Can naïve, traditionalist complementarian gender-role views motivate goodness?

Hi. Male here. I was wondering about this scenario:

The scenario -- some people have adopted a view of virtue that is based on traditionalist, complementarian views of gender roles. Generally, they're supposed to be good people -- not particularly smart, not particularly realistic, but well-intentioned. The view of virtues and vices is distinct by gender -- however, the virtues of both sexes are genuinely virtuous, and the vices of both sexes are genuinely vicious. So a man's characteristically masculine vice would not be a virtue if he were a woman, nor would a woman's characteristically feminine vice be a virtue if she were a man.

For instance, charity is a distinctly feminine virtue, but that doesn't mean men are supposed to be stingy. Likewise, courage is considered a distinctly masculine virtue. However, that doesn't mean that cowardice is a virtue in women. It's just not considered as important to embody the virtues of the other sex as it is to embody the virtues of ones' own.

It's a sort of romanticized, fairy tale-like view of humanity -- brave knights in shining armor rescuing damsels-in-distress from dragons, fair maidens taming the savage beast with their tender compassion.

First of all, I would say that I don't have a problem with the idea that good people can be sexists. However, I've always considered it to be possible for people to be good in spite of sexist views: a man who thinks that a woman's proper role is submission, but if he figures out that his brother is abusing his wife, he gets mad about it and does what he can to get his sister-in-law to safety and his brother in jail. People can have vices and be good overall.

The thing is, in this scenario, sexist views are supposed to be the motive of good behavior. A woman helps shelter the poor because she thinks "this is the virtuous, womanly thing to do, and I'd be less of a woman if I let them sleep on the street." A man protects the innocent because he thinks "this is the virtuous, manly thing to do, and I'd be less of a man if I let those orcs get through the pass and to the halfling village." Of course, some people are just naturally good, decent people who do these things regardless of the value system they putatively hold, but insofar as the value system instructs people on what to do, it's often in very gendered terms.

Does it seem possible that this could be a truly good (if not very well thought-out or rational) value system, or do you think it would rapidly and inevitably degenerate into abuse, degradation, and misogyny?

I don't think this society would be the norm -- most societies aren't good, and most good societies are fairly egalitarian (if not explicitly so, at least they don't devote a great deal of thought to distinctive gender roles). However, I'm wondering if it could exist.
However, I'm wondering if it could exist.

I'm confused. Are you thinking of making a fatasy society along these lines? What your describing sounds alot like western victorian-era societal values to my untrained brain.
Sir Casm, Lord of the Oblivious
Does it seem possible that this could be a truly good (if not very well thought-out or rational) value system, or do you think it would rapidly and inevitably degenerate into abuse, degradation, and misogyny?

I don't think that it is inevitable to turn into that, if no false dichotomies are set up in terms of "good" traits and "bad" traits. If both sets of traits are valued, then I think it could be a good-aligned society. Using your example: "Courage" in men does not equal "Cowardice" in women. Using a traditional example, men were thought to be truthful, women deceitful. One is obviously a positive trait, and one a negative.

It could be that the society has a core set of "good" virtues and how they manifest in each gender is different (courage, charity, etc).

I also think that it could degenerate into misogyny or misandry - if one gender's "innate traits" are valued more than the others, or if more negative traits are assumed to belong to one sex, then the society would move to that kind of edge, I think.

Of course, it does also depend on how society treats those who will inevitably not fit their gender-assigned virtues.
Benevolent God of Death "No one told you when to run."
@ OP

Similar to the lines of TA, I am confused about this (emphasis added mine):

The scenario -- some people have adopted a view of virtue that is based on traditionalist, complementarian views of gender roles. Generally, they're supposed to be good people -- not particularly smart, not particularly realistic, but well-intentioned. The view of virtues and vices is distinct by gender -- however, the virtues of both sexes are genuinely virtuous, and the vices of both sexes are genuinely vicious. So a man's characteristically masculine vice would not be a virtue if he were a woman, nor would a woman's characteristically feminine vice be a virtue if she were a man.

So, is this a particular society being made up for D&D or a discussion of a real society?

For instance, if it is a made up society, the fact that this society is relegated to the not particularly smart people gives the appearance that the decision and outcome has been determined. People who are truly intelligent see it for the mistake that it is and therefore turn from it...

But, if it is a scenario meant to mirror some real life situations, that same emphasized phrase can be considered quite insulting to some people.

So, what exactly is going on and what is it that you wish to have discussed?
So this is what I think you're trying to say OP, correct me if I'm wrong.

A system of Virtue Ethics in which the importance of each virtue is ranked based on the person's sex.

For example, we take the four classical virtues, moderation, prudence, courage and justice. We give men courage and justice, and we give women moderation and prudence. Now, in general both sexes are going to agree on things, women aren't cowardly or unfair, and men aren't crazy or reckless, but if a dilemma arises then they might have different choices.

For example, you have a criminal who will provide a great benefit to the war if you let him live. For the man, the virtue of justice of executing him is more important, and for the woman, the prudence of letting him live is more important.


As to whether it works, well sure, I mean it has historical basis even (and with a bit of tiem and human nature gave way to the positive-negative setup). I think the problem is that it will seem just plain silly to a lot of modern people to delineate virtue based on gender.
No
Maybe I should give a little background: the project started out as based on the idea of animal worship as an alternative religious system, with (3.5 rules) different animal-ideals having different alignments, domains, etc. Once I feel I've done enough worshippable animals, I'll probably post it in the Campaigns, Adventures, & Encounters workshop in the Previous Editions forums.

