1. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Member

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    Avian Species With Gendered Behavioral Patterns

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Charles Neal, Oct 14, 2021.

    I hope this doesn't get anyone's knickers in a twist. Essentially, the pre-cursor civilization in my universe is a telepathic avian species and like our birds they have gendered behaviors. Most females do not go into the government or any career as once they lay eggs they're psychologically bound to the "nest" (though some females choose not to mate due to this) and while they have abandoned violence, males can be very aggressive during the mating and nesting season. There's was once an intensely violent society before embracing pacifism, but these patterns persist, including power struggles on their governing councils. Do you think the woke crowd will be out for my blood?
     
  2. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    As a member of the woke crowd, I can only tell you that I have a civilization where males were traditionally eaten after mating.
    And another where there is basically no difference between the genders and heterosexuality is optional.

    The trick is to explore these concepts without trying to convince the reader that it says anything about human nature or about how human society should function.
     
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  3. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Member

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    I'm actually quite curious as to how that first society worked. Do the males enjoy getting eaten or do they get hunted? Is it a matriarchal society?
     
  4. AbyssalJoey

    AbyssalJoey Active Member

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    As someone who is not part of the woke crowd, I say that you should do what you want, if they like it cool if they don't too bad, at best you lose some readers at worst you'll have to defend your work from them (apologizing doesn't really work); personally speaking, I don't think offending should be your goal (probably), but if you do end up offending people along the way that is not really your problem, the only way to not offend anyone is to curl up on a corner of your room and never move or make as much as a peep... and you'll probably end up offending someone anyway.
     
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  5. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    If you're going to put something out there in the public these days, and if it treads on territory that might be sensitive, make sure you believe in what you're writing, and that it's something you're willing and ready to defend if it comes to that. I agree, don't write to offend (unless that's your thing), and it doesn't need to be done in a way that's confrontational. But you need to decide where you really stand, and how important it is to you. People do need to stand up for what they believe in, especially when there's a massive effort to shut them down. If we all just bow our heads meekly then freedom will disappear and we'll have nobody to blame but ourselves. Each of us willing and courageous enough to stand up can inspire countless more who would otherwise go quietly with the flow.
     
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  6. Chromewriter

    Chromewriter Active Member

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    I think you have to break down your question into pieces because it's too loaded as it is:

    Why do you think they would come for blood?

    Why does this matter to you?

    Why do you want to write this story?

    Would you still write it if it offends someone?

    Should you still write it anyway?

    How does you writing it reflect on you?

    How does someone reacting to what you wrote reflect on them?

    I think if you ask these questions or similar, an overall answer may emerge.
     
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  7. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    I'm still working out the details, but as it stands now: Yes, it is a matriarchal society, but they have been making moves towards more equality since they have developed a strong food production and also came into contact with other sapient, technological species.

    The males don't necessarily enjoy getting eaten, they are more passive about it. There is an evolutionary reason for this entire thing:
    Their planet has a rather excentrical orbit and therefor very cold winters, so the species' life cycle became such, that the females would lay eggs in spring, then the young hatched and grew over summer, the males would reach their final size and sexually mature in fall and look for a mature female to mate with. Then they would get eaten and this gives the female a boost in nutrition which she uses to develop eggs during the long winter. The females go into hibernation, so they can't eat during that time.

    Basically, the offspring of those males who did not particularly mind getting eaten were the ones with better survival rates. That's how that came about.
    The females would often fight and kill each other for resources (caves/nesting sites, food). If an older female would encounter a younger one, she might have tried to eat the younger if food was scarce at the moment. The females grow with age and, of course, also acquire more experience and knowledge the older they get. They can live up to ~1.000 seasons long.

    The issue with males being primed to only live one season later translated into their political irrelevance once the species left its hunter-gatherer phase and established more cooperation between the different females.
    For a long period it was simply deemed necessary and also moral that a father must be ready to be eaten for the good of his children. This prevailed even when the food production and storage would have allowed otherwise. But this time period gave birth to an equality movement and once they met other species from other planets, they became wholly convinced that it's possible to live differently.

    Now males live several years, which allows them to acquire knowledge and have a much bigger political and societal influence.

    So, this society is not some kind of feminist paradise. It's a society with a difficult past and they are still working on change.
    They are also not the only species in the universe of this story who changed their social practices after they had a technological development and/or contact with other species.
     
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  8. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    This is a good analogy for male disposability in all species where the females and young must be protected until the young reach adulthood. This behavior is programmed into not only avian but mammalian species as well, for the very powerful reason that the females and the offspring they raise are the future of the species. Once the males have reached the age where they can propagate fresh life they become disposable, their greater strength and aggression being useful for the defense of the group as well as doing the dangerous and deadly jobs.

