Part of writing good fantasy, is in creating realistic worlds that are often just a little bit unique from our own. It is a way to delve into issues that we address every day, but never pause to consider. Take gender and relationships. In our world, it is what many call “a man’s world,” where there are gender gaps in what men and women can do professionally, or how much they earn for the exact same job. And it even applies to who is responsible for children and care. But- what if things were just a tiny bit different…?
I have two cultures in Chanmyr that are built on matrilineal social structure. That means matri-mother, lineal- lineage. In other words, kinship is on the mother’s side. Baby-daddy is completely irrelevant. A man does not raise his own biological offspring– he may not even know if he has any. He contributes to the care and upbringing of his sisters’ children. And when he dies, any possessions he has goes to them as well.
So how does this look in action? Well, for starters in one of the two cultures, girls are the one make the decision to have sex or a relationship. In fact, it is considered taboo for a boy to make the first move. He can go to great lengths to get a girls attention and impress her, but it is up to her to choose him. This can lead to rivalries between men- in sports, horsemanship and in dancing– in the hopes of catching a girl’s eye.
But she is just as likely to prefer a no-strings hookup as any kind of ongoing relationship. Very often, she will be gone in the morning, with no hard feelings and no expectations. In fact, the songs in this culture tend to be about the heartbroken boys that get left behind when a traveling family moves on.
This has been a fun and interesting aspect to develop in the world of Chanmyr. And it makes things more interesting because it can create tension and misunderstandings in relationships between races and cultures. A Faenyr boy (or man) may enter into a casual relationship with a Chanmyr girl- thinking they understand each other.
She may in fact be hoping to become pregnant, believing that the boy/man will “do right by her,” and get married. On the other hand, he will be very confused by the expectation that he has a responsibility to “her child.”
Additionally, the occasional brawl may develop when a Chanmyr boy makes an advance on a Faenyr girl– her brothers and kin may step up to defend her right to select her partners. But, many of the girls are a self sufficient and can take care of their own honour very well without any help of their brothers.
These ideas are taken from actual cultural practices throughout history and cultures. I think it serves as a good reminder, also, in our own world- to appreciate that two people can have very different perspectives about what is proper. Both are correct, within their own communities. So just like the Faenyr and Chanmyr, it is a matter of learning to understand each other.