Two animals that I came up with as representing ideals were the cardinal and the swan. I decided that they would be similar, except that the cardinal would get the fire domain, and the swan the water domain. (Among other domains, like Law and Good) The Cult of the Swan is basically for women, and the Cult of the Cardinal is basically for men. Both are Lawful Good (for instance, clerics must be LN, LG, or NG).

Cardinals represent masculine virtue: defending their mates, chivalrously feeding them, etc. (I'm always entertained by how a pair of cardinals can be standing on a surface covered with sunflower seeds, and, rather than getting one herself, the female just waits for her mate to take one off the ground and put it in her beak. Maybe it makes both of them feel special or something, but it strikes me as kind of silly.) Swans represent feminine virtue -- staying loyal to the same mate for life and all that. Also, swans just look feminine. Yes, half of swans are male, so as a species they consist of males and females in equal proportion, but they seem more feminine than masculine. Or at least, I think so.

I'm confused. Are you thinking of making a fatasy society along these lines? What your describing sounds alot like western victorian-era societal values to my untrained brain.

Right. The question is, would the societal values of the Victorian-era West be considered good, or more unaligned/neutral, or what? My tendency is to think that the good aspects of those societies were not generally helped by the conception of gender roles, and the like. For instance, Abraham Lincoln was generally a good guy (IMHO), and he opposed slavery, but I don't think he opposed slavery because he regarded it as manly to oppose slavery. I think the opposition had other sources, such as Enlightenment values, genderless Christian morality, general human sympathy/morality, and the like.

In this case, we're talking about a group for whom gender roles are supposed to not merely coexist with goodness, but actually motivate it.

Of course, it does also depend on how society treats those who will inevitably not fit their gender-assigned virtues.

This strikes me as one of the more important questions. This is a faith in which membership is voluntary, but of course if your family and friends are all members, quiting wouldn't be easy. I think that generally those who deviated too much from assigned gender roles would generally be somewhat stigmatized socially. A man who contributed in a "womanly" way, for instance, by doing household chores, cooking, and the like, while not contributing in a manly way, would probably find that his contributions aren't really valued as much, and vice versa.

So, is this a particular society being made up for D&D or a discussion of a real society?

Made up for D&D. That's why my examples, for instance, involved the scenario of defending a halfling village from an orc invasion.

For instance, if it is a made up society, the fact that this society is relegated to the not particularly smart people gives the appearance that the decision and outcome has been determined. People who are truly intelligent see it for the mistake that it is and therefore turn from it...

The fact that they're not supposed to be very smart (or at least not very well-informed or rational) is just how I envision this particular organization (it's sort of like a religious faith or a club -- it's a self-selected group drawn from within a larger society -- well, it's actually two groups, associated with each other but seperate (one for men, one for women)). Its basic pitch is based on an appeal to aesthetics and emotion. There are some smart people who follow this group, but mostly not.

I don't think that belief in rigid gender roles is limited to the stupid. IMC, I imagine some very smart people are sexists, but they're often evil or neutral/unaligned, and comparatively rarely good. Those who are smart, good, and sexist frequently don't think very much about such matters: for example someone could have been raised in a home which was sexist, and she inherited those values. She's good, and smart, but she's focused on mathematics. She doesn't think much about her sexist values; she mostly thinks about other things, like how many numbers there are such that both x and x + 2 are prime, so when questioned about the "proper" roles for men and women, she'd probably repeat what she learned from her mom and dad.

I suppose that I regard idealistic naïveté is a sort of "saving grace" for these people. They aren't evil, or even neutral or unaligned: they're actively good. Their belief in gender roles is not something that they believe in in a passive, unexamined manner like the sexist mathematician described previously: they put gender roles at the center of their value system. They aren't egalitarian: they're complementarian.

I suppose I have a hard time envisioning people who are simultaneously 1) Good, 2) Intelligent, realistic, and educated, 3) Actively put gender roles at the center of their value system, and 4) Embrace traditionalist, complementarian values with regard to gender. However, could that just be a blindspot of mine? Could all four coexist?
Good and evil are fundamental concepts of the human mind.

So are gender roles. This stems from the fact that there are physical and mental differences between men and women. The mental differences are the most significant ones for this discussion certainly, but the physical ones are still relevant. After all, women would be discouraged from showing as much 'courage' as men, because women are physically less strong, and historically, this has been the main factor in combat. Therefore, women are, by these standards at least, less capable fighters. Of course, this is also because women were likely to be carrying a child, historically. (Historically, in the years where a woman was capable of carrying a child, she would spend about three quarters of her time either carrying a child, or recovering from childbirth.)

Conversely, If every man showed large amounts of 'compassion', then it is unlikely that all that many major crimes would go properly punished. Any plausible sob story would leave you facing a much smaller, or even no, punishment.

Society needs all the mentioned virtues, but in balance. Since people do not exist in such a perfect balance, society found a way for itself to find the balance it required. Encouraging certain traits in men, and others in women, society is stable and productive. This was realistic to occur, thanks to the aforementioned gender differences.

Frankly, I agree with this. 'Equal' does not mean 'the same'. Just as an eight stone weakling is unlikely to become a knight in shining armour, while a pumped up wall of muscle is unlikely to become a wizards apprentice, so there are things which men and women are more and less inclined towards. This is true historically, today, and in fantasy such as D&D. I do not view it as a good or bad thing, simply as something that is. Were someone to actively discourage a woman or a man from a certain profession, because 'that is womens/mens work', THAT would be a bad thing. Society trends are fine. Gender role enforcement is not.
Reality is a reference point, not a limitation.
Good and evil are fundamental concepts of the human mind.

So are gender roles.

*BZZZT!* Wrong answer. Do not collect 64.000$, do not advance to next round. :P

Exactly what "good" and "evil" has entailed has varied HUGELY throughout history and geography. So have the content and degree of difference of the gender roles. Not saying there are no meaningful physical differences, or some widespread social tendencies, but the Eternal Truth about matters such as these tends to be rather local in space and time.

