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Old July 1 2014, 07:06 PM   #1
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The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

This and the Klingon story are some of my favorite Trek bits ever written. I dove totally into the Cardassian worldbuilding. Very well done, James Swallow!

My one question is this:



Also, have any of the surviving characters from this story (such as Sanir Kein) ever popped up in future Cardassian-oriented stories?
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Old July 2 2014, 05:02 AM   #2
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
This and the Klingon story are some of my favorite Trek bits ever written.
Thankya.
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Old July 2 2014, 09:50 AM   #3
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

I'm in the middle of Seven Deadly Sins myself and liked "The Slow Knife" a lot, especially for featuring those rarely-seen female Cardassian officers.

As far as I remember, none of the characters have reappared (except Garak, of course).
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Old July 2 2014, 10:54 AM   #4
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
This and the Klingon story are some of my favorite Trek bits ever written. I dove totally into the Cardassian worldbuilding. Very well done, James Swallow!
Markonian wrote: View Post
I'm in the middle of Seven Deadly Sins myself and liked "The Slow Knife" a lot, especially for featuring those rarely-seen female Cardassian officers.
Hey, thanks. That's one of my favourite bits of Trek writing.





Also, have any of the surviving characters from this story (such as Sanir Kein) ever popped up in future Cardassian-oriented stories?
Meka Tunol, Kein's commander, also appears at an earlier point in her timeline as Dukat's XO in Day of the Vipers.

As for Sanir Kein, I can see her still out there somewhere, old and bitter, ruminating over the choices she made...
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Old July 2 2014, 04:01 PM   #5
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Markonian wrote: View Post
I'm in the middle of Seven Deadly Sins myself and liked "The Slow Knife" a lot, especially for featuring those rarely-seen female Cardassian officers.
Honestly, I'm not happy about the way the books seem to have interpreted the Cardassian military as sexist in the human way, with including women in combat roles being seen as progressive. The impression I got from DS9: "Destiny" was that Cardassian females were considered more intelligent than the males, so that they were qualified for more intellectually refined jobs like scientists and engineers while the dumber male of the species was relegated to strongman and soldier roles. It wasn't so much that women were unfairly excluded from combat roles as that they considered those roles beneath their dignity, and if anything it seemed to be the men that were considered inferior. I liked how different that was from our conventional expectations, and I regretted that later portrayals of Cardassian culture didn't pick up on that.
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Old July 2 2014, 05:36 PM   #6
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Christopher wrote: View Post
Markonian wrote: View Post
I'm in the middle of Seven Deadly Sins myself and liked "The Slow Knife" a lot, especially for featuring those rarely-seen female Cardassian officers.
Honestly, I'm not happy about the way the books seem to have interpreted the Cardassian military as sexist in the human way, with including women in combat roles being seen as progressive. The impression I got from DS9: "Destiny" was that Cardassian females were considered more intelligent than the males, so that they were qualified for more intellectually refined jobs like scientists and engineers while the dumber male of the species was relegated to strongman and soldier roles. It wasn't so much that women were unfairly excluded from combat roles as that they considered those roles beneath their dignity, and if anything it seemed to be the men that were considered inferior. I liked how different that was from our conventional expectations, and I regretted that later portrayals of Cardassian culture didn't pick up on that.
I'm afraid I must disagree with the phrasing "unfairly excluded from combat roles" - no, I misspeak. Not the phrasing, which may be legitimate, but the troublesome implications, or those I read into the post, at least. Since when has combat been a privilege? Millions of men and boys throughout history would have been happy and far better off if keeping them out of combat and danger was a priority for any human society. The fact that some women might desire such roles in the modern military and be restricted from them, while, like any discrimination, arousing sympathy, doesn't then turn the whole affair into an assumption of female inferiority - quite the opposite, since it's always been assumed that males have a responsibility to combat in service of others. The "progressive" position, I say, would be one that challenged male (particularly lower-class male) disposability, rather than pushed for "a few females can move their stalled careers forward, too", which may well be legitimate frustration, but the sort that if focused on makes the slant of one's perspective very narrow and resting on a apparent pre-conceived notion of where attention is needed (i.e. zeroing in on the supposed requirements of the females to the exclusion of the big picture). (In your country, selective service requirements would be a place to start looking). The small minority of females unfairly held back from desire to be in combat, or to be assumed legitimate participants in conflict, while certainly a legitimate frustration for those individuals, is nothing compared to all the males who are and have been expected to face at least the spectre of combat worldwide. If we're going to "challenge conventional expectations", I'd start with challenging the idea that perspectives on any issue should revolve around what sort of a deal the woman is getting.

