept Gavilar's final words hidden because they believed they indicated he had to been literate. I believe it was specifically even referred to as a "Shameful secret".

 

This isn't to say I buy into some secret untold history of the world that only women know and collude to hide from the men. But it does feed into men getting less information with less detail than women, further diluting their potential education beyond what even the lack of being able to read would be expected to enforce.

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@Seerow Would it be fair to say that men reading would be the equivalent taboo of cannibalism in our society?

Edited by Ammanas
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6 minutes ago, Ammanas said:

@Seerow Would it be fair to say that men reading would be the equivalent taboo of cannibalism in our society?

It was enough of a taboo to cause this exchange in Kaladin's youth. 

Quote

Stormwarden. He reached by reflex for the prayer sewn to his left sleeve, waiting for the day he’d need to burn it for aid. “They seek to predict the future.”

“It’s not the same thing. You’ll see. There are so many things to explore, so many places your mind could go. The world is changing. My family’s most recent letter describes amazing fabrials, like pens that can write across great distances. It might not be long before men are taught to read.”

“I’d never want to learn something like that,” Kaladin said, aghast, glancing at Tien. Was their own mother really saying these things? But then, she’d always been like this. Free, both with her mind and her tongue.

 

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13 minutes ago, Ammanas said:

@Seerow Would it be fair to say that men reading would be the equivalent taboo of cannibalism in our society?

I am unsure. I feel like it would be less taboo than cannibalism. I would guess probably closer to how homosexuality was viewed around 100 years ago. Though I'll probably catch flak for that particular comparison.

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4 hours ago, Seerow said:

I am unsure. I feel like it would be less taboo than cannibalism. I would guess probably closer to how homosexuality was viewed around 100 years ago. Though I'll probably catch flak for that particular comparison.

No, it is less serious than that (your example having been actually illegal in many countries 100 years ago). I would say cannibalism would be about right, from my reading of SA.

Edited by Krandacth
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I thought it's very interesting that both genders can be argued to have more power. Only men are allowed to use Shardblades - or indeed, fight - but only women are literate, which means a different kind of power.

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I wonder if Brandon was inspired by his religion by the clear divide between responsibilities between men and women? From the Proclamation to the World:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. 

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2 hours ago, Ammanas said:

I wonder if Brandon was inspired by his religion by the clear divide between responsibilities between men and women? From the Proclamation to the World:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. 

Hm the problem with this is that perhaps the roles are a construct of odium. 

Plus, the whole spicy v sweet thing bothers me. 

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I always find thinking about gender roles in Alethkar fascinating, because you're right. Women have access to a whole separate realm of power than men. Men have access to scholarly knowledge, but almost always through women only (as readers and scribes). I have to agree with Jasnah, though. Even though women do have their own spheres, if I was living as an Alethi woman I'd be pissed at having my activities determined for me by gender.

Also, your observation makes me wonder what Alethi histories look like. I mean, we know that the people who write history often pay the most attention to historical figures who were a lot like themselves. That's how you get Great Men history, all about rich, powerful (often white) men. But what about Alethi historians? Would they emphasize women's roles in history over men's? Would they eschew long examinations of historical battles in favor of the history of scholarship?

And with all the gender segregation that goes on in Alethi society (activities, food, professions, even the way you worship sometimes), it's interesting that men and women interact so regularly, and with so little oversight. I mean, there seems to be some sort of casual-ish dating culture in the warcamps at least. And this is among the upper crust. I think that speaks to the high status women are afforded in Alethkar. Not equal, I don't think (there's still some baggage about that - the whole 'you'll marry who your father tells you to' thing, for one), but women have a lot more freedom than in, say, Regency England.

(I had to go back through my post to change all mentions of "Roshar" to "Alethkar", because Roshar has tons of different cultures, and many of them have different gender roles. One of the things I love most about the Stormlight Archive.)