My problem with the OP setup is that these people would value a brave man above an equally brave woman, and a generous woman above an equally generous man. This seems to me to be rather unimpressive. Of course, it could be a distinct moral imperfection of otherwise Good people, and imperfect people are IMO more interesting that perfect people (in fiction, and perfect people don't exist IRL), so by all means go ahead as far as I'm concerned.
Good and evil are fundamental concepts. The definitions of them are not. I didn't say that people would agree on the concept of good and evil, or of what a normal role for men and women is, but nonetheless, the vast majority of societies throughout history have had their own ideals of good and evil, and of the place in society for men and women.

Just because there are different versions of such concepts, does not mean that these concepts do not exist.

As an example, in the western world, men have typically been in charge of money. However, in feudal japan, women were more often in charge of finances. Both societies had their reasons for these trends, both were 'right', in that they suited the society they were in, and in both cases, this promoted, rather than subjugated, the gender roles encouraged by the societies.

Oh, and just because you don't agree with me, please don't start by saying my opinion is 'wrong'. Unless you have some extremely good insight into the human mind beyond anything I've read / heard of, then your opinion is just the same. An opinion.
Reality is a reference point, not a limitation.
I suppose I have a hard time envisioning people who are simultaneously 1) Good, 2) Intelligent, realistic, and educated, 3) Actively put gender roles at the center of their value system, and 4) Embrace traditionalist, complementarian values with regard to gender. However, could that just be a blindspot of mine? Could all four coexist?

As with so much in these kinds of discussions, the answer - and the discussion working toward it - depend so much on the definitions. It is way too easy to define "intelligent, educated, and realistic" as meaning pretty much the same thing as "agrees with me." Same with "good."

Looking at the witness of history, I find it hard to conceive that anyone with an "educated" and "realistic" view would doubt that it is possible to be good while holding sexist views - unless, of course, your definition of good requires the absence of sexism (and your definition of a "good" society requires absolute absence of evil; and allowing that "sexism" may not necessarily equal misogyny!). With a "realistic" view of what it takes to be a "good" person, it is possible to have that person (or society) hold all sorts of odd ideas, perhaps even harmful ones, and still be good.

Another issue with the way the question is set up, though that may be the point of the question - is that it seems to assume that sexism of any kind is evil; an evil that can perhaps be excused by ignorance or naivete, but an evil nontheless. Again, depending on the definition of "sexism," I don't think this necessarily is a valid definition. As I see it, the problem with the society described in the OP is the same problem with most societies in real life: as a general rule, the ideals of pretty much any society (at least any one that lasts more than a generation or two) can be described as being "good," at least to some degree. Idealism, community, mutual support, as well as various rules to maintain order in the society all appear, even as the details vary considerably. All these rules, all these societies, however, do have their shadow, as it were: what happens to people who do not fit the ideal mold? A society described above - which does seem to have a strong parallel to Victorian-era ideals - might be very good, in that it promotes life and prosperity for everyone. It might also be very bad, in that it punishes people who do not fit the ideal mold, punishment which can include actual criminal prosecution and societal ostracizing. And that is perhaps the key difference between a "good" society and one that is not (or less) "good." How does it treat the anomalies? Both "bad" and "good" societies work well for the people who fit in, and for the elites; the difference is what happens to those who do not fit in, or are not elites?

To be more specific, the values described in the OP seem to focus strongly on service, that is, how to treat one's fellow human/sentient being. That's a good start toward any good society. The pertinent question is how easy is it to abuse that service: do males have the right to demand that women provide food and so forth; do women have the right to demand that a man fight to protect them, even without any claim to justice or established relationship? Do the leaders have the right to demand service without compensation or consent, or without providing proper service in return? What happens to a woman who is strong (physically and/or mentally) who wants to fight to defend justice and the community? To a man who wants to excel in preparing food and clothing?

A society which in fact (whether or not in open words) values freedom and mercy will fit most definitions of "good" much more easily than one which does not, and the details of how that society is organized can be very different. So, basically, to answer the question, I would say that people who hold views which encourage specific gender roles can be quite good. People who are well-educated can build good societies. People who are naive can build good societies. The lack of education or experience can certainly be a problem, and make the job much more difficult, but the question of the general moral goodness of a society does not, in my view, rest primarily on gender-role definition.
Good and evil are fundamental concepts. The definitions of them are not.

I find it quite amusing in general that so many people can agree that absolute and objective (fundamental?) morality exists, but they can't for the life of them agree on the contents.

Oh, and just because you don't agree with me, please don't start by saying my opinion is 'wrong'. Unless you have some extremely good insight into the human mind beyond anything I've read / heard of, then your opinion is just the same. An opinion.

I'm an educated historian, specialised in the European Middle Ages. Trust me, what gets touted now as "how men and women really are" has changed quite a lot through the centuries. Sometimes in just decades. Of course, in your response, you stated that the content of gender roles is not immutable. That was not how you represented it in your first post, to which I responded.

To point to one wonky argument: That men are angry so that the guilty will be punished and the women are compassionate so that they will not be punished too much. Where do you get that women are less inclined to be tough on crime (/bloodthirsty)? And BTW have you heard of tricoteuses?

And anyway who gave you the idea that societies are stable and in balance?
Of course, in your response, you stated that the content of gender roles is not immutable. That was not how you represented it in your first post, to which I responded.

My first post, I was in a hurry, and not expecting such a thorough and literal analysis of what I had written. When I saw this was in error, I immediately clarified it.

To point to one wonky argument: That men are angry so that the guilty will be punished and the women are compassionate so that they will not be punished too much.