Anyway, as for Cardassians, I actually like the 'sexist military' interpretation, myself. It made sense to me. I assume that the cultural expectation and/or assumption that females are more naturally inclined to scientific excellence is in part, as the books have seemed to interpret, tied to the paternalistic desire to keep females (their wombs, anyway) away from combat, a kneejerk attempt to keep them from entering a dangerous profession in large numbers. That is to say, Cardassia has a bit of a problem where two of its driving survivalist desires come into potential conflict. Cardassia venerates the military and service to the Cardassian war machine; it insists that this career path is a high calling, if not the very highest. Since serving the state and channelling your excellence into Cardassia is a requirement for all citizens, one shared across the two genders, and since both sexes gain social influence and esteem through pursuit of career (see: legal system, intelligence service, etc.) this leaves a bit of a contradiction, in that females are going to be driven by the same propagandistic fervour to serve the military and attain that higher social acceptance, and often elevated status, that serving soldiers receive. The Cardassian traditionalist establishment doesn't like this, because they operate on the kneejerk "shield the child-carrier/child-bearer" instinct (and it does seem to be precisely that, since otherwise females are not, it seems to me, afforded that much in the way of societal focus; Cardassians are not gynocentric even if they have some conservative qualities suggestive of it, if anything they lean the other way, with females being seen at times as a general frustration impeding the smooth functioning of society (recalling, for example, Damar's theatrical sighs about females when his girlfriend and Lang have a misadventure).). There's a bit of a missing link of comprehension regarding why the male role is held in esteem (something many, many Earth societies have succumbed to, including, I imagine, the American military system you allude to). Not as bizarre as the Ferengi's "pull as hard as you can outward but keep the females right there unmoving in the middle!" approach, but then no-one is as bizarre and irrational as the Ferengi in this regard, are they?

Anyway, like many ideologically-driven societies, Cardassia can't or won't openly acknowledge the contradiction - it's sending a message that girls should want to join the forces, but it doesn't want girls to join the forces - so it needs to encourage other existing stereotypes and assumptions in order to achieve what it wants. Don't face the problem, just deflect, or patch over it.

Encouraging the (pre-existing?) idea that the sciences are the natural place for females, and that "men don't make good scientists" helps channel all those nicely patriotic women away from the military. Encouraging the idea that science is best left to females disencourages many males who might be considering such a path, so freeing up the science roles for the establishment to then relegate the females too. "Males aren't naturally equipped for that, wouldn't you rather join the forces?" is, in my mind, a means in part to then be able to turn and say "Females are naturally equipped for science. Wouldn't you rather go there than into the military? Yes, you would". It's a neat little system they've got going, even if it's not an official policy (these things don't need to be, they happen organically). I mean, a controlled, ideological society such as Cardassia is going to be adept at this sort of manoeuvring.

I think the sexist military makes perfect sense and adds another interesting wrinkle to the Cardassians, in that it gives us the "frustrated female commander" archetype that you don't get in many of the other cultures.

"Battle fleet, prepare to move out! Oh, er, but not you, Gul Girl, you, er, you go chart that nebula. For science. Females are good at that!" And Gul Girl, who wants the accolades and status that comes with military action, etc., is of course going to be greatly frustrated that she's being held back, held behind her male colleagues. Which, as The Slow Knife shows, makes her a useful pawn for the Order when needed, because they can exploit that. Exploiting the blindness in the rest of Cardassia is what the Order does, one assumes, which is partly why it wants the blindness to stay. It all works so neatly. Nothing could possibly go wrong with this system!

