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Women in Glorantha


HeartQuintessence

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Where Glorious Reascent of Yelm mentions the Good Sister and Bad Sister (Injerina and Bosjerina) it says something like 'we all know the tales about them' is anybody familiar with a particular terrestrial or gloranthan folklore tradition that this might refer to?

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20 hours ago, JonL said:

They enthusiastically embrace and cultivate it, but it predates them

That's a brilliant double-entendre. Congratulations!

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38 minutes ago, Byll said:

Where Glorious Reascent of Yelm mentions the Good Sister and Bad Sister (Injerina and Bosjerina) it says something like 'we all know the tales about them' is anybody familiar with a particular terrestrial or gloranthan folklore tradition that this might refer to?

First thing I thought back to was every story that starts "A widow had two daughters" or occasionally a variant on that opening. One of the girls does everything right and ultimately life works out great for her. The other one tries to get everything her own way and is punished. In many cases probably beloved to Dara Happans it's a powerful independent woman who stands in the way of happiness.

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3 hours ago, HeartQuintessence said:

Out of curiousity and to poll the community,

 WHAT DOYOU ALL WANT TO SEE IN THE  BOOK, at least i hope it'll be a book.

I don't think I have any particular requests as such, just curious to see what you put in there. :)

Aside from all Glorantha lore, however, seeing fully-fleshed female characters interact with each other seems like the foundation to build this on, regardless of what specific elements of Glorantha you want to include.

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27 minutes ago, HeartQuintessence said:

But this is a book about Women and initian and power... Though i guess female ducks work and they deserve a place in the book.

 

Who do ducks worship? I feel their gods are distimce from the human ones...

Actually the Ducks of Dragon Pass are fairly orthodox Orlanthi themselves. This is part of a running joke of sorts (pretty much everything with the ducks is a running joke), where the Ducks see themselves as very serious and proper worshippers of Orlanth and Ernalda, and the other, human Orlanthi tribes react to this ranging from hostile, to amused, to nonplussed acceptance. 

Per a geographic quirk, they tend to worship the god of Death, Humakt, more than other Orlanthi tribes. They live next to the swamp of a necromancer, and wielding the powers of Death against the undead minions he summons or enslave is really useful. Of course, this leads to another running gag with the Ducks, where they are a often a very serious, dour lot, who take themselves and their duties very seriously, while they look comical and self-aggrandizing to their neighbors.

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I'm very late to this party--been offline for a couple of days--and I really love this whole thread. It seems to me that there are a couple of inter-related issues going on with Glorantha in terms of gender. 

1) A majority of those who have played in Glorantha are male because the gaming community skews male (although I think that imbalance is slowly evening out). Male gamers have tended to focus on violent conflict as the interesting story to tell. So the published scenarios have often focused on violent conflict as the obvious solution. Ernalda's 'Other Way' to resolve problems has often been an after-thought in scenarios, where it was considered at all. The number of published quests that are essentially non-violent is much lower than the number of quests that culminate in some sort of violence. For example, the three major non-violent cults of the Storm Tribe (Lhankor Mhy, Chalana Arroy, and Issaries) have one published quest each, whereas the violent cults have at least 7 that I can think of off the top of my head--Orlanth has at least 4 (more than all the earth cults combined). 

2) Fantasy literature (particularly male-centric stories) have compounded this tendency (although again, this has improved as fantasy has matured as a genre). When the average gamer thinks of fantasy stories, they probably picture orc-killing and the like. Women are usually positioned as healers and earth priestesses who need rescuing more than they rescue everyone else. Women are situated as 'home', which men leave and return to, defend, and procreate with, and the assumption that what women do at home when men aren't around is the boring stuff like cooking. So we have a lot of models for how to make male-centric activity (violence, mostly) interesting and few models for how to make women-centric activity interesting. RQ's elaborate rules focus on combat and hand-waving focus on things like cooking (the former is a long, drawn-out process with many steps, whereas the latter is a single roll) nudges us in this direction much more than HQ's system, which resolves all forms of challenging activity the same way (a Cooking challenge could as easily be an Extended Contest as a fight with a band of Broo might be).