A very broad generalisation, as any debate on the tendancies of large numbers of people is going to have to be.

Where do you get that women are less inclined to be tough on crime (/bloodthirsty)? And BTW have you heard of tricoteuses?

Yes, though I admit not by that specific name. However, that is one specific example where a culture either encourages, or at the least does not discourage a trait. In a large number of cultures, there are going to be differences. About the closest thing to a constant is that almost all cultures have treated men and women differently.

And anyway who gave you the idea that societies are stable and in balance?

Again, a hasty choice of words, based on not expecting to have such a thorough review of my words given. Perhaps something closer to what I had intended to convey was 'stable, as far as the people that live there are concerned'. Within a generation or two, very few cultures change significantly, historically, and even more so in most fantasy settings. I can hardly think of any fantasy settings where significant social changes have occurred. The only reason that modern day society seems to be changing so fast is communication allowing the spread of ideas faster and more efficiently. Historically, a new way of thinking was something rare indeed, simply because getting many people to hear it, let alone listen, was not easy. Even if a change happens, it would usually take generations to spread across the entire culture. One end of England is a long way from the other, when you're going village to village on horseback at best.

Getting back to the original point, I would say that as long as men and women have equal rights, the society is fine in this respect. Equal here NOT meaning the same, though. Royal succession is a common gender bias, but not one that screams 'evil society' to me.

Trying to work out how this should work in a fantasy setting such as d&d is less easy. After all, women are not weaker. The only definite difference is that women carry children for nine months before there is any choice about who is the primary carer for a baby.

I would tentatively guess that in d&d or similar worlds, women are still likely to be protected by men in general, but those women that step forwards to fight, or whatever, are accepted much more easily. There is no centuries enforced stigma of 'the weaker sex', since women can be just as strong as men.

Of course, any differing treatment will usually stem from the perceived differences between men and women. Since d&d takes away that one major aspect, but changes no others (unless someone can think of one that I have not), this implies that such views are going to be lessened accordingly. Perhaps some will still hold the same opinions as they would in the real world, but maybe not so many, and perhaps societies will be a little more open to non traditional gender roles.

Except the Drow. They'll never change.
Reality is a reference point, not a limitation.
In this case, we're talking about a group for whom gender roles are supposed to not merely coexist with goodness, but actually motivate it.

If your naïve, traditionalist complementarian gender-role views are really the only thing motivating you to behave ethically, and you would not behave ethically without these views, then you're not a very ethical person anyways despite how you may behave. :P

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As with so much in these kinds of discussions, the answer - and the discussion working toward it - depend so much on the definitions. It is way too easy to define "intelligent, educated, and realistic" as meaning pretty much the same thing as "agrees with me." Same with "good."

Bingo.

The OP made this comment:
The fact that they're not supposed to be very smart (or at least not very well-informed or rational) is just how I envision this particular organization (it's sort of like a religious faith or a club -- it's a self-selected group drawn from within a larger society -- well, it's actually two groups, associated with each other but seperate (one for men, one for women)). Its basic pitch is based on an appeal to aesthetics and emotion. There are some smart people who follow this group, but mostly not.

One thing that never ceases to amuse me is how, in America, both what we would call "liberals" and "conservatives" both gleefully accuse each other of exactly this. Whatever one agrees with is reasonable, logical, and intelligent; if people believe something else, it's clearly because they've been misled by emotional appeals and clever rhetoric.

The basic answer to the OP's question is clearly "Yes." All kinds of things can motivate "goodness" for many definitions of "goodness," both for better and for worse. A much more important question would be "does this work?"

And the answer to that depends on the situation the culture is in within your constructed reality. For the Hebrew people, outlawing homosexuality worked because they desperately needed new generations of people to replace all those they lost to the constant warfare. Homosexuals simply didn't have the luxury of being themselves because there was something "greater" than them at stake (for values of "great" that align with "survival of the people" at least). That doesn't mean the law is necessarily a good idea for another time or place.

So, how could a scenario such as what the OP presents work well for a people? Well, it could provide them with an identity, if they were lacking one before. Say they were a hodgepodge of people without any real history, without anything to make them distinct from other cultures, and with an existing culture that, for one reason or another, contained hostility between the sexes (perhaps such things as abuse being expected or softly tolerated due to generations passing down such behavior, I dunno). Then along comes this ideal system, and suddenly the people are motivated to do good things while also creating an identity for themselves that solidly sets them apart from the other nations around them (not to mention each sex treating the other better while improving themselves in at least some ways). This is likely to lead to a more motivated and productive society, one that is less self-destructive and more apt to grow in power, prestige, and production.

Or, of course, it could self-destruct and disintegrate due to inefficient division of "worthy traits" among its populace, leading to a much lower than maximum level of production.

Or, more likely, something well in-between the two.
Those who are smart, good, and sexist frequently don't think very much about such matters:

I think you hit the nail on the head here. It's not that they are not smart, it's that they're not "smart about sexism", really. They could have a super-advanced society far beyond our own in art, culture, technology, whatever - but their culture just doesn't put much emphasis on them thinking about this particular aspect as anything more than intrinsic, so most of them don't. They just put their energies elsewhere.
Except the Drow. They'll never change.

I guess our differences are not as dramatic as they first appeared. ;)

My only remaining quibbles: Societies can and often do change dramatically in the space of a generation, usually through crises. But almost all societies stumble from crisis to crisis, be it from disease, war (civil or otherwise), famine or economic doldrums. Also, tech developments that can seem trivial to us, like rigid horse collars to replace flexible ones, can have a major impact.

Did the US of A change significantly from 1920 to 1950? Between prohibition, the Great Depression, and WWII, and all the fallout from those, I'd say, oh yes!

Did Germany? Japan? China? India?

