privilege of the women is the precondition for the equality of the genders"
is a saying of the Shen-Kha‘si.
All the political power and the right to take
decisions which affects the tribe, be it as a whole or the single family,
lies in the hands of the women only. The men have in certain cases a right for
a veto though (see under
Government in the
Shendar entry). With this
privilege however comes the responsibility for the well-being of the whole
tribe, the families, the properties like housing and livestock.
The Shendar society is matrilinear, that means, the lineage and all it implies is preserved through the daughters, but unlike the Sor'inyt women the Shendar women think highly of the men and value the life under one roof.
Being the backbone of the Shendar
society the family is the most important and influential structure in the
Shendar life. It can consist of many
members, up to thirty or more. However, if it gets too big to be still
manageable, it will split up and two new families - with tight connections and
special rules - will form.
The head of every family is always a woman, most times the oldest. She is the one who is the real center of the little community, not only in worldly things, but spiritually at well. So she will perform every simple clerical ritual which is important and necessary in daily life. In her later life she will choose a follower among the women of her family, most times her youngest daughter. However, the female family members have to agree.
Members of such a family are the leading woman, her children, the children of her daughters, all her sisters and brothers, aunts and all who are closely related to her through the female bloodline. Other persons, like her husband or the sexual partners of her daughters are just guests, though they can live for quite a time with the family. Not living within the family and not seen as related seen are the children of her sons or her sisters‘ sons. There is no word for "father" in the Shendar dialect, the husband of the mother is the "mother-man", uncles are only mother-brothers, and aunts mother-sisters etc.
The Shendar men will always work for his family in his family and not for his wife - all what he earns belongs to his blood-relatives. When finished with his daily work he returns to the dome to which his wife belongs. If he dies, his own children are not able to inherit whatever he might have possessed. The only exceptions are weapons, which he is allowed to give to the children of his wife before he dies; his wife is of course member of another family and can't inherit from him, for marriages within a family or another closely related family are forbidden.
Education and Gender-Related Occupations. Children, whether male or female, get all the same education. Nearly every Shendar youth is allowed to learn what is suiting him or her best and every adult is able to do any task regardless of man or woman, but there is a dividing observed due to given circumstances and under the aspect of what is practical. So the men are often looking after the livestock and go trading over long distances, while the women, at least while they are pregnant, breast feed or care for little children stay at home and do the mending and caring for the dome, the kids and doing all the required work there.
If a child desires it deeply, every way is open for it, and there is no social discrimination, if a boy f.e. likes to help tending domes. But normally the teaching of skills vary slightly with the gender. Both genders get a thorough education as skilled fighters, both are instructed in every task to a certain degree, but as soon as higher skills are wanted, the differentiation begins.
So boys prefer a training as an artist with metals, as potter or bard or caravan leader. Tending the livestock is as essential for boys as for girls the caring for very little children. The girls are more often instructed how to build and care for the domes, how to cook, to weave, to sew clothes and to do embroideries.
Privileges. The Shendar women own the domes or up to three domes if it is a big family and what comes with it like carpets, wall decorations, cooking equipment, the toilet and other items used by many. If partly settled down like in Uderza, the houses and the workshops like the pottery or the smithy belong to them as the livestock is theirs. The children are belonging to them. However, these things are owned by all women.
A Shendar has only few things which he or she owns personally. This is all the clothes they have, the personal weapons and armour, some jewellery and luxury articles, equipment which is needed for special craftsmanship like the tools a metal artists needs or the instrument of the bard. Other tools however like those needed to gain the salt or do the fine Uderza pottery are common property.
Richer families allow more personal things, sometimes quite an amount of jewellery, fine weapons or more beautiful clothes than are really needed. A man however will not possess more than he can carry away with his aj, a woman may have up to three aka‘pis for her things additionally, which may include something like a carpet or a special piece of pottery.
Many people throughout Santharia who have heard about the social structures of the Shendar, but never tried to understand it, joke about the poor Shendar men, who are not allowed to vote and to own a herd of cattle nor a house. But if one asks a Shendar man himself, what he thinks about it and if it wouldn‘t be nice to have a farm or a house in the town - or be "master" of a Shendar dome - most will either start to laugh or look at one with a gaze of disbelief. And if he is in a good mood, he might answer: "Why should I give up my freedom to do what I want and live like a woman?"
Freedom. That is what a Shendar man esteems most: His freedom to go where he wants to at the time he prefers. The Shendar men don‘t feel that the women have the better part with owing all the wealth the Shendar possess. In contrary: They are proud of their independence due to the lack of (not so easy movable) possessions as the domes and other things that might hinder their freedom and mobility.
For with ownership comes responsibility, possessions of any kind tie you to the very thing you "own", be it a house or dome, be it your wife. A Shendar man only owns what he needs for clothes, his weapons and his jewellery, apart from some other minor things and enough money to live from for some time. He will never have more than his aj‘nuvic can carry. Shendar men are not poor, because their sexual partners or their families will provide them with what they need or want - they are proud of their men.
Consequences/Advantages. The advantages of such a social structure are many, but the most important is, that everybody has a family he or she belongs to. Every child has a mother or a fixed person it can rely on, boys have their uncles for identification when growing up. If a couple or one of the partner decides, that it is better to end the relation, the child won‘t merely suffer. He is still able to see his true father as often as he wants to - if he is present and not away with the herds or fulfilling any other task - but that can happen to any child.
There are no old people without any relatives and therefore help. If a parent dies, it is always a sad thing for a child, but because the mother never was his only person he or she could trust, there will never be an orphan - and every child is legitimate, because it is the child of the mother and there a no doubts about it. The social net is knitted tightly.
The relation between a woman and a man is mostly a pleasant one. It is easy to part. The woman has just to put the belongings of her husband outside their private room in the dome three days in a row. The man just gives the woman the present back he got from her when they married. But that doesn‘t happen too often, because every man, every woman knows, that they have to be amiable to each other, both are forced to work hard to ensure their relationship.
A man whose wife has parted with him has the option to look if he can find another partner in another family - if that fails, he is always welcome in the family of his mother.
Both genders are allowed to have temporary other sexual partners besides their main relationship.
Information provided by Talia Sturmwind