A Fargonean FAQ

Advisor Answers Offworlders' Questions About Fargone

Do you have a question for Advisor? E-mail her c/o LexaR@aol.com and, if the spirit moves her, the answer will be in the next update. Advisor would like to note that some perfectly reasonable questions won't be answered here because Jacquerie and Reiss intend to address the subjects in future stories, and readers will find out as the Scorpio crew does.

Questions

Go to Question 1

Isn't it unfair that women have the power on Fargone, while men are second-class citizens?

Go to Question 2

Who is eligible to be a matriarch?

Go to Question 3

Do women get to choose whether they'll remain in their family-of birth or marry out?

Go to Question 4

Isn't the whole custom of wardship sexist, since it only applies to males?

Go to Question 5

Why aren't wards allowed to marry into their warder's families? And what are the exceptions that Lieesb mentioned to Avon and Tarrant during their visit to Fargone?

Go to Question 6

What are the religious observances on Fargone? As an agricultural planet, do you have fertility rituals? What about sacrifices?

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________

Isn't it unfair that women have the power on Fargone, while men are second-class citizens?

The only job a Fargonean male cannot hold is family head. When one considers how few family leaders there are, this doesn't seem to me to be a significant disenfranchisement. Most women don't become matriarchs, either, nor do they want to be.

The question of men having less power than women is a complicated one, and one which can be finessed depending on how one defines "power." For instance, Lieesb Rowan is not a family head, but he controls more resources and directs the work of more people than the matriarchs of several minor families. Still, it's a fact that males occupy less than fifty percent of the political and managerial jobs on Fargone. A male hospital administrator is by no means unheard of, but he's an exception in a way that a male surgeon is not.

One could argue for a long time whether this is a result of natural capacities (men tending toward a tight focus, women more capable of juggling competing priorities and multiple problems) or whether our socialization constitutes a self-fulfilling prophecy. My opinion may be skewed by being part of a family which includes a number of brilliant male researchers. I think they revel in the stereotype of the single-minded male, and the last thing they want is any form of equality that would oblige them to pay attention to matters outside their specialties. (Female researchers don't get away with quite as much, although Creator knows some of them try.)

If a man and a woman are born on Fargone with identical intelligence and talents for running things, when they reach marriageable age the woman will be superior. The man won't have had the experience of rotating through different families, and his contacts will have been more restricted. Given the benefits of the wardship system, this strikes me as an acceptable cost. Ideally, a capable man will find his niche as a subordinate to an even more capable matriarch. Unideal situations do crop up from time to time, but that's a whole different kettle of worms.

Go back to Questions
Back to Questions

 

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________

Who is eligible to be a matriarch?

Traditionally, a family head is a woman who has borne at least one child, preferably a daughter who will remain in the family. The smart-ass rejoinder to the question of why men can't be heads of families is that they can, just as soon as they commence childbearing.

The weasel-words "traditionally" and "preferably" above signal that like most Fargonean rules, this one is subject to stretching and bending. (My esteemed predecessor once said, in a moment of exasperation, that the only reason we have rules at all is that they give us a place to put loopholes.) Bearing a daughter gives a woman a stake in the fortunes of the family past her own generation, and her selection of a father is an indication of where she stands in the family.

Example: when the Rowan family was easing Kaeta's predecessor out, one of the things Kaeta did to secure her own position was to consult the family genealogist and then ask Aric to father her child. Since Aric was over fifty, he was free to refuse, and he would have if he and the other senior husbands had disapproved of Kaeta as a potential family head.

My situation was a bit different. I was born into the family I eventually headed, so there was less need for me to demonstrate my commitment to it. My predecessor arranged a paternity loan for me, since she thought quite rightly that I was in less of a hurry to take on her job than she was to dump it on me. She was also right in thinking that my delaying tactics wouldn't include embarrassing Geirr. He's still a sweet and attractive man, and back then he was beautiful enough to arouse tender impulses in a Federation mutoid. Despite the fact that this loan resulted in a son, (those old folk techniques work) the fact of her having set it up was taken as an indication that I was her chosen successor. The family concurred, and after that there wasn't much hope of getting out of it.

