Saturday, September 10, 2016

Female members as Asha'man or Aes Sedai?

With regard to the question of whether female members are either Asha'man or Aes Sedai, (more accurately, how/why they may be both), I'd like to share with you our thought process behind developing our membership structure.

Extrapolating from the books and comments I'd read from Robert Jordan, its my impression that each of the Towers would continue to handle the training of female and male channelers, separately. And while Aes Sedai and Asha'man might bond, likely with one moving to the other's Tower, they would remain separate groups and keep their respective names. RJ did hint that at some point in the future, both groups return to being Aes Sedai, independent of gender. But, to me, it felt like he meant distant future, not immediately after the Last Battle. So, that was my starting point with trying to figure out how our membership structure would work.

One of my more grandiose ideas was to honor those who had put in the time and effort to become Aes Sedai over at, by allowing them to start here with that rank. Primarily, due to the amount of community involvement it takes to reach the rank. This is still partially the case (read on), but as development became a team effort we realized that this couldn't work exactly as intended.

Very early on, in the [url=]Facebook group[/url], it became clear that there was a demand for female members to actually be Asha'man, instead of Aes Sedai. (Including people that are Aes Sedai on TarValon.Net and other sites.) At the same time I felt, for flavor reasons, that we shouldn't limit ourselves by dispensing with Aes Sedai entirely. (Its a common opinion that many of the bonded Aes Sedai might have returned to The Black Tower to help rebuild the organization, after the Last Battle.)

So, that placed us down the road of having separate paths for members to earn ranks. Including, a third (Tradesman) path for those that didn't want to be either Asha'man or Aes Sedai. (The third path was later tossed out for other reasons.) But, planning ahead to where we have several hundred members, we realized that having multiple rank paths could become a management nightmare. (I've been told it kind of already is, over at Tar Valon, due to similar mechanics.)

Despite the desire to promote quickly and early, the policy for allowing members to join as full Aes Sedai carried with it the "what if" of us having more Aes Sedai than Asha'man in the organization, which would be kind of silly when you consider the books. This also presents a problem with determining where to draw the line with new members joining, and at what rank. Too many Aes Sedai would require all us guys to automatically be full Asha'man, which would dilute the entire concept of earning ranks. (People like to earn things.)

The other thing that totally bothered me about this, with regard to the books, was having Aes Sedai as a rank necessitating having Novice and Accepted as ranks, for new members that chose that path. In the books, The Black Tower lacks both the arch ter'angreal and the Oath Rod, so The Black Tower can't actually raise Aes Sedai.

So, we (primarily [member=2]Ariana Davion[/member] and I) went back-and-forth for a few months trying to come up with a way to work around these problems. Finally, it hit us what we were missing... The Aes Sedai that came to The Black Tower in the books were not granted any special rank or privilege for being one. In that context it's a title, not a rank. (Granted, this is an artifact of Taim's regime, but it helps solve a lot of problems.) Also, despite lacking the means to raise Aes Sedai, there are Aes Sedai at the Black Tower that (conceivably) could train female channelers, in turn making female Asha'man a possibility within the context of the books.

And there you have it. Visitor, Villager, Soldier, Dedicated, and Asha'man are ranks, but Aes Sedai is a title. Those granted the right to use the Aes Sedai title may freely update their forum profile to show it. (Profile tab at the top of the page --> Forum Profile --> enter your title in Custom Title)

This just leaves the one open ended question, that I'd rather not decide on unilaterally. [u]Who gets to be an Aes Sedai?[/u]

In keeping with the "servant of all" aspect from the books, I feel like some form of community involvement should be required. So, Tar Valon members would certainly qualify, and are easy to look up for confirmation of this. But, as [member=4]Braid_Tug[/member] pointed out, in one of our team discussions, we don't want to alienate people from other sites in the process. And, at the same time, allowing anybody to use it (really any title) on a whim wouldn't be fair either. Some qualifier should be necessary.

So what do you all think?

[quote author=Gabriel Kross on September 10, 2016, 11:15:34 PM]
Hmmmm, I mean, there's always the obvious answer. Make Aes Sedai an obtainable title for any female member but make them earn it in a community type capacity, however at the same time for fairness maybe add a warder title or something for guys who want a bit of duality as well so both sides would have to have an equal extra requirement in order to get a special title. YAY FAIRNESS!

