Gender Roles in Xian

Xian is a hodgepodge of countless different ethnicities and cultural mores. Yet all of these cultures share the same experience of pressure in the form of the hostile and dangerous land which their forebears came to inhabit. While traditions back in the "old country" may have varied widely, simple force of circumstance has produced a fairly consistent understanding of male and female roles in the Sunset Isles- at least, among the refugee humans and settler villages.

The default condition for women is as mothers and homemakers, with poor women often adding small manufacturing work or handicraft piecework that can be done in the home. Men are generally expected to work outside the home, and to serve as in the military forces and other martial branches of society. Leadership roles tend to be ambiguous, but the fact that most of them in the Isles are based on meritocratic principles means that they're oft as likely to be filled by a woman as a man. In Imperial traditions, unmarried women are expected to remain at home under the custodianship of their father or an elder male relation until being transferred into the custody of their husband. Imperial traditions tend not to hold in modern Xian unless it proves politically convenient for a rival powerful enough to enforce that role on an unwilling woman, and even then it tends to last no longer than the Magistrate who confirmed it can be kept bribed.

In practice, these customs and traditions are no more than vague ideas to most citizens of Xian and the surrounding towns. The simple necessities of daily life make cloistered women a luxury that the society cannot afford. Only the most hidebound and traditional Imperial would ever want to raise so decorative a daughter, quite aside from the wealth required to keep such an effectively ornamental family member. Most families have the sense to make as much use of all their members as they can wring from them. Sons may be put to martial training or seamanship apprenticing more commonly than daughters, but daughters are most often simply put into different practical topics of education. The great majority of soldiers, sailors, watchmen, miners, and woodsmen are male around Xian, but an equal proportion of accountants, brewers, weavers, cobblers, lawyers and architects are women. Arcane and clerical professions tend to be fairly equally represented by sex.

As Isle society is essentially meritocratic, any member that shows adequate drive, talent, and competence in a field is apt to be accepted into it. The famous Xianese admiral Ten Fires Carp is a woman, and the Xianese army maintains separate military units of female warriors that are employed in precisely the same fashion as males. There have been several female Mandarins over the course of history, and the Magistracy inevitably is well-numbered with ambitious female courtiers who aspire for lasting wealth and glory for their children. People of the uncustomary sexes may have a somewhat higher barrier to entry into certain professions, but once they've demonstrated their competence the Isles are much more interested in their results than their plumbing.

Among the nonhuman races, responsibilities tend to break down along similar lines. The Elves are even more egalitarian, and while the gnomes and halflings tend to more strongly prefer the traditional roles, it's more a matter of habit and custom than any clearly-articulated ideal. The only allied race with very firm contrary opinions are the Dwarves, who are highly reluctant to confirm males in the traditional female roles of crafting, manufacture or scholarship, or grant females leave to take up male employment as warriors or miners. Still, a vocal minority of Dwarvish male rights enthusiasts have been making increasing demands to be permitted wider access to the crafting professions, insisting that male dwarves are every bit as capable as females of superior craftsmanship. Despite widespread skepticism over the quality of 'mannish' goods, a few male dwarven crafters have emerged. The enthusiasm among female dwarves for access to the soldiering profession has not been as widely reciprocated, though there is still the rare dwarven female who proves herself in battle alongside her brothers to match the novelty of a male dwarf hammering at the anvil.

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