A little context: According to the beliefs of that religion, a woman sent by God guided humanity from a distant place to the world in which they live today. This woman known as The Lady, taught them to use a resource present in the air that allows people to use magic.She told them it was a gift from God to humans. She established a philosophy of a responsible use of that gift to preserve the planet and give a prosperous future to humanity. That philosophy was later transformed into the religion called Ladyism. It became popular and a religious organization called The Order arose, with great influence in the governments of the whole world.

Ladyism is currently spread in all the societies of the world and in its popular culture. To speak ill of The Lady or make fun of her is considered blasphemy and is disapproved by most people and is even legally condemned. Therefore the figure of the Lady is in high esteem and respect.

My main doubt is that it would so much affect a female religious figure in the general treatment of ordinary human women. There are several factors to keep in mind:

• As in the real world, men are attracted to the female body in a sexual way.

• The difference in physical strength between both sexes is not determinant due to the use of magic. Women and men can use it in the same way, so in a combat they are equal.

• Culturally it is said that women should be strong and spiritual, worthy of The Lady.

• The leader of The Order is always a woman.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Because you have magic and divine intervention, the real answer is "anything goes." However, you may want to ask a related question on Writers.SE. How to introduce lots of pro-women sexism without confusing the readers who are used to very different social norms. For example, the way a "strong spiritual woman" would behave in the real world, where women are stereotyped as not strong, would look quite different from a "strong spiritual woman" operating within a culture that inherently accepts them and doesn't try to tear them down. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 20:32
  • 79
    $\begingroup$ Can there be racism when the messia is middle-eastern? Can there be antisemitism when said messia was a Jewish rabbi? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 20:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If being sexist provides a mechanistic benefit, regardless of the 'average' or 'extolled' values of the society you will see sexism, often disguised or made fuzzy so as to avoid direct criticism. Compare this to Christianity, where charity is held up as a virtue and greed a sin, and yet in most Christian societies the former is rare and the latter is quite prevalent. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:59
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ You only need to look at something like Catholicism which venerates the Virgin Mary but has a pretty horrendous track record when it comes to the treatment of women throughout history. $\endgroup$
    – Dancrumb
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 0:52
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ You might want to look at the history of ancient Greek religion - plenty of femaie gods, some with priestesses that were hard to distinguish from "sex workers". $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 0:55

6 Answers 6


In a word, YES. Because gender is complicated, and culture is like an onion -- just peel back the skin, and you'll find a series of smelly layers.

Let's start here: At least one study has indicated that men who display benevolent sexism, or well-intentioned attitudes that still promote inequality, are also more likely to be outright misogynistic in other contexts. It's a pretty simple mechanism once you think about it; the higher you elevate the feminine ideal, the more obviously all of the real women around you fall short. The more you think women need you to love and extoll them, the more you probably think they need you period.

The best historical example of this is the Victorians. They were ruled by a queen, idealized the mother as protector of the home, took every chance to praise woman as man's spiritual guide and superior, and were morbidly obsessed with the problem of rising prostitution. (The famous Liberal prime minister William Gladstone used to try to save prostitutes he met on the street. On the days he felt tempted by them he drew a little whip in his diary, and flagellated himself.)

The same social order was also deeply repressive. The law deprived women of inherited property, doctors opined quite seriously that education was dangerous to their health, and novelists like Dickens and Stoker punished and killed otherwise sympathetic female characters that strayed from the chaste ideal.

Women became, in effect, too good for the world. It was the duty of men to protect them, and that also meant controlling them. Significantly, this control was often enforced by women on women, through conservative and carefully limited education. It was also enabled by those women who did attain real power. Queen Victoria herself did not find it contradictory to mourn the loss of absolute monarchy in one letter, while raging against the suffrage movement in another.

There are many other historical examples to draw on. Consider the Spanish, who venerated the Virgin Mary even as they burned witches. Or the medieval knights who developed a whole culture of courtly love and poetry, but also assumed to a man that rapine, like plunder, was a right that could be won in battle.