(I also like how the Terok Nor books made Ocett sterile, and reinforced that a woman without a womb... obviously isn't "a woman", she's more a sexless being (well, not entirely. Some of her men are clearly chafing at being "stuck under the female" - "try to resist the urge to send probes firing into anything even remotely shiny, please try and act like a Gul"). And she of course believes the "males aren't curious enough/don't make good scientists" idea, so ironically reinforcing an assumption that in turn plays a part in the mechanics of keeping females from acceptance in the military... that's Cardassia for you. It's a blind place. Except for the Order....

Anyway, that's what I think.
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Old July 2 2014, 06:52 PM   #7
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
I'm afraid I must disagree with the phrasing "unfairly excluded from combat roles" - no, I misspeak. Not the phrasing, which may be legitimate, but the troublesome implications, or those I read into the post, at least. Since when has combat been a privilege? Millions of men and boys throughout history would have been happy and far better off if keeping them out of combat and danger was a priority for any human society.
Yes, that is exactly my point. So many people assume that it is a privilege, that gender equality means permitting women to serve in traditionally masculine, aggressive roles as if those roles were intrinsically superior to more nurturing roles. And I reject that assumption. Personally I think the ability to heal or nurture is far more admirable and worthwhile than the ability to fight or boss people around. And thus I liked the idea of a Cardassian society where traditionally masculine roles like the military and politics were considered beneath women's dignity because women were too intelligent to be wasted on such crude enterprises. "Destiny" implied that maybe combat roles weren't as glorified on Cardassia as they've traditionally been in human societies, that maybe the reason we'd only seen male officers up to then was because military service was considered a subordinate, menial role suited only for the less intelligent of the two sexes. That would've been a nice challenge to conventional expectations, and that's exactly why I'm disappointed that later works reverted to the more conventional assumption that Cardassian females had been excluded from the military by male sexism.


Anyway, as for Cardassians, I actually like the 'sexist military' interpretation, myself. It made sense to me.... Cardassia venerates the military and service to the Cardassian war machine; it insists that this career path is a high calling, if not the very highest.
True, there is that -- but what if that was only the way the males saw it, while the females simultaneously considered their own calling to be the superior one? That actually has parallels in a lot of pre-agrarian human cultures, in a number of which the men would spend most of their time goofing around and boasting about how dominant and important they were, while the women were the ones actually doing the work and making the decisions and getting things done and rolling their eyes at the childish bluster of the menfolk. The difference being that in a sedentary civilization, you need more specialization of labor, so both sexes would have to perform important roles; but maybe they each consider their own role to be more important and the other sex's role to be inferior. (This is the approach I took to portraying Talarian society in Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within.)


I think the sexist military makes perfect sense and adds another interesting wrinkle to the Cardassians, in that it gives us the "frustrated female commander" archetype that you don't get in many of the other cultures.
But that's just it -- we had it in our own culture not so long ago, and plenty of Trek and other sci-fi aliens are shown having the same familiar sexism, for example the Klingons. I prefer aliens to be less familiar, to have value systems that we would find more surprising and unusual, that would subvert our expectations. If you want to give an alien society gender inequality, then make it an alien form of gender inequality, one based on assumptions we would find unexpected. Make it look like it's a sexist society where the men exclude the women from equal opportunity, then turn it around and surprise us with the revelation that the men aren't actually considered dominant and that the role we default to considering more important is actually considered subordinate. If aliens don't surprise us, they aren't alien enough.
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Old July 2 2014, 07:32 PM   #8
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Christopher wrote: View Post
Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
I'm afraid I must disagree with the phrasing "unfairly excluded from combat roles" - no, I misspeak. Not the phrasing, which may be legitimate, but the troublesome implications, or those I read into the post, at least. Since when has combat been a privilege? Millions of men and boys throughout history would have been happy and far better off if keeping them out of combat and danger was a priority for any human society.
Yes, that is exactly my point. So many people assume that it is a privilege, that gender equality means permitting women to serve in traditionally masculine, aggressive roles as if those roles were intrinsically superior to more nurturing roles. And I reject that assumption. Personally I think the ability to heal or nurture is far more admirable and worthwhile than the ability to fight or boss people around. And thus I liked the idea of a Cardassian society where traditionally masculine roles like the military and politics were considered beneath women's dignity because women were too intelligent to be wasted on such crude enterprises. "Destiny" implied that maybe combat roles weren't as glorified on Cardassia as they've traditionally been in human societies, that maybe the reason we'd only seen male officers up to then was because military service was considered a subordinate, menial role suited only for the less intelligent of the two sexes. That would've been a nice challenge to conventional expectations, and that's exactly why I'm disappointed that later works reverted to the more conventional assumption that Cardassian females had been excluded from the military by male sexism.
That's a very interesting approach - and I see your point about Destiny and its possible implications (and thus what you say about later portrayals shying away from that angle on Cardassians). I guess that episode did indeed sow the potential seed of a different approach, moving our impressions of Cardassia along a different path (or at least widening the path), while the wider society was still in the process of being sketched in.