We tend to have an idea today that things are changing rapidly, and they didn't in the past. But in most periods that I've looked at closely (being, as previously mentioned a historian), the people involved have had a sense that things were changing fast, and they could barely hold on.

Second quibble: "Equal but different" is attractive in theory, but in practice it has usually meant that someone's been getting the short end of the stick, so by default I'm suspicious though not downright hostile.

As you say, having a fantasy society as basis changes things.

Also, I'll echo...

Originally Posted by Enlightened1
As with so much in these kinds of discussions, the answer - and the discussion working toward it - depend so much on the definitions. It is way too easy to define "intelligent, educated, and realistic" as meaning pretty much the same thing as "agrees with me." Same with "good."

Yep!
If your naïve, traditionalist complementarian gender-role views are really the only thing motivating you to behave ethically, and you would not behave ethically without these views, then you're not a very ethical person anyways despite how you may behave. :P

I find this statement a bit strange. Are we not ethically driven by our personal world views and our own sense of self or placement through those views? Saying someone would not be a very ethical person without certain elements that make up that set of ethics is...well, a bit of an obvious statement.
I could just be missing the jest of course.
My only remaining quibbles: Societies can and often do change dramatically in the space of a generation, usually through crises. But almost all societies stumble from crisis to crisis, be it from disease, war (civil or otherwise), famine or economic doldrums. Also, tech developments that can seem trivial to us, like rigid horse collars to replace flexible ones, can have a major impact.

Most of the societies you mention that changed did so post modern communication. Once telecommunications, telegraph, or even mechanised travel existed, the spread of ideas massively accellerated any process of change. The spread of ideas is critical to the evolution of society, and the faster the ideas can spread, then not only is the rate the ideas are acted on accellerated, but the risk of them dying out is reduced.

As for inventions like horse collars? I'm aware of the value of such things. As an example to prove this, the impact of stirrups on warfare. Before them, the horse was little more than a way to reach the enemy faster. With them, you retain the height advantage, but can also control yourself much easier, allowing you to fight effectively while mounted.

We tend to have an idea today that things are changing rapidly, and they didn't in the past. But in most periods that I've looked at closely (being, as previously mentioned a historian), the people involved have had a sense that things were changing fast, and they could barely hold on.

At any time, things appear fast, because there is nothing that has been faster that people know of. Disasters are not seen to change society all that much, simply because looking back, it is all too often an instant change, at least on paper. These days, things seem faster than they used to be, because the freedom of ideas is so much greater. Perhaps in the future, when what they might consider 'silly' copyright laws are turned into something much better, allowing free use of technology and intellectual developments, the spread of new thoughts will permit even faster changes then we believe possible.


Second quibble: "Equal but different" is attractive in theory, but in practice it has usually meant that someone's been getting the short end of the stick, so by default I'm suspicious though not downright hostile.

Herein lies the problem of this debate. The two genders are fundamentally different, physically and mentally. I doubt anyone will dispute that seriously. 'equal' may not ever be a perfectly correct term, but it can certainly be close to the truth, or at the very least the ideal that people work towards.

At the moment, the theoretical condition is that for most western cultures, men and women are equal. While things like pay and working conditions, etc, can often be proven to still favour men, this is certainly in part due to the 'inertia' that society has. Passing a law will not change peoples minds overnight. In time, such things will fade. The new idea will have spread fully. For now, we are simply approaching the ideal that our society believes is correct.

'Equal' is how our society defines the sexes, even though the systems the society has in place favour one sex over another, in many cases. Sure, the system, and therefore the society, does not actually treat men and women 'equally'. However, it is doing so better than it was a hundred, fifty, or even ten, years ago. I believe it will keep improving over time, until a better defined concept than just equality is devised. Perfect equality is impossible, because men and women have, on occasion, different needs from each other out of society.

This much is also true in a fantasy setting. Day to day, men and women need the same as each other. Food, shelter, and the promise of the same for tomorrow. However, when a couple are expecting a child, simple biology means the man will tend to provide for the woman more. Not sexism, simply biological necessity. This is when their needs diverge most visibly, but there are so many other examples, I doubt anyone could list even half of them.

I am happy to stick with my belief that a society which permits people to go against the expected gender roles is good enough in that respect. Maybe it could do better, but it could do so much worse. I might always strive for perfection, but changing an entire nation, or a world, takes more time than an average person has. Changing the way millions of people think, this is the toughest task anyone could ever face.
Reality is a reference point, not a limitation.
Okay, you think sexisim=evil. Cool. But this is a D&D society, right? Good is a tangable force, Evil is a tangable force, and they cannot be debated or enterprated anymore than a bolt of lighting can be reasoned with. Define "Good" and "Evil" in concrete terms for your campagine. If, in your game world, sexisim is inherently evil, then your society is inherently evil. Individuals may be able to overcome their culture to be neutral or good, but the society, due to its sexisim, will always be evil as a whole, just as a society that regularly has human sacrafices, or casts spells with the [evil] descriptor will. If sexisim is not explecitly "Evil" in your setting, then the question is irrelevant. The pressence of sexisim in no way or to any degree causes the society to be evil. If it causes them to do evil things, then the things they do are evil, then thoes things make them evil. Same with good.


Culture does not cause good or evil, it defines it. <=(realworld commentary)
Sir Casm, Lord of the Oblivious
Wow, for once, other people read deeper into the question than I did. :P
Benevolent God of Death "No one told you when to run."
Herein lies the problem of this debate. The two genders are fundamentally different, physically and mentally. I doubt anyone will dispute that seriously.

I will.

