Gender and Clan, Part One:
The Camarilla Clans
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This article was unashamedly inspired by the revised Clanbooks that White Wolf has recently put out. Now, I thought they were terrific books: clear, concise, well written, with tons of useful information about what it means to be a member of a particular clan. Or at least I thought so until I turned to the last section of the book, the one with the character archetypes in it. Looking through the sample characters they provide, I found them all to be interesting and relatively well-developed, given the limitations of space, but after going through one Clanbook after another I started wondering where the female characters were.
As an experiment, I acquired all the Clanbooks, and I counted. In all of the Camarilla Clanbooks, there were either three or four female characters, out of ten: less than half of the people depicted, across the board. Now, last I checked, White Wolf had a thriving female audience, so they can't be that desperate to appeal to the teenage boys out there who are threatened by the existence of female characters. Similarly, I have to assume that while the World of Darkness may condone and even encourage sex discrimination, the good people at White Wolf realize the difference between our world and the World of Darkness.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that I think every clan should be an exact representation of the demographics of the real world. In fact, given the highly different nature of all the clans, I find it extremely unlikely. Similarly, I think that gender representation in the various clans would differ over time as well. However, it seems very unlikely to me that every single clan would have the exact same female representation, and that that representation would just happen to be less than the proportion of women in the general population.
This is my own analysis of gender and clan. My general approach is to consider the kind of person the clan would be most attracted to, and then think about what gender such a person is likely to be both historically and in the present day. Naturally, there are many exceptions to these general guidelines, but an exception requires a rule in order to be an exception at all.
Before the Brujah's deterioration (as some would call it), they were a clan of learning and scholarship. Historically, many more men than women had the opportunity to study in the way the Brujah would have appreciated, and so as a simple numbers game, most Brujah Embraced before the Anarch Revolt are likely males. Of course, there are specific times and places where women scholars flourished. In Moorish Spain, women were poets, mathematicians, astronomers, and scholars; in Renaissance Italy an upper class woman was expected to be familiar with the works of the ancients. Even in the Dark Ages, there were isolated nunneries that were beacons of political thought and learning (the Abbess Radegunda, for example, as early as 520). So elder female Brujah are by no means unheard of, but they are a definite minority.
In the modern nights, the Brujah are quite a bit more equal in their bestowal of the Embrace. Their passionate natures mean many of their childer are not consciously chosen. Their commitment to social causes makes them likely to champion the various causes of women -- especially as many women take leadership roles in seeking justice. Of course, there are certain bloodlines of Brujah who retain biases from their mortal lives, and certainly many Brujah look for an aggressive and hostile attitude that is more likely to be found in men than women, so I think that this clan is likely to remain less than 50% female in its modern form.
The ancient Malkavian were seers, madmen, oracles, and fools. During the Roman Empire, the Malkavian ruled as the emissaries of the gods and goddesses -- which required both priests and priestesses, of course. Gender was likely relatively evenly split. However, in the Middle Ages, women were given special status as the harbingers of madness or the Devil when they behaved inappropriately. Even as late as the early twentieth century, madness was seen as the special province of women. (Whether it was Freud's analysis of hysteria -- from the same root as womb -- or the labeling of any frustrated women as neurotic.) Naturally there were male fools, jesters and dwarves that entertained the princes and nobles, as well as visionaries and religious sectarians of both sexes, but elder Malkavian are likely somewhat biased toward being female.
In modern nights, the commercialization of mental illness means that there is no longer a gender stigma attached to insanity, except perhaps the sub-category of eating disorders. This means the clan is likely quite equal in its choices of men and women to fill its ranks. On the other hand, who can ever explain why Malkavian do anything?
The Nosferatu choose the downtrodden and oppressed to fill their ranks. They also look to those who are geniuses at gathering, comprehending and processing information. They are nothing if not practical, and do not allow gender to stand in their way when singling out those who they feel would make good Nosferatu. However, more women than men were historically likely to fulfill their criteria. Women were traditionally the gossips of the village, the ones who knew what happened to everyone and when and why. Additionally, since women were not allowed to own property and were themselves the property of their husbands, they were certainly in even worse shape than their husbands were. For these reasons, elder Nosferatu are quite a bit more likely to be female than male.
