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Old June 24 2011, 10:49 AM   #1
Ainhoa
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Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Hey everybody.
I would like to know your takes on Cardassian women. I am re-watching DS9 after about ten years and I find Cardassians fascinating. Is their only role similar to women in Facist cultures? Are they seen as pure and virtuous? The tools to build a strong empire by having lots of children? How much do they know about their husbands roles on Bajor? Are their marriages for love or for another purpose?
In regards to Dukat, he had a Cardassian wife and seven children with her. We never hear or see any of them. I wonder what the dynamics of their relationship was.
Damar has to be my favourite Cardassian. He was also married with children. But we only see him with his mistresses. Did he alienate his wife because of his drinking and depression. Did he think he failed to live up to the ideal of the Cardassian husband and father by being a puppet for the Dominion?
Any ideas? Any takes?
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Old June 24 2011, 02:36 PM   #2
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Wow, I could write an essay here

My fanfic stories have a lot of Cardassian family references, so naturally I did a lot of thinking and world building around the subject. I tried to be faithful to canon, but since we were given so little in the show, I have a lot of my own conclusions that not necessarily have to be shared by anyone else. And lots of my own ideas are completely different from Treklit's canon.

Is their only role similar to women in Facist cultures?
No. While I see some of stereotypes still alive in modern Cardassian society, men and women roles aren't strictly cultural. It was established in the show that women have good "engineering" minds and would make better scientists. So I think Cardassian society's role division is based on that, although it's nowhere near strict. We did see a female gul, Gul Ocett, and a female member of Gul Evek's crew in TNG, so clearly women are not forbidden from following military careers.

Are they seen as pure and virtuous? The tools to build a strong empire by having lots of children?
I think they want to have lots of children, because it's important and a part of their culture, but they are not treated like living incubators. If they choose a different path--they are not automatically ostracised or called worthless.

How much do they know about their husbands roles on Bajor?
Some did know, some didn't. Most probably didn't, or not much.

Are their marriages for love or for another purpose?
I think some are/were arranged (position, power, etc.) and some for love.
In my fanfic universe, marriages were traditionally arranged, especially among high-born people, but within last 100 years even the high-born started to abandon that tradition.

I always thought that Dukat's marriage was arranged and probably Damar's too. That why their wives stuck with them, even though they both were terrible husbands. When Dukat's star fell and he brought disgrace on himself by accepting Ziyal, his wife left him immediately--there was no power to hang to and she didn't want to be dragged to the bottom with him.

My very general two cents
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Old June 24 2011, 04:50 PM   #3
Deranged Nasat
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Gul Re'jal wrote: View Post
While I see some of stereotypes still alive in modern Cardassian society, men and women roles aren't strictly cultural. It was established in the show that women have good "engineering" minds and would make better scientists. So I think Cardassian society's role division is based on that, although it's nowhere near strict. We did see a female gul, Gul Ocett, and a female member of Gul Evek's crew in TNG, so clearly women are not forbidden from following military careers.
I sort of interpret the cultural ideology that women are naturally better scientists and engineers as a way for the Cardassian powers-that-be to put women's minds to use without putting them in danger, which some of the novels support. Maybe the sexual distinction has basis in truth, but either way I'm guessing they exaggerate it to more strongly define that niche as a feminine space. Even if women's roles aren't strictly maternal, there's still, so the books suggest, a "shield the womb-bearer from potential harm" vibe going on. I tend to accept the novels' idea that this is why those females who do manage to push through to Gul rank or above end up commanding scientific or exploratory craft rather than warships - it's a knee-jerk "keep them out of the line of fire" response from the traditionalists entrenched in Central Command. I like the suggestion that Gul Ocett, for instance, was given the "go track down this genetic message and find us a new energy source" mission precisely because she was a rare female officer; they were sidelining her to the non-dangerous tasks. To a military culture where sacrifice and duty are celebrated, that must be frustating, so I imagine woman officers are often very displeased to get the "kiddy glove" treatment.

Of course, Cardassia is a harsh, unforgiving environment, so I wouldn't suspect their idea of femininity to be fragile. The "ideal woman", if they had such a concept, would, I imagine, be tough and unyielding, a foundation for the family and entirely willing (and permitted) to get her hands dirty alongside the men. But clearly roles like the military and government (on modern Cardassia basically the same thing of course) seem designated masculine, with the sciences feminine and other areas, like law and the OO, showing no real bias.

It makes sense to me that women would be more than just home-makers and mothers, because the harsh environment would encourage making full use of all resources, and given the unusually disciplined and intelligent Cardassian mind, mental strength is one resource they exploit easily. Women would not only be bored to death if their role were simply defined as domestic or maternal, it would also be a waste of potential talent, and I think Cardassians are smart enough not to waste it. So I assume that the "men aren't as good at science/engineering" idea is in part encouraged to "free up" the non-dangerous roles for women. Sort of as part of a "balancing" between the understanding that women are needed and useful in more than domestic roles, and the conservative sense that the womb should be shielded from harm. I like the idea that the Cardassians have carved out a cultural niche in the sciences for women as a compromise between these two drives of practicality and what I guess we'd call chivalry.