So if you want to create a sexist culture, I suspect all of that is the key basic tension to play with: Woman as ideal vs. women as real. Woman as spiritually superior vs. woman as actually in charge of her own destiny.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Victorian Era was also the genesis of Women's Liberation (Carry Nation, the Suffragette Movement, etc) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:36
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Note that the notion of "Chivalry" we understand today was developed ex post facto, and used to assert a particular version of history that didn't really exist: certainly the notion that it existed in the sixth century (Arthur Pendragon) in the same form that it existed in 1600s when it was codified is ridiculous on it's face. Rather, it is a good example of the whitewashing of a culture that was deeply repressive as something that was egalitarian. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:53
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @NathanielFord: No worries, I agree your point is an important one -- and the hypocrisies of the after-the-fact idealization of chivalry is itself very relevant to OP's question. $\endgroup$
    – Random
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:54
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Witch-burning was a northern european issue, since witches are part of the celtic tradition. The spanish inquisition, for all its dreaded fame, only burnt witches once in his whole history (the Zugarramurdi process). Spanish inquisitors didn't believe in witches, so in nearly all of the cases the witches were aquitted. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with everything in your comment (+1). $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 7:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft: Ah, @#$%. You're totally right. XD I'm sure I knew that at one point, but I've been watching so much Wolf Hall I guess burnings are on my mind. $\endgroup$
    – Random
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 9:58

The female saviour figure won't make a difference.
Just think of the various examples in earth history:

  • Guan-Yin is arguably the most popular figure in Chinese Buddhism, and is portrayed as a woman. Some female deities are also central to Daoism, and there are many "Mother Goddess" type cults in Chinese history, where total commitment to a female deity was central. Female human heroes were also commonly revered. And yet imperial Chinese society was sexist to the point that a honorable woman was expected to never leave the house.
  • The Egypt-based cult of Isis was widespread in late antiquity throughout the Europe-Mediterranean region, including in the very patriarchal societies of Greece and Rome. Rome also held the virgins of Vesta (female devotees to a female deity) to be of central importance to their existence as a city, but that did not raise the position of women in general.
  • The imperial house of Japan claims descent from the female deity Amaterasu, and yet the emperor must be male to this day and society as a whole is relatively sexist.
  • Both Christianity and Islam have central, important female figures like the Virgin Mary and the prophet Muhammad's daughters. They're still patriarchal religions.

What will destroy the patriarchy in your story is magic as a game-changer between men and women. Historically, patriarchy exists because women are:

  • Typically physically weaker than men
  • Much more burdened by reproduction
  • Less disposable, because you need them to bear and raise children

If the existence of magic removes the first two points from consideration, I don't see how a patriarchal society and sexism against women would arise in the first place.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How does magic remove the burden of reproduction? Does it make pregnancy faster or remove the need for nursing? $\endgroup$
    – Wtrmute
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ Resurrection magic could remove the third point. $\endgroup$
    – Brilliand
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ What would really remove the third point is if men could be impregnated or generate clones or something like it. $\endgroup$
    – ivbc
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Wtrmute I was thinking that with healing magic the likelihood of being severely incapacitated / disabled or even dying during or after pregnancy would be much lower. So women could fully participate in society all the way through. Taking care of a young baby can be done by male and female parents almost equally, and nursing is not that big of a deal by itself. $\endgroup$
    – user2727
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 7:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ During pregnancy, mothers are restricted in their activities due to the risk of miscarriage if they run around too much. It's the justification for maternity leave. Certainly, making pregnancy safer for the mother (and hopefully for the child, too) would remove the need for quite so many pregnancies, but I think that the woman would still need to go on leave for at least six or so months around the birth. $\endgroup$
    – Wtrmute
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 11:33

Well it's a fantasy world and it's yours. Other people have quite effectively identified the factors that have given men power in society. Here is what I see as making it not relevant to your story:

  1. In a post-industrial space faring society brute strength and aggression have little value.
  2. In this society's pre-history something happened to the earth to inspire humanity to leave. If men screwed it up, why would society at large take the rule of masculinity seriously?
  3. You say that magic takes away a man's physical dominance. That's going to change a lot of psychological dynamics; you get to have fun playing with those dynamics see The Left Hand of Darkness.
  4. The things that would change the life experience of normal women would be the roles of magic, and technocratic post-industrial society.

Historically religion has had little influence on most people's day to day lives, unless they lived in an extremist theocracy like Saudi Arabia or the Islamic State.