Also I had a chuckle at this for reasons that people should know:
(Granted, this is an artifact of Taim's regime, but it helps solve a lot of problems.)

[quote author=Haeva Stone September 11, 2016, 08:48:39 AM]
IMHO (and please understand that I'm not very experienced with how these things work - I'm still trying to figure out what I'm actually supposed to be doing at, there are a few ways to approach it:

1 - Regardless of gender, anybody could apply to be Asha'man OR Aes Sedai; the same level of involvement would be required, but tests or other 'qualifying' mechanisms may be different, but require equal work/dedication. So Soldiers and Novices would be equal, Accepted and Dedicated &c.

2 - Have all male members as Asha'man and all female as Aes Sedai, with the requirements being the same for both. I sense from other posts and comments (including some on FB), however, that this would not be popular.

3 - Have any member at allowed to keep the title of Aes Sedai, and have a test or other qualifier in order to obtain the RANK at the Black Tower (This might be used in conjunction with other options), since they've already done a lot to earn that title. Perhaps if anybody wished to qualify as Asha'man here who held the Aes Sedai rank there, they might similarly 'transfer' or automatically have the Dedicated rank instead of starting from scratch.

4 - What about Warders? After Birgitte and Leilwin, my thought is that female Warders might start to become more common after the Last Battle - perhaps even give the Red Ajah a way around the problems of not having one at all. (I can't remember where I saw it, but there was a suggestion of Gaidar as the title for female Warders). And allow either gender to bond either gender to avoid any problems or objections. Asha'man bonded their wives, didn't they?
I'm not sure how Aes'Sedai and Asha'man bonding each other might work...

These are just ideas. I do apologise if I've misunderstood anything about this. Please let me know if I'm just creating more problems.

[quote author=Illinger Covale'rahien on September 11, 2016, 12:19:58 PM]
[member=34]Haeva Stone[/member] There is no such thing as a bad question here.

So, what I was getting at in the article, mainly applies to #3 on this list.
Having done things to be recognized as an Aes Sedai on other sites is usually a badge of honor for that person, and this site being the "new kid", making people start over just doesn't feel right to me. However, there are a few members in our Facebook group who are Aes Sedai, but would rather identify as an Asha'man. So, this is why we made it a title, not a rank. It may be used optionally, by anyone that meets the criteria (to be determined).

The perception, when we were designing the membership structure was that #1 & #2 would require separate rank paths. While on the surface that may seem most logical, on the back end it will effectively double the work that membership staff will need to do in order to maintain it. (Remember, we're planning ahead here, to where we're a larger group.)

#4 is a little off topic, but still a good point. Bonding is absolutely a thing at The Black Tower; reminds me we forgot to put that drop-down in everybody's forum profile. :) However, Asha'man don't have Warders in the same sense as Aes Sedai do in the books. So, we intentionally left that open to interpretation. If members A and B decide to Bond, with member B being designated as member A's Warder, that's totally up to them. (I'm not opposed to implementing Gaidin/Gaidar as a title either, if people want them.)

[quote author=Ariana Davion on September 11, 2016, 02:03:38 PM]
All excellent thoughts!

One thing that weighed heavy on this was that no two sites are the same. Each one has a different vetting system, or raising system, that would easily lead to some level of inequality.

For example, to become Aes Sedai or Gaidin on you go through not 1 but 3 different approvals through the Hall. (A collection of 2 reps from each Ajah/Company). While an Ajah or Company can't deny you aspiration to their group, the Hall can choose not to allow you to become Aes Sedai or Gaidin. It's not a common thing, but I have seen it done. Raising takes time and 1 contribution and general activity.

Dragonmount is more convoluted in it's system. (And I am more rusty on how it works) You can genuinely be denied into an Ajah if the members decide you don't belong.

And then there are other sites that have their own unique system.