Go back to Questions
Back to Questions

 

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________

Do women get to choose whether they'll remain in their family-of birth or marry out?

No. All males marry out. The general rule for women is that daughters of senior husbands and loaners remain with the family of birth, and daughters of junior husbands marry out. The rule is not absolute. I've known it to be broken in the case of a junior husband who was killed in an accident and had a posthumous daughter, who stayed with her family of birth. But the decision on a daughter's future is made by the family, often well before the birth of the child and always before she's more than a few days old.

The precise reason why this system was established is subject to debate by historians. (My own favorite theory is that we set it up to annoy anthropologists.) It does seem to provide families with both continuity and openness.

Go back to Questions
Back to Questions

 

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________

Isn't the whole custom of wardship sexist, since it only applies to males?

My first impulse, when Fargone is accused of sexism, is to quote William Blake: "One law for the lion and the ox is oppression." It's an oversimplification, but then the accusation usually is, too.

Fargone's social system is based on the observation that the sexes differ, and have different strengths and needs. But we try to balance that generalization with an awareness of individual variation.

Young males, in general, have a tropism for high-risk, destructive behavior. That isn't just the case with humans--ask any naturalist what s/he finds the most of when collecting skeletons of mammals that died by misadventure. The Fargonean wardship system attempts to bring them to maturity with minimal danger to themselves and society. They get sex, pedagogical attention, discipline, violence if they need it, and the security that arises from knowing precisely when they will be accepted as men.

Granted, there are some males who are prudent and sensible enough to make it through adolescence without any need for such protection. But singling out those individuals and depriving them of the normal coming-of-age experience for their gender is hardly likely to be good for them.

Go back to Questions
Back to Questions

 

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________

Why aren't wards allowed to marry into their warder's families? And what are the exceptions that Lieesb mentioned to Avon and Tarrant during their visit to Fargone?

The rule exists because it’s difficult to convert that very unequal relationship into the equality which should exist between co-husbands. Marrying your former drill sergeant is not a likely road to domestic bliss.

It’s accepted that the end of wardship may be difficult emotionally for both participants, but it’s considered a normal and even healthy distress—analogous to a 20-th century kid who leaves home and goes off to college or something, and misses his former life. The exceptions are case-by-case, but here's an example that might apply to a certain off-world pair I've seen lately: A young man’s warder has died. He is passed on, at the age of twenty-something, to a man who is actually young enough not to have been eligible to ward him when he first hit adolescence. When he becomes twenty-five, petition is made to the Rulers to allow an exception to the laws requiring an end to the relationship. Probably both families would have to make their views known, and there might be some sneaky testing done of the couple in question—not so much to determine whether they love each other, as how. If their devotion doesn’t seem to have anything to do with reluctance to grow up, or desire to retain power, an exception can be made.

Go back to Questions
Back to Questions

 

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________

What are the religious observances on Fargone? As an agricultural planet, do you have fertility rituals? What about sacrifices?

As to that, sensible Fargoneans are all of the same religion. Which is? Sensible Fargoneans never tell. (We do, however, steal our lines.)

I don't quite understand why offworlders are so eager to associate agriculture with medievalism and mysticism. No matter how skeptical and rational and technologically advanced you are, you can't eat microchips. No, we do not have orgies to please the gods so the crops will grow. We have plant genetics, fertilizers, crop rotation, long range weather forecasting, and pest control to make the crops grow. Occasionally the plant geneticists, fertilizer chemists, weather forecasters, and so on have orgies to please each other.

I sometimes regret the fact that we don't practice human sacrifice, since I can think of several people who would be far more valuable as compost than they are as citizens. Even if I could only sacrifice one, I could at least let the others know that they were under consideration.

It is true that some of us are so deeply and powerfully attached to Fargone, not just the society but the planet itself, that we probably couldn't be happy anywhere else. In my family we call it the Antaeus complex. But we don't imagine that there's some supernatural sense in which the planet returns our feelings.

Go back to Questions
Back to Questions

 

Go to Main Fargone Page
Fargone Home

_____________________________