Writing reverse sexism is hard

I recently picked up a bit of Harry Potter fan fiction, the Firebird Trilogy. The premise of the series is that, due to reproductive dynamics, all wizards must marry multiple witches, donating a large portion of their magical power with each marriage. There are ways around the power exchange, but the powers that be have forbidden these techniques.

The society described is said to be sexist against men. It does succeed at that in some regards, but it’s also quite sexist toward women in others. It is an exercise in recognizing privilege to identify the discrepancies.

The actual points of sexism against men portrayed:

  • Men are forced into marriages after a certain age. They have leeway in choosing their spouses much of the time — more than a medieval noble, at least — but .
  • The government is gender segregated. The witches control the Sabbat, which is the ultimate authority. It’s the highest court of the land and has some legislative power.
  • Within a family, men are expected to obey their wives. Within a larger clan or coven, people are expected to obey a particular authority figure who is always a witch, known as the Dame of the coven.
  • A wizard’s first wife must agree to any of his additional marriages.
  • Wizards receive wands that are unsuited to them, limiting their power.

But men are still mostly dominant, and women are still shafted, in many ways.

  • An unbonded wizard is invariably stronger than an unbonded witch.
  • A new clan is created when one wizard creates a family with four or more witches. Witches can’t choose to create a coven on their own without a man.
  • Though the ultimate governmental authority is comprised exclusively of witches, the rest of the government is almost exclusively wizards.
  • Witches compete for wizards’ affections. Wizards do not have to do anything to attract witches, for the most part.
  • Several young witches make claims about certain things happening. They are doubted by an authority figure. One young wizard corroborates their story. He is believed.
  • When a wizard cheats on his spouse(s), he is not held responsible, but the witches involved are, with a death penalty as the maximum punishment.
  • Wizards’ career choices are not limited aside from joining the Sabbat and making wands. Despite a shortage of men, the few wizards around can throw themselves into arbitrary dangerous fields. Witches are forbidden from working at Gringotts.
  • Men are not ornamental. They aren’t told to look pretty or smile for the women who are hunting for men to bond and marry. Formal attire involves showing off cleavage for women and covering everything for men.
  • Lucius Malfoy is portrayed as having personal power. Draco, instead of trying to reference his father’s first wife, issues his standard appeal to his father’s name.
  • One of the stronger punishments available for women is forced sterilization. Equating women to wombs is pretty terrible.
  • The process of reversing sterilization is incredibly painful, essentially using a large magical dildo with no lube.
  • Despite the pain, despite having three sister-wives for procreation, one person chooses that process. She could alternatively asked for her family name to be reinstated, granting that surname to one of her husband’s other children, but I guess family pride isn’t as important as dropping out infants.

And there are probably a lot of other discrepancies I haven’t noticed or have forgotten to mention.

Overall, the story reads like an honest attempt at writing a world that is biased against men, exclusively against men, but written by a man who isn’t terribly observant about sexism. It also seems like an incomplete attempt at envisioning the world. For instance, men are portrayed as protectors of their family — men, who have been bonded several times, each bond transferring their magical power to their wives, until they are nearly squibs. What good can a man do in such a position? A female attacker would dispatch him in moments, and against a male attacker, any of his wives could do a better job of defense.

If there’s a reproduction problem, artificial insemination seems like a much more practical solution than this bonding situation. If the technology didn’t exist, individual bonds seem hard to avoid, but going beyond pairwise requires explicit action from the initial bondees, so one wizard could marry one witch and serve as stud as the government required for any number of unattached witches.

There are references to ways to change the sex of one’s offspring. While it often produced homosexual children, homosexual people in this society were still expected to procreate. As such, whenever there is a shortage of men, it would be sensible for some people to change the sex of some of their children.

Even with multiple wives per wizard, there are plenty of unattached witches. The story discusses why muggle women can only rarely give birth to magical children, but it doesn’t discuss why this surplus of women didn’t go out into the muggle world and find men there to marry or at least have children with. Perhaps most of those children would be squibs, but they would still be magical offspring, increasing the population and giving people kids to raise, since having children seems to be at least 40% of any witch’s motivation at any given moment and an explicit goal of the magical government.

Overall, it’s a somewhat interesting story, but deeply marked by the forms of sexism that many men overlook.

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