In fact, I think women's role in Cardassian society is always about a conflict between these ideals. Cardassia seems a male-oriented society, but women at times come across as "one of the guys" and at other times as something held apart. There's sometimes a vibe of "the good wife", waiting patiently at home for her husband with the children, yet at the same time no-one blinks at seeing women as judges, OO agents or, of course, engineers, and as discussed the latter is actually considered explicitly feminine.

So I'd say Cardassia's female population isn't easily defined, because they seem balanced between two very strong perspectives on the part of society - that women are, intellectually, etc, just like men, but that the precious, child-giving womb means they should be held back from danger while the males handle that sort of duty.

As for marriage, there seems to be a policy (at least a policy for men) that goes something like "be loyal to your wife at home, but if you're on shore leave at a colony go ahead and flirt or copulate with the local women; everyone'll turn a blind eye". Maybe that's only the officer class, or maybe it's because Bajoran women, etc, "don't count". Still, the show made it quite clear that the official and unofficial stories don't add up. Garak scolds Dukat for pursuing Kira with "you, a married man!" and characters like Damar seem to promote their marriages as meaningful...yet simultaneously Damar and others have sexual relationships all over the place and no one calls them out on it. Given that Cardassians are very political and clearly have a sort of class system, or at least powerful, established familial blocs, I agree with Gul Re'jal that arranged marriages, or at least semi-arranged unions, are probably common. Naming conventions appear patrilineal, so maybe marriage originated as a "provide a home/income for my daughter and she'll provide an heir for your house - and this will stabilize relations between our families" type thing, as in many real cultures. Maybe a wife's loyalty is important in that it reflects on her father, too, and could disrupt politics if she sleeps outside the marriage (husband has to know it's his, or contract is broken...), whereas the husband's role doesn't (unofficially) "require" so much sexual loyalty because he's "selling" his labour not his body. So while officially he's supposed to be loyal too, unofficially it's not seen as quite as damaging if he sleeps around. So it's more likely that society will turn a blind eye if a man is unfaithful than a woman. What happens on Bajor, stays on Bajor, particularly if you're a powerful man of good family and distinguished rank.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; June 24 2011 at 06:06 PM.
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Old June 24 2011, 05:47 PM   #4
Anwar
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

What I never understood is why Dukat never seemed to care about the children he had with his wife, but he cared so much about Ziyal.
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Old June 24 2011, 07:09 PM   #5
Jono
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

^ "Defiant" suggested he cared about his kids.

As for the Ziyal situation it was more along the lines that his family was essentially lost to him once he revealed his infidelity and illegitimate child as they left him in disgust over his betrayal. In the end Ziyal was all he had left.
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Old June 24 2011, 07:51 PM   #6
Ainhoa
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Anwar wrote: View Post
What I never understood is why Dukat never seemed to care about the children he had with his wife, but he cared so much about Ziyal.
Yeah, that got to me a bit. I wonder if he would be so forgiving if his one of his full Cardassian daughters started a relationship with his sworn enemy? I think not.
I also wonder if Cardassian men think along the lines of human men. A one night stand is just meaningless sex. Sex with your wife is love making or whatever you want to call it.
Thanks for insights.
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Old June 24 2011, 07:57 PM   #7
Ainhoa
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

I could imagine Dukats marriage as being arranged. Damar I am not so certain about. He struck me a normal soldier who could afford to marry for love. Then again I haven`t given much thought to the arranged marriage aspect and I am a bit of a romantic.
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Old June 24 2011, 08:30 PM   #8
Ainhoa
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Thanks for your insight Gul Re`jal. You should write an essay on this!
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Old June 25 2011, 12:20 AM   #9
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

^ I'll stick to my fanfic
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Old June 25 2011, 01:48 AM   #10
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

In my Cardassian fanfic...specifically my main series. (I'm not getting into Catacombs of Oralius because it's a fundamentally different AU.)

These are my personal takes on the matter, and some of the decisions I've made for my fanfic universe.

Ainhoa wrote: View Post
Hey everybody.
I would like to know your takes on Cardassian women. I am re-watching DS9 after about ten years and I find Cardassians fascinating. Is their only role similar to women in Facist cultures?
Well...they have more equality in terms of jobs, in my fanfic, but the military is not as gender balanced as on Earth. Women are not seen as inferior, though.

Are they seen as pure and virtuous?
In comparison to aliens, who many Cardassians (who are responsible for or who fell for the brainwashing) see as primitive trash, yes. This discriminatory view, however, is not as universal as one might suspect on the surface.