Best of luck, have fun world building!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! It would be nice if you could add some more information about The Left Hand of Darkness as I have no idea what you mean with this exactly. And references for that paragraph with religion having only little influence on people would be nice. I always thought religion had a pretty big impact on people in the past. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ Left hand of darkness. By Ursula K. Le Guin. 1969. Wikipedia says it is "the most famous examination of androgyny in science fiction" and that "a major theme of the novel is the effect of sex and gender on culture and society". $\endgroup$ Commented May 16, 2017 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I did not know about that book. I will look for it. $\endgroup$
    – P-Ra
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 4:15

Historical precedent says absolutely

Jesus Christ was Jewish, and so were all of the Twelve Apostles. Yet the religion he founded spread anti-semitism far and wide.


On the Merriam-Webster definition, sexism is "prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex."

In the daily practice it is interpreted or a more wide form, mainly for people rejecting this new aspect of the gender ideology that it tries to make the differences between the sexes blurry. In this sense, sexism often means "that somebody thinks there is a difference between male and female."

Actually, yes, there is a difference. So, most of us are sexist on this practice, while most of us aren't on the Merriam-Webster definition.

It doesn't depend on that there were a female messiah or not.

Note, in some Christian denominations, particularly in the Catholicism, there is no female messiah, but there are female saints. And there is also Jesus' Mother, Mary. Other Christians consider Mary not important, or even as a negative person in the New Testament.

It didn't have any effect of that we are all sexist, except the few people thinking that the also the males can bear children or the females can have a penis.

The situation is more complex if it is about sexism towards women. In this case, we can use a mirror trick: switch the sexes, we get our world (with a male messiah), and look, if it has any effect to the sexism against man.

The answer is that no, it hasn't any effect. The greater direct power of the men in the majority of the history of the christian world was the result of various practical, economical, social reasons and didn't have anything to do with the fact that also Jesus was a man.

In our world, the Messiah is a male, and yes, there is sexism against males, although it is more rare as sexism against females.

  • $\begingroup$ That isn't the definition of sexism. "prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex." (Merriam-Webster). Example, "This job requires lifting heavy boxes, so only men will be hired" is sexist. "This job requires lifting heavy boxes, so only those who can lift x pounds will be hired" is not sexist. There may be women who do qualify, or men who do not. (Likewise, there are men who do not possess penises and women who cannot bear children.) $\endgroup$ Commented May 16, 2017 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ «interpreted or» should that be “in”? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ What Christians consider Mary as not important? And even more important, who considers her as a negative person? I have not heard this before. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ It was a bit difficult to follow the first half of the answer, but I get it after another read through. Good answer, +1, and if it's any consolation I assume the down-votes are in large part the same as for my answer: for not being "politically correct" and acknowledging the truths that many people do not want to hear. Do you mind if I try to edit to make the wording more clear? $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron the importance of Mary varies greatly depending on which Christain denomination you are talking of some such as Catholic Churches view her as the Mother of God and venerate her. Other reject the idea that she is anything other than the biological parent of Jesus and do not pray to her. $\endgroup$
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 23:27

I have received some feedback that I should supply evidence for claims I have made. Since I cannot tell which part of my answer might not be commonly known or understood by others, and this topic is already taboo enough (I don't want to go linking to all sorts of hate terms that exist and hate groups or hate speeches, etc.) I ask that you please let me know what sections might need additional explanation or evidences.

This question seems to imply that sexism is something that humans that share a gender with their religious icon have toward the opposite gender, but that does not seem to be the case in reality.

The answer to your question is "yes," and it's pretty straightforward...

At least in the United States, and I'm guessing in many other areas, the generic phrase "Men are [insert negative adjective here]" is a very common phrase heard from women. In fact, sometimes it even takes the form "All men are..." One common situation where this recurs is when a woman breaks off of a romantic relationship with a man who has just offended her, and either that woman or some other woman consoling her uses that template line. I have heard it said by women even in the presence of myself and other men. It is common enough that it even appears in mainstream media.

Currently there is sexism toward men in a society where the main religion(s) are based on male messiah. Since you want to do a gender swap, just take my previous sentence and swap the genders around:

Currently there is sexism toward men women in a society where the main religion(s) are based on male female messiah.