3) The majority of people who created Glorantha (in terms of published material) have been men, and consequently their notion of what a truly gender-egalitarian society/religion looks like has been filtered through male assumptions about such things. That's not meant as a slight to Greg or MOB or Jeff Richards or anyone else--just as an observation. For example, Sartar becomes King of Dragon Pass by pleasing the FHQ and 'marrying the earth'. This nominally situates the feminine principle as superior--the Earth Queen chooses her king. But it's still the male Sartar who's doing all the cool stuff and the FHQ is just choosing from a slate of potential candidates, not going out and making herself the ruler of the Kingdom of Sartar. The whole ruling line of Sartar is men. Kallyr is an impressive female candidate for Prince of Sartar (apparently the first one), but her story is ultimately one of valiant failure, followed by the male Argrath succeeding. A truly gender-egalitarian society would have produced at least one Princess of Sartar in 150+ years. The 'active' earth goddesses--the ones who go out and get things done instead of finding men to do it for them--are both depicted as semi-monstrous figures. The Babeester Gor write-up in Sartar Companion positions her worshippers as nearly psychotic anger-ridden ball-busters (the classic trope of the Angry Woman in fantasy literature) and both she and Maran Gor engage in cannibalism (IIRC, MGs cannibalize their own children, another classic misogynist trope). It was left to Jane Wiliams to find a way to present a female warrior goddess who was actually a fully-playable and non-stereotypical idea of what a warrior woman might be. (Again, this isn't meant as a slam to any of the men who mapped out Glorantha. It's more a testament to the difficulties men have in viewing the world the way women view it.)

4) The decision to frame Sartarite women's religion as 'secrets' is problematic--it's discouraged the publication of myths/quest from the women's PoV. For example, the Making of the Storm Tribe myth is written so that it's clear that Ernalda was doing things behind the scenes, but we've never gotten a myth about how Ernalda Forms the Storm Tribe (although it seems that we've gotten a few peaks at it in Six Ages). If women are 50% of the population, their myths and quests aren't 'secrets'--they're just gender-specific knowledge, like how to weave. 

None of this is to say that we need to tear Glorantha down to the studs and make it gender-blind. One of the things I love about it is how deeply gendered the universe, because it's such a breath of fresh air from the Generic Fantasy Europe that most other fantasy RPGs are descended from. I love that instead of saying 'women can act like men', it's trying to create a game world in which men and women generally act differently. 

You can see a lot of this in the scenario that gave us the Humakt, Raven, and Wolf myth (off the top of my head, I'm forgetting the name of the scenario and don't want to bother to look it up). The magic spindle that the women need to perform a key clan ritual has been stolen. The solution is to do a violence-focused quest to get the ability to locate and kill the baddies that took it. If all goes well, the spindle is returned to the women, who then walk off-stage to perform the clan ritual that is supposedly the most important thing in the scenario. So the Spindle and the Mahomravrand ritual are actually MacGuffins--the thing the characters care about that the audience doesn't care about--and the quest and violence, which are nominally just the agents through which the ritual is saved, are actually the interesting bit of the scenario. There is no option for the women questing to get a new spindle. There is no option for Babeester Gor to go and get it violently (using her ability to track those who have offended the earth). There's no sequence in which the women actually perform the ritual, perhaps struggling to bring the clan back into full harmony. My point here isn't to beat up the author of that scenario for not writing a different one--it's a good scenario and I've run it three times.

My point is that the way we conceptualize a lot of what happens in scenarios (therefore shaping our sense of what happens in Glorantha) generally defaults to male-centric patterns. If we want a more gender-balanced Sartar (and a Sartar that is therefore a bit more friendly to female players in general), we have to swim upstream against strong currents. 