(As an aside, when my sister watched that episode, she was actually a little surprised when the female Cardassians showed up - she'd been expecting military-armoured males, I suppose, because that thus far had been the face of Cardassia - so I guess that supports your point here too; that the episode offered a different idea on what Cardassia (or some Cardassians) see/are encouraged to see as important).

I'm not sure that such a portrayal really fits with what else we knew of Cardassia, but I suppose that too is part of your point - it would challenge assumptions. It would be difficult to pull off, though, or so I imagine. I'm torn between thinking that such a take on Cardassia is nicely subversive and thinking that it simply wouldn't work for them, that they had already been cemented - for better, worse, or neutral - as a society where soldiering is held in highest esteem, and trying to twist that to make things even more interesting wouldn't quite work. Maybe back in those early days of DS9 they did indeed have opportunity to make it otherwise, but even then I sort of think it was too late to step back from the idea that the social elite are soldiers. I suppose that's one of the completely subjective points.

Christopher wrote: View Post
Anyway, as for Cardassians, I actually like the 'sexist military' interpretation, myself. It made sense to me.... Cardassia venerates the military and service to the Cardassian war machine; it insists that this career path is a high calling, if not the very highest.
True, there is that -- but what if that was only the way the males saw it, while the females simultaneously considered their own calling to be the superior one? That actually has parallels in a lot of pre-agrarian human cultures, in a number of which the men would spend most of their time goofing around and boasting about how dominant and important they were, while the women were the ones actually doing the work and making the decisions and getting things done and rolling their eyes at the childish bluster of the menfolk. The difference being that in a sedentary civilization, you need more specialization of labor, so both sexes would have to perform important roles; but maybe they each consider their own role to be more important and the other sex's role to be inferior. (This is the approach I took to portraying Talarian society in Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within.)
Again, very interesting, and the point is taken. I suppose we could certainly argue that we, the audience, (and the other races within the setting) are getting a distorted, one-sided, masculine-biased idea of what Cardassians hold in esteem, because it's their traditional masculine arm that everyone keeps getting thrust in their face, so to speak, but, again, I think Cardassia in general had already been cemented as overwhelmingly militaristic (the inclusion of Ocett might even reinforce that, before it was decided that she was an oddity), and I wonder if there was enough room to spin it differently.

Christopher wrote: View Post
I think the sexist military makes perfect sense and adds another interesting wrinkle to the Cardassians, in that it gives us the "frustrated female commander" archetype that you don't get in many of the other cultures.
But that's just it -- we had it in our own culture not so long ago, and plenty of Trek and other sci-fi aliens are shown having the same familiar sexism, for example the Klingons. I prefer aliens to be less familiar, to have value systems that we would find more surprising and unusual, that would subvert our expectations. If you want to give an alien society gender inequality, then make it an alien form of gender inequality, one based on assumptions we would find unexpected. Make it look like it's a sexist society where the men exclude the women from equal opportunity, then turn it around and surprise us with the revelation that the men aren't actually considered dominant and that the role we default to considering more important is actually considered subordinate. If aliens don't surprise us, they aren't alien enough.
Again, I see your point. I personally enjoy the Cardassians' "familiarity" (I've never defined it like that, or in those terms, but I suppose I could), so I think I prefer the situation with the rare, frustrated female guls - but then I love the path the Cardassians wound up taking, so I suppose I'm not really mourning any possibilities for other portrayals.