Edited by Nebty
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16 hours ago, Nebty said:

I always find thinking about gender roles in Alethkar fascinating, because you're right. Women have access to a whole separate realm of power than men. Men have access to scholarly knowledge, but almost always through women only (as readers and scribes). I have to agree with Jasnah, though. Even though women do have their own spheres, if I was living as an Alethi woman I'd be pissed at having my activities determined for me by gender.

Also, your observation makes me wonder what Alethi histories look like. I mean, we know that the people who write history often pay the most attention to historical figures who were a lot like themselves. That's how you get Great Men history, all about rich, powerful (often white) men. But what about Alethi historians? Would they emphasize women's roles in history over men's? Would they eschew long examinations of historical battles in favor of the history of scholarship?

And with all the gender segregation that goes on in Alethi society (activities, food, professions, even the way you worship sometimes), it's interesting that men and women interact so regularly, and with so little oversight. I mean, there seems to be some sort of casual-ish dating culture in the warcamps at least. And this is among the upper crust. I think that speaks to the high status women are afforded in Alethkar. Not equal, I don't think (there's still some baggage about that - the whole 'you'll marry who your father tells you to' thing, for one), but women have a lot more freedom than in, say, Regency England.

(I had to go back through my post to change all mentions of "Roshar" to "Alethkar", because Roshar has tons of different cultures, and many of them have different gender roles. One of the things I love most about the Stormlight Archive.)

Reflecting back in it, it is a really interesting dichotomy between Vorin conservatism between men and women (the safehand for example, which frankly seems so obnoxious to deal with), and the  culture they live in. For example: it was completely normal for Adolin to date so frequently. Also, we see during that first time Kaladin meets Adolin and he is coming to the aid of a prostitute. While he doesn't engage her himself, it's still "allowed" culturally. 

I wonder if this has to do with any outside influence on Roshar. 

 

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On 9/29/2017 at 10:26 PM, Seerow said:

A man reading is considered a little bit more than odd/eccentric. It is something considered almost taboo by the culture. If it was just an eccintricty thing, then Storm Wardens would not have a problem learning to read/write in women's script. Instead they are basically developing their own separate language from glyphs to be able to read/write without using the alphabet that is considered actually reading/writing. That is a huge amount of hassle that nobody would bother with if it wasn't a very serious taboo. There were other things pointing towards it being a major deal as well. Consider that Dalinar/Sadeas kept Gavilar's final words hidden because they believed they indicated he had to been literate. I believe it was specifically even referred to as a "Shameful secret".

 

This isn't to say I buy into some secret untold history of the world that only women know and collude to hide from the men. But it does feed into men getting less information with less detail than women, further diluting their potential education beyond what even the lack of being able to read would be expected to enforce.

Considering how heavily involved women are in politics, it seems likely to me that there may be greater implications to this segregation of knowledge. We know there is greater negative influence on Roshar, this separation could have been specifically implanted in their society. Just a theory. 

Also, if reading were mearly "frowned upon" I would imagine Dalinar would have considered it to assist him along his path? With topics of great sensitivity we see him struggle to make sure he has chosen the correct and most loyal scribes. Considering he is not afraid to go again popular Alethi culture it would be much more convenient for him to learn letters. 

 

 

Edited by LunarFire
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22 hours ago, Ammanas said:

I wonder if Brandon was inspired by his religion by the clear divide between responsibilities between men and women? From the Proclamation to the World:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. 

I think this really downplays the intellectual role women play in their society. I actually can't remember an implication that women are solely expected to take of the children. They are engineers, scholars, scribes, ardents, artists etc... It is actually imbedded in their religion that everyone (women included-though this may only apply to lighteyes, i'm not sure) must pick an area of interest to focus and devote their lives to. We can see this easily in Shallan. Even though she has been isolated her entire life, and her father wished to control her every moment, we don't really see much about her expectation to bear children. I remember she mentions that at some point she would be expected marry someone for a political alliance, but not that her life would then be minimized to raising children. I could have remembered incorrectly. 