 

Edited by Bohemond
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1 hour ago, Bohemond said:

I'm very late to this party--been offline for a couple of days--and I really love this whole thread. It seems to me that there are a couple of inter-related issues going on with Glorantha in terms of gender.

Bless your house and bless your lineage, may your table be always merry and grim as warranted and your gaming books light to carry

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9 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Bless your house and bless your lineage, may your table be always merry and grim as warranted and your gaming books light to carry

Thank you! I've been fortunate that in my 40+ years of table-topping, the vast majority of the gaming groups I've had have had at least one female player (and about 50% have had more than one), which has really helped me make sense of some of these issues. I'm in the process of organizing a Sartar-focused LARP campaign, and I expect to have roughly 50% female players, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to address some of the deeper issues.

I've also been writing myths/quests that focus on non-violent goddesses just because we need more of them. You can find them here and here. @HeartQuintessence might find these two myths useful. I've got a third one, for Ernalda, that I've been thinking of building a scenario around for publication. 

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21 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Bless your house and bless your lineage, may your table be always merry and grim as warranted and your gaming books light to carry

Thank you! I've been fortunate that in my 40+ years of table-topping, the vast majority of the gaming groups I've had have had at least one female player (and about 50% have had more than one), which has really helped me make sense of some of these issues. I'm in the process of organizing a Sartar-focused LARP campaign, and I expect to have roughly 50% female players, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to address some of the deeper issues.

I've also been writing myths/quests that focus on non-violent goddesses just because we need more of them. You can find them here and here. The OP might find these 

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Another thing that's always bugged me a bit as a gay man is the rather sexist nature of art for Glorantha. There are lots of naked women, especially woman showing their breasts, and yet very little with naked men. Sure, I get it that most gamers are straight guys so they like the occasional titty-show with their gaming, but it's just another thing that says that this is primarily material for straight men, not women or gay men. But this is just me grousing a bit. 

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5 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

Another thing that's always bugged me a bit as a gay man is the rather sexist nature of art for Glorantha. There are lots of naked women, especially woman showing their breasts, and yet very little with naked men. Sure, I get it that most gamers are straight guys so they like the occasional titty-show with their gaming, but it's just another thing that says that this is primarily material for straight men, not women or gay men. But this is just me grousing a bit. 

Harrek is shown most of times with a bare chest. 
As is Argrath in the newer books. 

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12 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

Another thing that's always bugged me a bit as a gay man is the rather sexist nature of art for Glorantha. There are lots of naked women, especially woman showing their breasts, and yet very little with naked men. Sure, I get it that most gamers are straight guys so they like the occasional titty-show with their gaming, but it's just another thing that says that this is primarily material for straight men, not women or gay men. But this is just me grousing a bit. 

This is a good point. Given Orlanthi holy men commonly go naked, and Malkioni nobles regard showing off the perfection of their bodies as a virtue, it would make sense for more to be on show.

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2 hours ago, Bohemond said:

4) The decision to frame Sartarite women's religion as 'secrets' is problematic--it's discouraged the publication of myths/quest from the women's PoV. For example, the Making of the Storm Tribe myth is written so that it's clear that Ernalda was doing things behind the scenes, but we've never gotten a myth about how Ernalda Forms the Storm Tribe (although it seems that we've gotten a few peaks at it in Six Ages). If women are 50% of the population, their myths and quests aren't 'secrets'--they're just gender-specific knowledge, like how to weave.

 

There are other dimensions to this: as we've seen, very few male-"iconic" (ie. being dedicated to a male god with masculine iconography, etc.) is gender-limited, whereas it seems that we have a whole slew of female cults that are much more closed off. The way I interpret this is that there's been a focus on making the universe more "navigable" and open for female characters (and assumedly players), but with the thought in mind that it's men's areas (cults, etc.) that are desireable and prestigious, and thus need to be opened up. If so, this probably comes from the gender liberation in the RW, where women increasingly entered previously male-exclusive areas in professional and other capacities.