Conversations like this must be annoying to some of the forum's readers, I imagine, because you and I are more or less in the same general sector but working from different planets, so to speak.
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Old July 2 2014, 09:10 PM   #9
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

James Swallow wrote: View Post

Whoopsies. I could have sworn that he did. Must have misremembered.

Still, he was nonetheless heavily involved in the whole thing. If word about this ever got out, what might happen to him? What would O'Brien (who he probably considers a friend, even after all this time) think? O'Brien lost friends and crewmates there.

Oh, and what eventually happens to Hanno? I'm assuming he'll be 'pushed aside' but nothing more than that, right? Hanno was just too damn cool.

Another thing that I liked is that even though the story obviously translates the native Cardassian language into English for our benefit, some alien-sounding phrases still come out, like when Enkoa orders a retreat and says "Extend away", and orders from superiors are called "Taskings", little things like that.

KRAD wrote: View Post
Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
This and the Klingon story are some of my favorite Trek bits ever written.
Thankya.
When I get to the dinner scene in "The Unhappy Ones", I get SO DAMN HUNGRY just reading it. Like right now.

seriously. It almost makes me wish that Klingon cuisine really existed, just so I could taste some of that food they were talking about!
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Old July 3 2014, 09:36 AM   #10
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
Still, he was nonetheless heavily involved in the whole thing. If word about this ever got out, what might happen to him? What would O'Brien (who he probably considers a friend, even after all this time) think? O'Brien lost friends and crewmates there.

Oh, and what eventually happens to Hanno? I'm assuming he'll be 'pushed aside' but nothing more than that, right? Hanno was just too damn cool.

Another thing that I liked is that even though the story obviously translates the native Cardassian language into English for our benefit, some alien-sounding phrases still come out, like when Enkoa orders a retreat and says "Extend away", and orders from superiors are called "Taskings", little things like that.
You're basing all your assumptions on the fact that guy actually was Garak. You might think that; I couldn't possibly comment...

But lets assume it *is* him. I think it's safe to say that there's a lot of stuff in Garak's past that many of his friends - not just O'Brien - would take issue with if it came out.

As for Hanno, I figured he'd eventually get pushed out of his position by the Obsidian Order and end up washed-up and powerless in "retirement", or else have some convienient accident...

Regarding the terminology etc, that was a deliberate attempt by me to make the stuff we're familiar with (bridge chatter, shipboard stuff) seem a little different from the Starfleet norm. Glad it worked!
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Old July 3 2014, 10:31 AM   #11
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

It's interesting for me to watch the discussion between Deranged Nasat and Christopher about the cultural/gender stuff in my short story - especially as the main character and her experiences are actually based in part on something that happened to me, and I'm a guy!

But anyhow, here's my take on the Cardassian gender situation. I see modern Cardassia as a culture defined by hunger (re-framed for the purpose of the Seven Deadly Sins anthology as 'envy'). This is something I touch on in Day of the Vipers, talking about how their martial nature came from a lack of resources on their homeworld and a drive to strike out and take what they needed.

A culture that experienced widespread famines and all the things that come with that would naturally have a high mortality rate, and would value the safety of females above that of males, if only to keep the species going. I projected from those ingrained ideas, that many males would feel females should be "kept safe", that it was better for Cardassian women to have careers out of harm's way, serving their race by holding society together at home while the males go off to do the more risky business of conquest. Its not about protecting females because they're weaker/less able, but because they're vital to survival of the species. I'm not condoning such beliefs, I hasten to add; I was trying to construct something that I felt reflected the Cardassa we've seen on TV. I also suggest that Cardassian culture is built on the backs of families led by powerful matriarchs, traditionally the "power at home".

All of this means that historically, military service would be seen as a more male arena and one dominated by patriarchs. Given the monolithic nature of Cardassian society, that perception would be slow to change, even if the actual issues underlying it (lack of resources etc) had gone away.