The same attitudes are true when it comes to how they see their men versus how they see alien men...irony being it's Cardassian men who have behaved the most aggressively towards other species. Though again, this does not apply to all, and some Cardassians are appalled by the atrocities.

The tools to build a strong empire by having lots of children?
Yes. In my universe the emphasis on having a lot of children began before the dictatorship took over--but in my fanfic infertility is harshly discriminated against. A woman (OR a man) who does not have children is not looked upon very kindly. This results in discrimination against homosexuals, infertile individuals, and people who do not want children. All considered to be the same "unproductive" group...not sure it's a separate, categorized prejudice the way I just put it. In other words, my Cardassians might not specifically gay-bash...they'd bash someone for being "unproductive."

BUT--as ALWAYS--the disclaimer applies that these attitudes are not universal and not everyone absorbed the brainwashing.

How much do they know about their husbands roles on Bajor? Are their marriages for love or for another purpose?
It might partly be love, but I think that in the upper clases and those aspiring to be in the upper classes, status and procreation are the biggest considerations, not love. Divorce can happen in cases of infidelity--but it is strongly frowned upon.

Some probably do know their husbands' roles quite well, and are brainwashed to approve of it. Some may even participate in the atrocities alongside their husbands. Others would probably be shocked and revolted.

In regards to Dukat, he had a Cardassian wife and seven children with her. We never hear or see any of them. I wonder what the dynamics of their relationship was.
Knowing him, I'd suspect she's a status symbol for him, as are his children with her--not truly loved as he claimed.

(For a far better Cardassian father, look at Tekeny Ghemor. That's what I think the Cardassian ideal--the pure, untainted one--really is.)

Damar has to be my favourite Cardassian. He was also married with children. But we only see him with his mistresses. Did he alienate his wife because of his drinking and depression.
Would not surprise me if they were estranged.

Did he think he failed to live up to the ideal of the Cardassian husband and father by being a puppet for the Dominion?
Also would not surprise me.
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Old June 25 2011, 01:55 AM   #11
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
I like the suggestion that Gul Ocett, for instance, was given the "go track down this genetic message and find us a new energy source" mission precisely because she was a rare female officer; they were sidelining her to the non-dangerous tasks. To a military culture where sacrifice and duty are celebrated, that must be frustating, so I imagine woman officers are often very displeased to get the "kiddy glove" treatment.
Indeed. I have one that's a real stereotype-breaker (but also has a lot of very stereotypically feminine traits, by Cardassian standards), and she causes a lot of consternation among the officer corps.

Of course, Cardassia is a harsh, unforgiving environment, so I wouldn't suspect their idea of femininity to be fragile. The "ideal woman", if they had such a concept, would, I imagine, be tough and unyielding, a foundation for the family and entirely willing (and permitted) to get her hands dirty alongside the men. But clearly roles like the military and government (on modern Cardassia basically the same thing of course) seem designated masculine, with the sciences feminine and other areas, like law and the OO, showing no real bias.
In both of my Cardassian universes, the stereotype came about because when the men would leave for war (even back in ancient times), for a woman to be a homemaker meant WAY more than cooking or cleaning. It meant doing maintenance, repairs, construction, or whatever the home needed. From that, women learned a lot about the way things worked and were often in a place to make observations about things that were scientifically useful.

Add to that the assertion you see in Treklit that the deity of their ancient religion was female--and that acts as a check against the kind of discrimination we see on our world against women (there was no attempt to argue that women are inferior intellectually and morally and therefore must not be educated). Actually, it was men who, while they were strong warriors, often ran into a glass ceiling when it came to upper leadership in my universe, until the time of the revolution (in the "canon" universe), and the reforms in my non-canon universe. They were distrusted as lacking the proper attention span, weaker in spiritual attainment, having a dangerous and violent temper, and being power-hungry. (Obviously a blatant stereotype--good riddance to it, when both of my fanfic universes modernized!)
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Old June 25 2011, 02:47 AM   #12
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

I wondered about the episode of DS9 where it is said that Cardassian couples routinely, i.e. as part of normal courting behavior, act bitter and snap at each other. Why would they do that? What is it about Cardassian culture that would cause this behavior to arise? And do they suddenly stop griping when they get married?
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Old June 25 2011, 03:16 AM   #13
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

At least in my own fanfic universe, the purpose is to determine if you can really live with the "worst" of the person as well as the best. Since marriage is permanent, if you can't withstand argument--especially on serious subjects like money, kids, lovemaking, etc., then you have no business being married.
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Old June 25 2011, 03:17 AM   #14
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

^ Well that settles it then. I would make a VERY shitty Cardassian.

(seriously. I would. I try to avoid arguments whenever possible. I want to keep the peace at all costs)
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Old June 25 2011, 04:55 AM   #15
Anwar
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Re: Women and wives in Cardassian culture

Nerys, what's your opinion on why Dukat never tried to get his legitimate children back once he took over Cardassia?
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