You use the term fundamentally. Unless you mean something else by it, that would mean there are essential differences between males and females. While this is the case physically, it is not the case mentally, and furthermore outside of actual sexually functioning organs, there are no essential qualities that males or females possess that the others do not, just correlations. For example, there is a correlation that shows that the throwing ability for men is on average larger than that of women, but there is significant overlap and a statistically sizable portion of women who can throw better than the average man. Therefore, there is no essential physical difference here.

I'm more concerned about the mental differences, however. Despite what you may think, there is not much evidence that men and women differ greatly on an intrapsychic level. That is, while strong correlations exist in terms of specific behaviours like aggression, men and women only differ very slightly (less than .20 correlation) in terms of the degree to which they feel specific classified motives, implying that in fact we do think the same. Furthermore, there is no emotion, motive, intelligence, mental disorder, or anything that occurs in only one gender, so at a minimum there is no fundamental difference.

And then, even conceding that some behaviours are correlated with gender, personality psychologist Newcomb ran studies that suggest that demonstrated that people will treat even infant children differently if they know their gender. Another psychologist, Cahill, argued from these findings and his own that gender differences are the result of culture, not biology, citing a lack of biological support for what was being observed.
@Bedeverekm & CapitainPicard & Others: Blah Blah Blah.

Seriously.
There are plenty of other threads on this board for this discussion to take place, and it has done so many times. The fact of the matter is he was asking about a D&D society and, in a D&D human society, no physical or mental diffrences exist between male and female members so please take your debate elsewhere or keep it focused on the topic at hand, mainly, the ethical alignment of his proposed civilization as it pertains to D&D.

(Atleast, I think thats the topic.)
Sir Casm, Lord of the Oblivious
I find this statement a bit strange. Are we not ethically driven by our personal world views and our own sense of self or placement through those views? Saying someone would not be a very ethical person without certain elements that make up that set of ethics is...well, a bit of an obvious statement.

Well, let me try to explain then.

Let's take someone that behaves a certain way. Now lets say that they don't engage in this behavior because they think it is good or meritous or needs to be done on it's own, but for fear of punishment or expectation of reward. If you take away the fear of punishment or expectation of reward, they stop the behavior because they never did it for it's own reasons, they did it because they had the incentive to do it.

In cases like that it can be argued that though the behavior may have been moral or ethical, the person doing it wasn't necessarily moral or ethical because they were doing it for the wrong reasons.

Does that make sense?
Resident Over-Educated Ivory-Tower Elitist [You don't have the Need-to-Know for that, citizen]
@Bedeverekm & CapitainPicard & Others: Blah Blah Blah.

Seriously.
There are plenty of other threads on this board for this discussion to take place, and it has done so many times. The fact of the matter is he was asking about a D&D society and, in a D&D human society, no physical or mental diffrences exist between male and female members so please take your debate elsewhere or keep it focused on the topic at hand, mainly, the ethical alignment of his proposed civilization as it pertains to D&D.

(Atleast, I think thats the topic.)

In D&D, there are no mechanical differences, but even with the D&D tag, the point of departure is human, as in us. The trouble is that the OP question pretty much hinges on our old friend "Are Men and Women Different?" Does the society put forth by the OP hold to different moral standards people who really are deeply and meaningfully different, or do they hold to different moral standards people who are truly more alike than not.

If the former is the case, sure they're all sorts of goody-good. In the latter case, it is at best a rather nasty and hypocritical failing of an otherwise-good group.

I'm firmly in the women-aren't-space-aliens camp (being myself a man, that is). In play, I'd be happy to use something like the society proposed as a good-but-imperfect D&D society. The "objective morality" of D&D (and thanks 4th for kicking out Detect Evil!!) is still satisfied by the fact that these people would be running around practicing the virtues of courage, kindness etc., which would still be Good (with a G), even if the division and cultivation of virtues was wonky.
Increasingly OT historical discussion

Most of the societies you mention that changed did so post modern communication. Once telecommunications, telegraph, or even mechanised travel existed, the spread of ideas massively accellerated any process of change. The spread of ideas is critical to the evolution of society, and the faster the ideas can spread, then not only is the rate the ideas are acted on accellerated, but the risk of them dying out is reduced.

OK: Less recent examples. Did France change significanly between 1770 and 1800? Did the eastern coast of North America? Did European societies experience rapid change between 1340 and 1370? (First two rounds of the Black Death.) Did Rome experience major change between 60 and 30 BC? These are only some of the more overt and dramatic examples, but basically the static Olden Days are an "optical illusion" created by distance. Communication changes the way in which change occurs, true, but change still happens when carried by foot, horse and ship, and surprisingly fast.
In cases like that it can be argued that though the behavior may have been moral or ethical, the person doing it wasn't necessarily moral or ethical because they were doing it for the wrong reasons.

Must...not...discuss...religion...
Hey, I was keeping away from religion. My explanation works perfectly swell thinking purely about the secular.
Resident Over-Educated Ivory-Tower Elitist [You don't have the Need-to-Know for that, citizen]
I will.

You use the term fundamentally. Unless you mean something else by it, that would mean there are essential differences between males and females. While this is the case physically, it is not the case mentally, and furthermore outside of actual sexually functioning organs, there are no essential qualities that males or females possess that the others do not, just correlations. For example, there is a correlation that shows that the throwing ability for men is on average larger than that of women, but there is significant overlap and a statistically sizable portion of women who can throw better than the average man. Therefore, there is no essential physical difference here.

I'm more concerned about the mental differences, however. Despite what you may think, there is not much evidence that men and women differ greatly on an intrapsychic level. That is, while strong correlations exist in terms of specific behaviours like aggression, men and women only differ very slightly (less than .20 correlation) in terms of the degree to which they feel specific classified motives, implying that in fact we do think the same. Furthermore, there is no emotion, motive, intelligence, mental disorder, or anything that occurs in only one gender, so at a minimum there is no fundamental difference.