Cardassia in Star Trek fiction has always seemed to me to be a culture in transition, and the challenging of its established gender roles is part of that. It's doing something I feel Star Trek always does so well - holding up a mirror to our society, reflecting issues in our culture back at us in an alien guise.

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Old July 3 2014, 02:21 PM   #12
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Now, the idea that the culture is dominated by powerful matriarchs is in keeping with the impression I got from DS9: "Destiny" -- that just because the military is male-dominated doesn't mean the society is, that maybe the military role is considered secondary in importance by the women who actually run things. Granted, the political arena seems dominated by men as well, but human culture has its share of societies where women wielded immense power in the domestic and economic spheres. By controlling marital decisions, they could influence the course of dynasties and political alliances. By controlling children's education, they could influence the beliefs and values of their cultures. And so on. It's just that the men were the ones making the public speeches and writing the history books, so they defined these very real female spheres of power as secondary or unofficial and created a skewed impression of the power balance in their societies.

So the thing is, in a Cardassian society where women already have considerable acknowledged power in their own sphere, would they really want to pursue achievement in a male sphere like the military? Wouldn't a lot of their fellow females see that as slumming or demeaning themselves? Okay, maybe showing a breaking down of gender barriers is progress, but then, for the sake of balance, it would be good to see men fighting to gain respect in the scientific world as well as women trying to prove their worth as fighters.
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Old July 3 2014, 03:44 PM   #13
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

Interesting to follow this line of reasoning...

It's seems that while Christopher and I share some points of commonality in our concepts of Cardassian culture, we're coming at it from very different starting points.

The Cardassia Christopher is describing is one of inequality, where a more intelligent matriarchy runs everything (secretly) and the "dumb males" are fit only to bluster and get shot at. That's not the Cardassia that I see. I never got the reading from 'Destiny' that Cardassian females are smarter than the males on an actual, quantifable genetic level, and while he speaks upthread about "familar sexism", that assumption about levels of intelligence is describing the old sitcom trope of the smart nag wife and the dumb oaf husband, writ large across an entire species. I also find it hard to think of characters like, say, Garak or Dukat as being fundamentally less intelligent because of their gender.

From my standpoint, I read Cardassia as a culture that was built along lines of gendered power, drawing strength in unity against adversity: females as the power at home (in education, economics and society) and males as the power away (in the military, in outward-facing politics)... But crucially, I see it as a culture where power is split (more or less) equally between the genders, because neither one is "smarter" or "better" than the other. In that context, I don't see a peculiarity in males or females challenging their culture's archetypes.

And as for the question of why a female would want to serve in a traditionally male-dominated military, I'd imagine ideals such as patriotism and a personal sense of duty are a strong motivation. But I'm sure there are many women out there who have served in the real world could speak to that better than I ever could.

Hey, Una McCormack? If you're reading this, I would love to hear your opinion!
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Old July 3 2014, 04:43 PM   #14
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

This is something I touch on in Day of the Vipers, talking about how their martial nature came from a lack of resources on their homeworld and a drive to strike out and take what they needed.

A culture that experienced widespread famines and all the things that come with that would naturally have a high mortality rate, and would value the safety of females above that of males, if only to keep the species going. I projected from those ingrained ideas, that many males would feel females should be "kept safe", that it was better for Cardassian women to have careers out of harm's way, serving their race by holding society together at home while the males go off to do the more risky business of conquest. Its not about protecting females because they're weaker"
This makes sense to me, yes. From what I've read, in many pre-industrial societies more women died of childbirth or pregnancy complications than men died in accidents, hunts, warfare, etc. So not only were women the valuable limiting factor in reproduction, but they were in enough danger as it was simply from doing the business of carrying and birthing children. It would be illogical in the extreme to then have women placed in additional peril, hence the often very strong taboos against women not only being placed in danger or combat but doing anything that might put them at risk (various restrictions on their mobility, etc), as well as in some cultures (I'd suggest) encouraging the assumption that the female is inherently weak emotionally, morally, etc., to reinforce the idea that she needs to be infantilized and kept safe. After all, if she's seen as inherently not very smart or sensible, it makes perfect sense that her people would recognise the need to keep her at home, poor stumbling thing, and so the tribe is more secure. Cardassia is a nation that's been through very rough times, and I can easily see those instincts being prominent there, if not expressed in quite the same way.