Problem is, it creates this weird, somewhat lop-sided image of Glorantha (or at least the Orlanthi) where men don't seem to have "secrets", men don't seem to squirrel off deep and profound mythical experiences - but women do. IMHO, it's a case of "thou doth protest too much". Ie. the relative openness of women into male cults and spaces seems more like an insistence that "it's totes not sexist, honest!". 

IMHO, it wouldn't hurt to have a few more ways for males (wether cis or trans or nonbinary) to engage with female secrets - and indeed, it wouldn't hurt to present some more myths or spaces or "secrets" of men (again, whether cis or trans or nonbinary).


Just to be clear: I'm not advocating some kind of return to a total bifurcation of society, but more one that acknowledges that the masculine identity and spirituality can be as sensitive, vulnerable, secretive, powerful and profound as that of women (which seems almost insisted upon to the tiring in some cases).

In other words: to make men seem less default, the solution isn't just to flesh out *women*, but also to flesh out (the peculiarities of) *men*.

18 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

Another thing that's always bugged me a bit as a gay man is the rather sexist nature of art for Glorantha. There are lots of naked women, especially woman showing their breasts, and yet very little with naked men. Sure, I get it that most gamers are straight guys so they like the occasional titty-show with their gaming, but it's just another thing that says that this is primarily material for straight men, not women or gay men. But this is just me grousing a bit. 

IMHO I found this to be very refreshing when I first came across the artwork of topless Esrolian women in the Minoan style. It felt very desexualized and normalized. These women were topless because that's their preferred clothing, nothing more, nothing less. 

Compared to the "plastic-fantastic Barbie"-style fantasy artwork I've seen in A LOT of fantasy games, books, etc., Glorantha (at least since me exploring it from around 2016 or so) feels a lot more relaxed. 

Jar-Eel is also nude, or semi-nude a lot, but I tend to also view that as an analogue to Greek "heroic nudity", which is how Achilles and other mythical heroes are often portrayed. 

My perspective might be hopelessly naive, or a product of male gaze, I obviously cannot say, and if it makes people uncmfortable, and acts as a barrier to entry, then that's obviously a problem.

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2 hours ago, Bohemond said:

I'm very late to this party--been offline for a couple of days--and I really love this whole thread. It seems to me that there are a couple of inter-related issues going on with Glorantha in terms of gender. 

 

Hmm, if this is what happens when you come late to the party, may you always be late bringing a good word or two.

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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32 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Problem is, it creates this weird, somewhat lop-sided image of Glorantha (or at least the Orlanthi) where men don't seem to have "secrets", men don't seem to squirrel off deep and profound mythical experiences - but women do. IMHO, it's a case of "thou doth protest too much". Ie. the relative openness of women into male cults and spaces seems more like an insistence that "it's totes not sexist, honest!".

Ah a very interesting point, probably not helped by Orlanth's rituals happening out in the open, while in enclosed spaces for Ernalda The latter is more easily viewed as secretive, even if both take extreme actions to protect what goes on.

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9 minutes ago, Tindalos said:

Ah a very interesting point, probably not helped by Orlanth's rituals happening out in the open, while in enclosed spaces for Ernalda The latter is more easily viewed as secretive, even if both take extreme actions to protect what goes on.

In some ways this can be explained by their respective elemental associations: the wind is out in the open, earth closes and hides things (and is metaphorically a womb).

But you can easily flip this around: air is invisible, and in a sense so ever-present as to be virtually unnoticeable. There's potent secrecy in that.

(I'm reminded of a recent jaunt through Neopagan sites where the intrinsic feminity of the moon is often asserted, despite the moon being a male deity in Germanic, Japanese and Ancient Egyptian mythologies. Nothing is set in stone. Not even stone.)

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