And then, even conceding that some behaviours are correlated with gender, personality psychologist Newcomb ran studies that suggest that demonstrated that people will treat even infant children differently if they know their gender. Another psychologist, Cahill, argued from these findings and his own that gender differences are the result of culture, not biology, citing a lack of biological support for what was being observed.

Accually there are many difference mentally between males and females.
The Pease's wrote a great no nonsense book about it called.
'Why women can't read maps and why men don't listen'
Men have a very focused eye which is accually mental more than phyical, they home in on objects very far away and are able to calculate the speed the object is moving very easily.
Wile women on the other hand have a comparively wide view made so that they can view children and protect other women wile gathering.

Gee I wonder why people are scared of this fourm...
Poor kid has almost been brow beaten to death.
Anywho I had trouble understanding Jules thread when he first started it that is why I did not respond but I think I get his point of view now.

The human body is still basicly hunters and gathers, so I would say your point is moot.
Don't worry there is alot more I mean alot please don't make me go into, people wrote a book on it isn't that enough...
And for those of you who have not read this book get a crisp twenty from your wallet and by it, if your yankie just get a ten and if your on the euro I hate you I want my money to be worth that much... *sigh*

Basicly his asking this, can 1950s world be good.
I am not talking about technology or anything else.
I am talking about attidude.
Well on that subject not cause further resentment or add an issue I will quote Chris Brown.
Somewhat sensored.

'They weren't being mean beating down with water hoses, they were being nice, nicer than people in the sixties and fifties, theirs N***** from the sixties looking down on them saying damn those N***** got it good'

Basicly the whole thing is we look back on any era before our own and we can claim that we are more moral ect.
Your asking the wrong question Jules, what you should be asking is can I run a campagin with 1950's or some equivelant of attidtudes and the main charaters still being good.
The short answer is yes.
You can make your campagin anything you want and people can rant and rave on the fourms all they want.
You can have a campagin called 'Kill whitey' or 'Blood Dimionads there good for you'.
However, this does not mean that everyone will approve or understand.
Basicly it works like this, if you want 50's style attidueds to be good you need to be able to convince your group not the people of the forum.

Each culture has it's own sexist views, some more easy to see than others.
If you want to run a navie campagin, run it as such.
Prober roles such as submission gets you no points.
Try to make it navie, no dark parts at all.
More just women are the counter part to men.
Were men are brave and strong ect.
Women be gentle, warm people who stop confrontaions ect.
Navie is navie for a reason, it has no understanding once someone loses that the campagin is no longer navie.

So run it your way if you wish, make men manly, dragons evil and women princess not prizes.

P.S. TPK every time someone brings relgion into a conversation there ***** gets a little shorter.
Gee I wonder why people are scared of this fourm...
Poor kid has almost been brow beaten to death.

You call that a near-fatal brow beating?

This is the internet, right? This thread has been almost painfully nice so far.

You can have a campagin called 'Kill whitey' or 'Blood Dimionads there good for you'.
However, this does not mean that everyone will approve or understand.
Basicly it works like this, if you want 50's style attidueds to be good you need to be able to convince your group not the people of the forum.

And of course it would be possible to set up a campaign in which the Nazis are objectively right and good, and the Jews really are subhuman scum who conspire, poison wells and eat babies. But why would you?

Also, the question was on handling a single social group/faith, not an entire world, if I understand the OP's clarification correctly.
As is always the the case on the internet and anywhere, where text is used you can not imply sacacism.
I was merely making the brow beating comment sacaisticly in refence to the fact that he hasn't said anything since.
Also I am still not 100% on what he wants but i thought it was to world views/the PC's homeland.
I would reply to the comments directed at myself thoroughly, but they have gotten somewhat buried by posts since I last read, and I feel it would be dredging up things no longer all that relevant to the conversation. I will comment though that the reply directed at me the most seemed to be saying 'men and women are not different. Here are some examples of how they are different, to prove this'.

Whether men and women are different is in fact very relevant to the OP. If they are treated differently but are not different, then clearly there would be severe unfair treatment going on. If in fact there are differences between men and women, then you have to delve deeper into the motives behind the different treatment of the genders.


Therein lies the key issue here. Men and Women are treated differently in most societies, both modern and historic. The actual differences vary massively, as I'm sure anyone posting here will know. What these differences are is somewhat irrelevant. WHY this differences exist in a society are far more important to the debate of how it impacts their morality.

If a society protects its women to protect the lives of unborn children (historically, adult women were carrying a child for most of their fertile lifetime), then this could certainly be considered a good act. If however, a society protects its women as a way of ensuring their status as second class citizens, or even little more than property, then this could certainly be considered evil. Same difference, different conclusion.
Reality is a reference point, not a limitation.
If a society protects its women to protect the lives of unborn children (historically, adult women were carrying a child for most of their fertile lifetime), then this could certainly be considered a good act. If however, a society protects its women as a way of ensuring their status as second class citizens, or even little more than property, then this could certainly be considered evil. Same difference, different conclusion.

Sadly, they are not mutually exclusive. Read: She's carrying MY child!
Well, let me try to explain then.

Let's take someone that behaves a certain way. Now lets say that they don't engage in this behavior because they think it is good or meritous or needs to be done on it's own, but for fear of punishment or expectation of reward. If you take away the fear of punishment or expectation of reward, they stop the behavior because they never did it for it's own reasons, they did it because they had the incentive to do it.

In cases like that it can be argued that though the behavior may have been moral or ethical, the person doing it wasn't necessarily moral or ethical because they were doing it for the wrong reasons.

Does that make sense?

