FAQ: Female Oppression On Pern

Rocky Crater's scenario includes female oppression and a ban on women crafters in the Holds, Halls, and Schools of Pern. This FAQ explains the kind of life women in our version of 10th Pass Pern have. If you are planning on creating a female persona for the club then this is a must read.

In the latter part of the 9th Pass, and continuing into the first century of the 9th Interval, women made some inroads into the Crafts. There were, however, limits on what they could and could not do.

The Healer and Harper crafts were considered the most suitable crafts for women to study. Jewelry making, along with the Tailor, Baker, and Vintner crafts were also acceptable professions. Other, more masculine crafts, such as Smithing, Mining, and the Beastcraft were all but off-limits to women. A few very rebellious women did take them up until some of those Crafthalls finally stopped accepting female apprentices about 100 Turns into the Interval.

During this same period of time the number of women Impressing green dragons was slowly on the increase. The Holders tried to discourage the notion of women dragonriders, but found this nearly impossible as large numbers of girls looked to Weyrs and new Weyrholds as an escape from the threat of wedded lives of endless childbirth and domestic drudgery in the traditional Holds.

As the Interval progressed, the position of women in society slowly declined. The Lord Holders attempted to introduce their strict moral principles into all areas of Pern and fairly succeeded. Women were expected to stay in the home and be good mothers and cooks. They were expected to marry by the age of sixteen, and by twenty you were an old maid if you hadn't. It was considered disgraceful if a woman could not produce than two children, and barren women became a social under-class.

For women, relationships outside the marriage were impermissible, and it became a common practice for a husband to get an annulment of his marriage if he even suspected his wife adultery. The same was true if she appeared to be barren. Men, on the other hand, could indulge in affairs without fear of repercussions---unless the affair was with another man, which was and is a major taboo.

Seemingly, with each passing Turn the dress codes grew stricter. Today, women are expected to wear clothing that reveals a minimal amount of flesh.

However, even in the strictest of Holds, the Lady Holder has always been respected and looked to for advice on organization and planning. In fact, throughout the Interval, women were, to a degree, respected throughout Pern, but they were slowly robbed of all equality. Today, Weyrs and Weyrholds are the only places that women have true equality with men.

The Plague of 3137AL

In 3137AL a great plague swept across Pern. With roughly a third of population---mostly women and children---dead, the more hidebound members of Pern society seized the chance to ban women from the Crafts altogether. Claiming autonomy, most of the Halls still accepting female apprentices resisted at first, only to finally cave-in to the edicts several Turns later after orders and contracts had all but dried up from everyone but the Weyrs, Weyrholds, and the few more open-minded Holds. In 3142AL the Weavercraft Hall accepted the last female apprentice at a Hall or School.

Today, the only location that a woman can study a craft is at a Weyr or Weyrhold. Matriarchal societies by nature, they have never honored the ban. The down side to this is that a Weyr-trained female crafter, even if she's a master, has no rank standing outside of the Weyrs and Weyrholds. The Crafthalls refuse to acknowledge their training, and wearing a rank knot while visiting a Hold would probably bring more trouble than anyone would want. Even rider-crafts prefer to leave their knots at home when on sweeps, transport duty, or doing anything else that might bring them into contact with holdfolk.

The quality of life for women outside of the Weyrs and Weyrholds all depends on where they live, and their father or husband's attitude towards them. A rule of thumb for hold and hall women is that they have more freedom if AIVAS-tech is embraced by that location than the women in traditional (anti-AIVAS) locations.

Can I have a female crafter?

Yes, but only at Rocky Crater Weyrhold. There are no female crafters at Fairview Seahold, The Seamen's School, Star Peak Hold, Star Peak Observatory, or The AIVAS Technical School.

Are there any jobs that woman can have outside of the Weyrhold?

Yes, there are several. Headwoman or one of her assistances should be the most obvious one. In addition to that, a woman can be a non-craft: Weaver, Seamstress, Cook, Farmhand, Pottery maker, Knitter, Nurse, Jewelry maker, Lady's maid, or just about anything else that would be viewed as "women's work."

Do the Halls train women in secret?

No. A father, brother, husband, etc. might show a woman how to do something that's craft related, but the Halls and Schools themselves do not teach women officially, nor unofficially. The ban is absolute in the Halls and Holds. However, the Weyrs and Weyrholds do still openly train women, but their ranks aren't recognized by the Holds and main Crafthalls.

When will the ban be lifted?

It won't be. This ban, and the hard and fast contrast between the life of women in the Weyrhold vs. that of those in the Holds is a key part of Rocky Crater's scenario.

Can I have a female crafter who trained before the ban took effect?

Sure, but you won't be able to much co-posting with a dead crafter. As of this writing (05-Dec-2003) the last female apprentice was accepted 153 Turns ago. She'd be close to 165-Turns-old now. In our version of Pern, 140-Turn-olds are as common as 120-year-olds are on present day earth, so a 165-Turn-old woman would have been dead for at least a quarter-century.

A better option would be to create a female crafter or crafter-rider for the Weyrhold. Just about every possible craft can find employment there.

At what age do women get married?

Sixteen is the age at which Pernese are considered adults. In the Holds, an arranged marriage is probably in a girls future long before she reaches that age. While men usually marry once they walk the tables, around age 18 or later, as apprentices are rarely allowed to marry.

In the Weyrs and Weyrholds, sixteen is still considered adult, but there is less of a pressure to marry. Most people -- male and female -- don't start seriously entertaining marriage until they are either too old to Stand or decided to stop Standing for Hatchings. Riders rarely marry, but it isn't unheard of.

What legal rights do women have?

In our scenario, women in the Holds and Halls have few.
Legally, from birth to marriage, she is the "property", or chattel, of her father. Once married, she becomes her husband's chattel to do with as he wishes. However, this isn't quite as dark as it might seem at first glance. There are laws in place to protect women from, for example, physical abuse, but their enforcement can spotty at times.

Things are usually better for women at the Weyrs and Weyrholds. They have more freedom to have the life, and career, that they want. And they almost always have final say as to whether or not they marry, and whom they marry. Among the crafters, especially holdbred ones, there can be some friction between father and daughter. Such is life.

Can my character run away to the Weyrhold to study a craft?

It's possible, but rare. After all, Rocky Crater Weyrhold is on a different island than the other PC'ed locations in the club. The most common ways that girls get to the Weyrhold are when they move there with a crafter relative who has been assigned to the Weyrhold, or if they were Searched. In the latter case, keep in mind that Searchriders only go out when a clutch is on the Sands. Girls, and boys, who fail to Impress are allowed to stay on at the Weyrhold, but they'll be expected to work for their keep. With two or more Turns between clutches, it's too costly to provide free room and board to candidates between Hatchings.

What about [fill-in-the-blank]?

Sadly, we aren't perfect. There's bound to be a question or ten that we've not answered here. Please feel free to e-mail the Bod at: rcwh-bod@rockycrater.org and we'll do our best to answer them.