Last week, we discussed how language factors into your society. Now we’re going to talk about how rank and gender can play a role. There are many different ways societies deal with these two things. Just look around at the cultures around the world, and you’ll see that. So let’s take a look at some options you have.
Rank based societies can be set up in a lot of different ways. It could be that the society is similar to Asian societies where elders and family authority figures are to be highly respected and obeyed (as a general rule of thumb). Or, perhaps, it is more a caste system like India has. The options vary and can result in a multitude of arrangements.
Once this is decided, of course, it affects all kinds of things about relationships with people. Since we talked about it last week, languages can be affected by rank. Some languages, like Japanese, use honorifics or have more formal versions of the same word to indicate great respect for those high above you in rank. This also can be done in a variety of ways, such as using prefixes or suffixes on names or using polite tenses. These are just a few options.
In the end, rank-based societies will focus entirely on whatever hierarchy has been set into place, and their rules will tend to center on it too. Many things end up being affected, so you have to consider how rank might affect your society if you choose this option.
On this one, it isn’t so much rank as it is which gender one is that determines honor, privilege, and part in society. This might manifest in a manner both patriarchal or matriarchal. Or, perhaps there is no organized patriarch or matriarch structure, but perhaps instead women and men have gender-specific roles and don’t step out of them.
This really doesn’t even have to be applied solely to those societies where one of the sexes is suppressed or mistreated, though it certainly could be the case. It may also apply to societies where men and women are equal but simply have different roles to play and things that their counterpart is able to do that they cannot, not because they aren’t capable but because it simply isn’t their place or concern. In this way, gender can be a basis for the society without degrading one gender or another.
Some societies may work off a system that mixes gender and rank. These societies may place the two genders into a class of jobs or roles they can play based on gender, give the genders rankings in relation to each other (ie: men outranking women or vice versa), and rank each gender against others of their own gender within the class of jobs and roles they’re filling (ie: one man outranks another within the government or a woman outranks another woman in a midwife practice.
Rank and gender typically do play some role in society. Even in a society that doesn’t focus on gender, rank does usually come into play because some sort of authority structure must be set up, and that necessitates having some people who have higher rank or authority than others. Taking the time to consider this aspect of your growing society will help to round everything out and give you a concrete idea of how the people in your story will interact with others around them.
Arguably, this is one of the most important things to figure out for your society because it affects your characters directly in how they will relate to people of the opposite sex, superiors, colleagues, and subordinates.
Have another way rank or gender can affect a society in world-building? Feel free to share it in the comments! If you have a question, feel free to leave that in the comments too. I hope this helps you and offers a sound place to start in determining these aspects of your society and culture.