I can see where you're coming from. I guess my next question is what the "right" set of ethics is, if there even is such a thing that exists beyond our own perceptions. What are the "right" reasons to do something? Beyond instinct, is not everything else learned and subject to scrutiny when put under the scope of various world-views?

My perspective when looking at this question makes it very difficult to define an "ethical" person beyond somebody who follows a code of ethics. An ethical individual is one who has taken a certain set of rules, either personal or taken and translated directly from outside sources, and who follows those rules as a sort of self discipline might be a more clear way to put it in my terms.

I think this might be getting more abstract than I originally intended unfortunately.
As I understand the argument, it's not so much about a 'right' set of ethics as about whether or not someone has internalized and adopted the ethics as their own beliefs.

To put it another way, someone who is ethical will behave according to their ethics regardless of the situation. Someone who merely behaves ethically will change their 'ethics' to suit whatever situation they're in.

Try this way: Is a dog trained to help fireman acting in a moral or ethical way when it's saving lives? It doesn't understand the consequences, or even how much it's risking it's life, it's just following it's training. So the dog is behaving in a 'good' way, but is the dog itself 'good'?

But yeah, this is pretty abstract in general, especially as it's really hard to figure out a persons motivations and private thoughts, and much easier to observe their behavior.
Resident Over-Educated Ivory-Tower Elitist [You don't have the Need-to-Know for that, citizen]
The thing is, in this scenario, sexist views are supposed to be the motive of good behavior. A woman helps shelter the poor because she thinks "this is the virtuous, womanly thing to do, and I'd be less of a woman if I let them sleep on the street." A man protects the innocent because he thinks "this is the virtuous, manly thing to do, and I'd be less of a man if I let those orcs get through the pass and to the halfling village." Of course, some people are just naturally good, decent people who do these things regardless of the value system they putatively hold, but insofar as the value system instructs people on what to do, it's often in very gendered terms.

Does it seem possible that this could be a truly good (if not very well thought-out or rational) value system, or do you think it would rapidly and inevitably degenerate into abuse, degradation, and misogyny?

I think it could *easily* be a truly good value system, so long as it does not consider these good qualities the exclusive property of one gender or another.

I am sure a number of men in history did the right thing when it was hard in part because that is how they felt a man should act. I am sure historical chivalry is a real-life institution built on this concept.

I am sure that 90% of the men who give their seats up for women on the bus or train (including myself) are not doing it to somehow oppress women or because they think women are somehow lesser and need to be coddled, they are doing it out of a wish to be courteous and kind - and consider giving their seat up for a woman to be courteous and kind in context.

Noblesse Oblige is classist views being the motive for good behaviour. Nobility obliges. As one born to wealth and privilege, a noble is to show care for the less fortunate and to use one's position of power for the good of society.

Racial supremacist views could easily be the motive for good behaviour. If someone sees their race as the 'master race' then kindness and honesty could easily be seen as part of how a 'good X behaves'. I'm sure that patriotism would provide examples of this.
I am sure that 90% of the men who give their seats up for women on the bus or train (including myself) are not doing it to somehow oppress women or because they think women are somehow lesser and need to be coddled, they are doing it out of a wish to be courteous and kind - and consider giving their seat up for a woman to be courteous and kind in context.

The oppression is just a side effect. :P
I've never seen the belief that men and women are very different to be sexism, nor do I believe the subject to be linked to morality. What's sexist is (as has happened in real world history) where one sex is believed to be more virtuous and/or more valuable than the other. In fact, it's common sense that there are noticeable differences when looking at populations as a whole, both in terms of physical and cognitive aptitudes. Examples like autism being 5 times more common in boys than in girls virtually prove that some "fundamental" difference exists (although as everyone I'm sure is aware, there are never absolutes).

But the main thing you seem to be talking about relates to personality traits, which for the most part are assigned to gender only through acculturation. Women have in the past been beholden to virtues like kindness and compassion where these days any gender difference in those traits is pretty marginal. In some belief structures, opposite-convention gender norms exist, where judgment and wrath are considered more feminine, where mercy and forgiveness are more masculine (note in this context that judgment is not seen as being morally inferior to mercy).

To answer your question though, I don't link gender separations in society to moral outlook. It all depends on the overall attitudes about the worth of others as human beings. However, significant amounts of pressure toward others to conform to gender roles is a manifestation of meddlesome control, which can easily become fascism. And, I think we can all agree that fascism is bad.
there are never absolutes.

Sorry, but I couldn't resist pointing out those few words... Never any absolutes? Never ever? :P
Reality is a reference point, not a limitation.
As I understand the argument, it's not so much about a 'right' set of ethics as about whether or not someone has internalized and adopted the ethics as their own beliefs.

To put it another way, someone who is ethical will behave according to their ethics regardless of the situation. Someone who merely behaves ethically will change their 'ethics' to suit whatever situation they're in.

Try this way: Is a dog trained to help fireman acting in a moral or ethical way when it's saving lives? It doesn't understand the consequences, or even how much it's risking it's life, it's just following it's training. So the dog is behaving in a 'good' way, but is the dog itself 'good'?

But yeah, this is pretty abstract in general, especially as it's really hard to figure out a persons motivations and private thoughts, and much easier to observe their behavior.

You can make the argument that everything that anybody does is selfishly motivated. It maybe be a bit pessimistic, but I often feel like even the best people in the world are motivated solely by the desire for others to see their benevolence and respect it.

In this case, ethics are just a part of self-awareness..behavior based on firm understanding of who one is vs. who they wish to be, which is why morally ambivalent people are often also very immature. Similarly, people without much ability to be introspective are often not ethically bound.
Sorry, but I couldn't resist pointing out those few words... Never any absolutes? Never ever? :P

Of course, it's the one *absolute* truth of the universe

The only thing I know is that I know nothing.