Even in modern nights, the same directives likely still move the Nosferatu. While many of women's obvious burdens have lifted, the high rate of poverty among single mothers and the extraordinarily high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence mean that women are still an underclass, and so a natural pool of candidates. Eating disorders and severe self-image issues among modern women also might encourage the Nosferatu to choose more women than men, if only to teach them a lesson. On the other hand, the fragmentation of community caused by the crowding and impersonality of the urban environment means that women no longer have a privileged role as gatherers and distributors of information. Modern Nosferatu are still more likely to be female than male, but there are more men among the younger Nosferatu than among their elders.
The Toreador choose many kinds of individuals, but likely most of their choices fall into one of three groups: artists, who make art of one sort or another; patrons, who critique art and decide what deserves money and recognition; and socialites, whose main distinction is their prowess in the interpersonal realm (transmuted in the modern nights into the queens and kings of media). Until the end of the Renaissance, the Toreador likely chose more women than men. Women were seen as the sole repository of the grace and wit needed to appreciate art and succeed in the social realm, and most art was created for the Church, allowing talented nuns as great scope as their male brethren in the monastery; the male Toreador chosen helped consolidate the clan's hold on the Church. During the Renaissance, however, the male courtier became as important as the female (viz. Castiglione), giving the Toreador some gender latitude in the social realm. Visual and written art was commodified, which excluded women, though the performing arts actually gained in talented women, as women were permitted for the first time to sing and to act. However, Toreador of middling age are still more likely to be male than female, though with true elders the reverse is likely the case.
In modern nights, the pendulum has swung back the other way, at least to some degree. Women have reclaimed a place in the more 'serious' art forms, making up a majority of the students of the visual and written arts, and they continue to take significant roles in the performing arts. Women create and fuel the media machine of celebrity. On the other hand, the obsession with youth and beauty, especially in women, means that women are likely to be taken young or not taken at all, while men have a great deal more flexibility over when and how they are taken. And despite their presence in the arts, women's artistic and media efforts are much less likely to be taken seriously. For that reason, the Toreador are likely quite balanced in the modern nights between male and female neonates, though perhaps with slightly more women.
The Tremere, despite their claims of being a meritocracy, are heavily bound by custom and ritual. The domains of magic, alchemy and sorcery were seen as almost exclusively male ones (women who dared to dabble in the same were far more likely to be labeled mad). Additionally, the burning ambition that is perhaps the most unifying characteristic of the Tremere was encouraged among men in a way that it was not among women, and so elder Tremere are far more likely to be male than female. To give the Warlocks their due, however, they were one of the first clans to deliberately open their doors to any - male or female - with the proper talent and personality.
In the modern nights, the Tremere find gender mostly irrelevant, since it does not serve their larger goals. At the same time, women's interest in the occult has been greatly strengthened through popular culture: whether Wicca, new age mysticism, or meditation, these are all acceptable pursuits for a woman. The 'pink-collar' professions, most of whose practitioners are women, may also encourage the blend of ambition and subservience the Tremere consider ideal. (They are mostly service jobs, but ones with potential for rising through obedience and hard work.) These social factors may offset the fact that there are likely still some elder Tremere who believe women incapable of magical research, and so the Tremere are probably almost equally split between men and women.
The Ventrue are, in convention, the most traditional of all the clans. As is often the case, their reputation is not far wrong. As the lords and nobles of years past, elder Ventrue likely looked to others of their own kind to fill the ranks of the clan. Rulers were almost exclusively male, especially after the formulation of the Salic Law in the 1320s, which prohibited women from ascending to the throne of France and created a precedent in many other countries. Women could not own property, engage in business independently, or hold independent title to nobility. This meant there were few reasons for any Ventrue to even consider embracing a woman, unless she were fortunate enough to be a wealthy, noble, fatherless widow. Therefore, elder Ventrue are almost exclusively male, though a few unusual women likely made their way into the ranks of the clan as well.
The Ventrue clung to their outdated notions of womanhood long into the twentieth century. And who can say they are so wrong when the glass ceiling still prohibits most businesswomen from achieving their dreams, when many countries do not allow women a business or legal voice, when the representation of women in U.S. government is disproportionately low. Ventrue are nothing if not calculating, and men are still a safer bet for their long-term goals. On the other hand, women are making huge advances in many fields: they are now more than 50% of medical school graduates, and likely to soon achieve the same in the law schools, and at least a few women hold enormous business empires. Like the Tremere, many Ventrue also see personal advantage in the socialization of women to be more obedient to superiors. Especially among the less hide-bound Ventrue, women are now slowly being brought into the clan. While the clan in modern nights is the most heavily male of all, women are certainly making slow but steady inroads into the Ventrue population.
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