    The biological necessity for this can be clearly explained with a simple thought experiment—imagine 2 islands where a ship has wrecked on each. The islands both have plenty of resources to keep people alive, but there's no way to escape. On one island you have ten men and one woman, and on the other the situation is reversed. And for the purposes of this thought experiment let's say all the people are capable of sexual reproduction.

    Which island will produce more offspring?

    It becomes very clear immediately—one man can easily impregnate ten women in a matter of a few days. Of course in a real world scenario he'd have a hell of a time handling things when they all become pregnant, but this is for illustrational purposes. I'm simplifying everything for the sake of clarity.

    With ten men and one woman you'll get one offspring possibly every year, or more likely every 2 years, unless she gives birth to twins or something. On the other island there's the possibility of 10 offspring every year (or at least every other year).

    And of course populations that generate more offspring will grow faster than those that don't. This is the simple biological reality behind many practices such as mandatory registration for selective services (the draft) for men when they reach 18, men doing the dangerous and difficult work and the work likely to cause great bodily injury, the societywide protection of women and children at the expense of the men etc.

    It's why males are biologically programmed to be stronger and more aggressive and to protect and rescue people in danger (maybe I should say it's because they are... ). Most especially of course their own families, but it extends to people in general, especially the women and children. Think about the universal call in times of great danger a sinking ship—the women and children get on the lifeboats first—if space runs out it's the men who go down with the ship. Except for a few who must accompany the women and children to act as protection and to do the hard physical labor. Or when a building is burning and firefighters haven't arrived yet—men are culturally expected to run in and rescue people, especially women and children. Yes, of course women can do it too, and many do, but if a man fails to he'll often be shamed for it and feel guilt for the rest of his life. No-one will shame a woman for not acting heroically. This is social reinforcement of the instinct.

    Of course it's no picnic for anyone involved, but it reflects the harsh and inescapable realities of life and of the way the species propagates itself. It's true among not only a species but also for groups within the species—countries, city-states, tribes, clans or what-have-you. Up to the point of population saturation, when the group begins to use up all the available resources, these are the dynamics that hold sway.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
  9. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Member

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    Sounds fascinating.
     
  10. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

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    This reminds me a bit of the Khepri in Perdido Street Station. IIRC the males of that species weren't even sentient, only the females were.
     
  11. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Hm, I disagree with many of these points. It's exactly the kind of appeal to "nature" or "biology" that I would warn against.

    A) Those island populations would both not survive, because they would be inbred as hell. Also, this anecdote fails to take into account things like human psychology and culture. What if none of those women want to have children with any of those men? What if they would figure out that children would put an additional burden onto the group and it would be much cleverer to try and build a boat to leave the island? What if they all agreed that procreation isn't the main goal of life but rather that having a pleasant life for everybody involved should be their objective?

    B) The "women and children first" on a sinking ship is an ideal born from the English "gentlemen" ideal. In reality, men survive shipwrecks in far greater percentages than women, and children barely have a chance at all.

    C) While it's true that there are different expectations towards men and women when it comes to "heroic" behaviour, this is again a cultural thing. It could be changed. I, personally, don't think there should be these double standards. I like to measure every person, including myself, against their individual ability to help, not against their sex or gender.

    Conclusion: "Of course it's no picnic for anyone involved, but it reflects the harsh and inescapable realities of life" is not true, particularly not in modern times. Those "realities of life" are mostly realities of culture in humans, and they are definitely not inescapable.

    And to get back on topic again: If the underlying message of Charles Neal's story was the same as in Xoic's post, then I would not enjoy reading it. I might not be "out for his blood", but I would probably DNF that book.
     
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  12. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Similar to the Pequeninos in Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the Dead". There it's the females that never leave the larval stage (apart from a few exceptions).
    I guess many of sci-fi writers have explored such concepts in one way or another. There are species on our own planet (anglerfish, for example) with a strong sex dimorphism, so if you want to see species functioning different to ours, you look at those for inspiration.
     
  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Nature is reality.
    As I said, I simplified for the purpose of illustrating the main point. It's a simple thought experiment, not a real-world scenario.
    It exists in all societies that have survived, for the simple reason that if it didn't exist, they wouldn't survive. The English code of chivalry was only one particular example of it in our ancestors.
    They are escapable temporarily, but only in modern societies where we're insulated from much of nature's harshness. As soon as she shrugs her shoulders and there's some natural disaster the harsh realities come rushing back in. It's a reality that's always gone largely unspoken because it was never decided on, it's instinctual.

    But I don't intend to keep arguing this. Just wanted to put it on the table because it's the kind of thing that's gone mostly under the radar and many people are unaware of it.
     