What I mean by that, is that I also agree that Cardassians are unlikely to stereotype females as inherently weak - at least in terms other than relative physical strength. Ideas of femininity as delicate or less competent in any but the simple equations of reproduction and struggle outlined above would be unlikely in such a harsh environment as Cardassia. The idea of females as emotionally or morally weaker, more frail in terms of what they can handle, wouldn't be a part of Cardassian thinking, in my mind, because they could never have afforded it. Cardassians needed to be tough, enduring, strong. Nothing else would have been acceptable.

Then again, in real life the ideal of the pale-skinned (because she was inside rather than outside working), ethereal, fragile woman is, I believe, an upper-class ideal that didn't reflect the role of working-class or lower-class women at all, who were working either alongside the men or in an equivalent field of "woman's work". Standards of beauty that involve impractical hair, lengthy fingernails, flowing dresses - it highlights the fact, does it not, that such a woman doesn't work, because a given man or family has/have such high status and wealth that he/they can support her. It's a class thing, a form of boast.

Cardassians? Valuing the idea that a citizen not work? Cardassians wouldn't hold such a woman as an idealized ornament or a higher personage, they would be confused as to how such a delicate flower could possibly be expected to survive and how it was possible for her family and community to tolerate her selfish weakness.

As to the potential for a more prominent matriarchal domestic base in counterpoint to the patriarchal military-political complex, I don't think Cardassia as we've seen it can support that to any great extent. To some lengths, yes, but the idea that Cardassia is strongly lopsided toward military experience as the defining face of the nation is, to me, intrinsic to Cardassia. I think it's somewhat unavoidable, then, that the "male" side is the "objectively" dominant one, and everything else secondary or in service to the (male-filled, male-led) military. The Terok Nor books, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, these have suggested that Cardassian females are often expected to be less outspoken in most situations - there are certainly exceptions (science, once again, because females are the great majority there) but I think that stems from the fact, in part, that their fields are non-military or support-based and the military trumps all, so they should, it's thought, be supportive and not "troublesome". I don't think Cardassians devalue non-military roles because they are considered female, but by default anything feminine is going to be "not the military", and I think we can't really escape the fact that "not the military" comes second every time. (Even if the point of the military complex was the good of Cardassia and its people, in practice it became an end in itself).

It's certainly the case that females have their own influential niche, which many of them might well prefer, and it's true that this side of Cardassia is obscured somewhat, but I think we have to accept that Cardassia is a society where the military-political complex - which is by default male - is the most esteemed and prominent aspect.
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Old July 3 2014, 05:00 PM   #15
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Re: The Slow Knife (Seven Deadly Sins)

James Swallow wrote: View Post
From my standpoint, I read Cardassia as a culture that was built along lines of gendered power, drawing strength in unity against adversity: females as the power at home (in education, economics and society) and males as the power away (in the military, in outward-facing politics)... But crucially, I see it as a culture where power is split (more or less) equally between the genders, because neither one is "smarter" or "better" than the other. In that context, I don't see a peculiarity in males or females challenging their culture's archetypes.
Sure, I get that. And I'm not saying that's peculiar. I just prefer it when an alien culture's archetypes and assumptions aren't identical to those of the audience. When we see a woman trying to prove herself in a male-dominated military, we assume a male-chauvinist society in which women are considered weak and inferior and need to prove they can succeed in a traditionally male sphere in order to demonstrate their worth, because that's our own experience. All I'm saying is that I'd like the reasons behind that dynamic to be different from what they'd be in our society, something that wouldn't be immediately recognizable to a Western human. And that seems to be what you're describing, so that's cool.



And as for the question of why a female would want to serve in a traditionally male-dominated military, I'd imagine ideals such as patriotism and a personal sense of duty are a strong motivation. But I'm sure there are many women out there who have served in the real world could speak to that better than I ever could.
But that's just it -- I don't want alien motivations to be the same as ours. I want their cultures to surprise us, to challenge our expectations, to be unfamiliar to our experience. I want alien aliens.
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