If there is sexism toward men currently (and there is), then why would there not be sexism toward women if the religious icon were switched?

I will go one further...

There exists bias and bigotry against everyone for practically every aspect of their being and every type of decision they have made in their life.

Protected classes exist for a reason. The Wikipedia article on Protected Group lists some as: race, religion, national origin, age, gender, pregnancy, citizenship, familial status, disability, veteran status, and genetic information. There are also other aspects which people have, but let's concentrate on these first.

I have heard racist remarks made about every race I know of. Caucasian, African, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, etc.. They all have racist hate speech made against them. I used to know a small group of guys who would frequently make awful remarks about Polish people and suffered having to hear racist remarks about them when I was around that group, and I always wondered how you could come to dislike such a random group, but the real reason is probably because hate knows no bounds.

Religion is another obvious one; we all know there is plenty of hatred and bigotry based on religion. There is a ton of it toward Muslims. Jews are another obvious religious group that receives a lot of bigoted hatred from others. I have heard plenty of it toward Christians too.

National origin is closely related to race, and I could repeat that paragraph almost verbatim.

When I was young, I was often offended by the bigotry based on age: "butt out and let the grown ups talk" or "I won't have that conversation with you until you are an adult" (this often happens even to those in their mid teens), and obviously the elderly get a lot of it as well.

Gender goes without saying. Almost everyone acknowledges the sexism against women, and most people acknowledge the comparatively less but still very real sexism toward men. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "Men are [insert negative adjective here]" I could afford to put this answer on a billboard.

Wow, I'm not even halfway through that list of protected classes and this is getting long, even though that list is not even an exhaustive list of ways people can be bigoted.

The point is that for almost every distinguishing quality or aspect a person can have, for almost every different value that quality can be, there are groups of people who hate it.

I'll add some more things people often hate over: sexual orientation, abortion, gun rights, government taxation decisions, and the list goes on.

Personally, I am Caucasian, so there are millions of people who will hate me for that on first sight, ditto for being male. Millions more would hate me for being Christian, ditto for hating abortion (as I hold the right to be alive in very high regard), and again for supporting gun rights (again, for holding right to be alive in very high regard). If everyone in the world read this answer right now, I would have millions of people who hate me when they have not even met me and have no idea what kind of person I am. Unfortunately for me, I do not hide any of this from people and so I have a lot of people who have hated me without ever getting to know me.

If there is anything you can count on when it comes to people, it is that they are very good at hating. I challenge everyone who reads this answer to think about all the different values for each thing I have listed above and to see if you don't have hate toward a general class of people over some aspect or decision. Though we commonly think of race and gender, I think you will find even more haters, likely including yourself, if you think about different options (for or against) of sexual orientation, abortion, or gun control.

The point is, yes, there will be sexism toward women in the setting you describe, because there is bigotry by almost everyone and against almost everything.

  • $\begingroup$ Extraordinary statements require extraordinary evidences, that you didn't provide. Lacking those, downvotes are justified. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch 1) Looking at other answers on WB provides plenty of counter-examples to that (possibly more counter than pro), 2) Lots of claims I made do have evidences within the answer; anecdotal evidence is evidence (saying "it happened to me" is evidence), 3) lots of what I said is common knowledge. I think the fact that there are literally laws protecting people against such abuse in certain situations should also be evidence. If any part of what I said truly needs some bit of expanded evidence, by all means point it out please. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch Or, at the very least, please point out which statement of mine is an extraordinary statement, since I am having difficulty finding which statement is extraordinary. If I know what statement(s) you have issue with, and if it is truly objective, then perhaps I can do something about it. Without that, there is nothing I can edit. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ I was just pointing out that downvoters might not have an issue with your statement that there is sexism against men, but rather on the fact that it is not backed up by any evidence. No need to call names on them for that. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch I get that, and I am thankful for feedback even if I disagree with it. I did just edit the answer with a request based on it, as I don't want to turn this into a hub for finding hate groups. Also thank you for being more explicit in this second comment, however it is an odd example since I even gave a specific type of quote which I am sure practically everyone has heard. Is not the "Men are [insert negative adjective here]" trope, which is in the answer, sufficient? "Men are..." It is all over the place all the time. It is sexism against males. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 17:54

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