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  14. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Member

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    Mine are basically birds that got very smart and have a ton of cultural conditioning so they can have a functioning society rather than attack any other member of their species that comes into their territory.
     
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  15. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Btw. here is a source for gender imbalance in maritime disasters: https://www.pnas.org/content/109/33/13220
     
  16. montecarlo

    montecarlo Member Supporter

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    that will almost certainly be the most depressing thing I read today
     
  17. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Im not one for gender roles in my personal life, but my WIPs have it.
    For example, my scifi WIP, on their planet, women are subservient to men. Women who go outside of their roles get branded and if they dont reform, they get sent to live in a "convent" on the outskirts of the city and are shunned.
    One of my side characters in this society is so brain washed, she thinks that men worship women and thats why they are doing everything in their power to keep them safe, when my MC (a woman who has been branded so many times but not yet shunned by her family and her "woke" father) knows its just for control.

    The desert clans that live outside of the city dont have gender roles. Women are as equal as men. Some clans are even led by women.
    This is one of the reasons the city officials begin to persecute the desert clans and eventually, commit genocide because they dont conform to what is "right and proper".

    The way i see it... Ill read/write anything as long as im invested in the world and its characters.
     
  18. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Here is a study that looks at exactly that: The mortality rates of men/boys and women/girls in natural disasters.
    And the findings are that women/girls are more adversely affected by natural disasters. Particularly when the women/girls have a lower socioeconomic status on average than the men/boys. And it's also particularly pronounced in very patriarchal societies (India, Bangladesh and Nepal being cited as examples for that).

    When push comes to shove, it's not men that are deemed expendable; it's men that designate women and girls as being expendable.


    I'm sorry that this discussion has hijacked the thread, Charles, but I cannot simply let misconceptions like this stand in public.
     
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  19. Chromewriter

    Chromewriter Active Member

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    When push comes to shove, in general an individual only cares about "their genes" not the collective gene pool. Fascinating, nature likes to hedge.
     
  20. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Yeah, though it seems that in patriarchal societies, it's not the father who would sacrifice himself, it's the little daughter that gets sacrificed first, even though she would carry on the genes.
    That's why I think that human gender behaviour is mostly cultural and not "natural", even though there is some biological component in it.
     
  21. Chromewriter

    Chromewriter Active Member

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    I don't have time to comb through the study at the moment (work in 10 minutes) but I thought the patriarchal society study was just the percentage of women/children vs percentage of men who survived a disaster?

    We don't really know the incidence of family unit breaking down; where men would sacrifice their children to live. Or even that a disaster would require a men to sacrifice women or children, just that it shows that men are more resourceful in surviving a disaster and are less inclined than we would believe towards heroism.

    A snippet from your first links conclusion:

    "Taken together, our findings show that human behavior in life-and-death situations is best captured by the expression “every man for himself.”

    That doesn't show that men are actively throwing women/children into the sea, just that their survival instincts could be stronger, or their training allows them to react appropriately to increase the probability of life. It's the same reason why babies cry; their best chance of survival is for someone to save it than it doing anything physically to survive.
     
  22. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Member

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    We've been living in an unnatural social structure for some time. The ideal social structure *would* be egalitarian.
     
  23. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    They name some examples of how the discrepancy in these numbers are likely to come about. I agree it is a bit anecdotal, but it is also not more anecdotal than Xoic's claims.
    Yes, that is likely. I was mostly arguing against Xoic's idea of men being biologically wired to protect women and children at their own expenses.

    Such behaviour can happen occasionally, but it can also be that women are expected to protect the children or it can be that nobody cares for any other being. Or all of the above combined, according to everybody's individual personality. How this plays out depends on a couple of factors like culture or (in the shipwreck study) the decisions of the captain.


    I totally agree. Since we're human and self-aware we're living in a world of our own making anyway and that means it's up to us to shape our society in the way we want to. Which again means that equality or inequality is mostly up to our political will and decisions (apart from a few remaining biological differences that we could also easily accommodate for if we wanted to).

    But Xoic was arguing that there was a male expendability that came from biological factors and would strongly influence human societies.
    My argument was that there is no such male expendability in most societies and definitely not due to some biological factors. But rather, that expectations towards and treatment of men and women come mostly from culture and not biology.

    Which, to come back to the original topic of the post, does not mean that there could not be a much stronger biological influence on behaviour in other, fictional species.
     
  24. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Member

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    Hmm, I feel as if human society would be quite different if we underwent an actual estrus period.
     
  25. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Senior Member

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    Do you think the woke crowd will be out for my blood?

    You can only hope for so vigorous a reaction. :twisted:
     
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