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4 hours ago, LunarFire said:

I think this really downplays the intellectual role women play in their society. I actually can't remember an implication that women are solely expected to take of the children. They are engineers, scholars, scribes, ardents, artists etc... It is actually imbedded in their religion that everyone (women included-though this may only apply to lighteyes, i'm not sure) must pick an area of interest to focus and devote their lives to. We can see this easily in Shallan. Even though she has been isolated her entire life, and her father wished to control her every moment, we don't really see much about her expectation to bear children. I remember she mentions that at some point she would be expected marry someone for a political alliance, but not that her life would then be minimized to raising children. I could have remembered incorrectly. 

Oh I know its not exactly the same. I was wondering if the Proclamation to the World was the seed that his idea sprang from. Sorry if I did not communicate that properly.

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8 hours ago, LunarFire said:

Reflecting back in it, it is a really interesting dichotomy between Vorin conservatism between men and women (the safehand for example, which frankly seems so obnoxious to deal with), and the  culture they live in. For example: it was completely normal for Adolin to date so frequently. Also, we see during that first time Kaladin meets Adolin and he is coming to the aid of a prostitute. While he doesn't engage her himself, it's still "allowed" culturally. 

I think the partnership between men and women necessitates a dating culture. Men need to trust their wives to act as scribes without working against him and sharing his secrets. That requires a trust that dating would create better than an arranged marriage. 

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4 hours ago, thegatorgirl00 said:

I think the partnership between men and women necessitates a dating culture. Men need to trust their wives to act as scribes without working against him and sharing his secrets. That requires a trust that dating would create better than an arranged marriage. 

Absolutely! That's a really good point.

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On 10/1/2017 at 9:59 AM, LunarFire said:

this separation could have been specifically implanted in their society. Just a theory. 

I'd like to talk to you about Arts and Majesty.

Quote

Jon

My burning question for Brandon is did I miss the explanation, world building moment or historical gem that explains why women have a safe hand and why they must keep it covered?

Brandon Sanderson (Goodreads)

No, you haven't missed it. People have asked about this. It's part of what has grown out of the Vorin culture, and there are reasons for it. One of them has to do with a famous book written by an artist who claimed that true feminine pursuits and arts were those that could be performed with one hand, while masculine arts were those performed with two hands, in a way associating delicacy with women and brute force with men. Some people in Roshar disagree with this idea, but the custom has grown out of that foundational work on masculine and feminine arts. That's where that came from. One aspect of this is that women began to paint one-handed and do things one-handed in upper, higher society. You'll notice that the lower classes don't pay a lot of attention to it—they'll just wear a glove.

Quote

the_archduke

Why can only women read in Stormlight Archive?

Brandon Sanderson

Immediately after the Recreance an old book was used to argue for the idea that only men should be picking up the blades and plate, fighting was a masculine art. Over a period of 20 or so years this became established and some women used the same argument to take back some power by taking literacy for themselves as a feminine art.
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I would imagine that the Hierocracy was facilitated by just such a situation. With the ardentia and women in control of the knowledge of Alethkhar kings, highprinces, the public at large would be easy to control. With the fall of the vorin church from power the culture of dating which as indicate in comments above would require trust perhaps came about as women then carved their own sphere of power outside that of the vorin church. perhaps in many ways supplanting it.

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It's important to remember, though, that these rules are only for Vorin lands. If I remember the Lift interlude correctly, there are plenty of men in the Azish bureaucracy that can read. So there shouldn't be a big conspiracy going on.

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On 03/10/2017 at 9:07 PM, Crucible of Shards said:

It's important to remember, though, that these rules are only for Vorin lands. If I remember the Lift interlude correctly, there are plenty of men in the Azish bureaucracy that can read. So there shouldn't be a big conspiracy going on.

Likewise Shallan rather suspects the Thayalen bookseller she visits in Kharbranth can read and just pretends not to to avoid upsetting his Vorin clients.

Ditto the deal between the Shin Farmer and Vistim involved documents in a way implying both could read. And Szeth of course reads the list when Taravangian sets him to work,

 

And Lift of course can't read and write.

Edited by Dahak
Szeth son son Valeno, Truthless of Shinovar.
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