Part of adding that stipulation of crossover is that there is only so much we know about each site and what they consider "Aes Sedai" or 'Gaidin". It is not bad in any way, but at the same time for the level of fairness we want contribution into what the Black Tower stands for. What we want to build as a unique community within the larger WoT community. And naturally "Aes Sedai" fit much better as a title than a rank.

If Aes Sedai was a rank, would we have Ajahs'? Who would lead those Ajah's and would we have an Amyrlin? No. There are a great many sites that have all these things. But Asha'man and M'Haels are much more rare. I think to uphold at least some of the sanctity of the Black Tower we need to keep to the Asha'man structure. Having Aes Sedai as a Title sort of helps get around that in a more painless way.

That isn't stopping people from saying "I'm an Aes Sedai from the Blue Ajah on Dragonmount, and I have come to join the rebel Black Tower. Power to the M'Hael!". I mean, we're not complete assholes about it.

[quote author=Illinger Covale'rahien on September 11, 2016, 03:24:15 PM]
Well said!

One of the concepts we were building on was (at least here in the early stages) to keep to the fast promotion and all inclusive nature of Rand's model for The Black Tower in the books. Granted that model didn't include Aes Sedai at all, but it feels like the direction Logain/Androl might go after the Last Battle. But, at the same time, we want any ranks or titles that are issued to have meaning.

So, yes. If you're already an Aes Sedai at Tar Valon, the last thing I'm going to want to do is make you jump through more hurdles to call yourself one here. (Probably also true for Dragonmount, I'm guessing?)

Really, the only line we might draw is if its a site where the policy is "Hi. I'm an Aes Sedai." Because that would completely devalue the title for anyone we grant it to, same as if we started handing out the Blademaster title (another special one we're allowing for import) to those that haven't won the annual contest at JordanCon.

As for our own system, for folks that want to earn the title internally (if that's even a thing here), I'm going to defer to Arie as our ranking Aes Sedai on that one :) At that point, it's totally her job as Director of Membership. I'm just the figurehead in that scenario.

Also remember, since it's not a rank, you can claim the Aes Sedai title as early as Visitor rank on the day you register. Provided the criteria we've been discussing (whatever they end up being) are met, of course.

[quote author=Gabriel Kross on September 13, 2016, 12:54:14 PM]
I can offer a bit more insight on how the bolded part of the quaote below works when I get home from class. Just so we'll have it for explanative purposes.

[quote author=Arion on September 13, 2016, 06:13:07 PM]
I think that there shouldn’t be female asha’man as this is a concept Rand created for male channelers.

If I understand it right Rand said that an Asha’man was a weapon and he did not care if they died the same way he did when a women was killed even if she was an Aes Sedai. I therefor think that there should be a separate rank for women in the BT equal to Asha’man but not Asha’man.

They could be Aes Sedai and as I understand it being an Aes Sedai wasn’t always about taking the oath on the terangreal so I see no problem with us granting this rank to female members.

I also do not see why women should be required to use the terangreal and not the male once for there was nothing like the Three Oaths in the Black Tower in the books.

We should come up with our own unique way of raising people to the rank of Asha’man and Aes Sedai and at the same time honor the once from other sites with an additional title.

[quote author=Lael Miskeri on September 13, 2016, 06:33:31 PM]
I think I agree with Arion. While the original title of "Aes Sedai" was gender-neutral, in the time since the Breaking it became fully associated with females (because, you know, madness)... so I think that if we want to be giving out titles for Senior Members, Asha'man should be restricted to men. If we don't want to co-opt Aes Sedai from Tar Valon, then maybe we could make Senior female members "Kin" or "Knitting Circle" members, unless they want to carry their title over from TV? Again, I certainly think if someone is a Senior Member at TV (or Dragonmount... I don't know of other significant fan sites) and they don't want to carry the Aes Sedai with them, then we certainly award them Senior Member status here, I just don't know that it should be Asha'man.

I also don't know how TV works. Can men become Aes Sedai over there?

[quote author=Ariana Davion on September 13, 2016, 07:42:19 PM]
I don't think it is wise to alienate women from the Asha'man rank because the book has only men as Asha'men. What the BT stands for is being a Guardian, while Aes Sedai stands more for Servant. Two different philosophies, and many of us (women) DO identify with the Guardian aspect of the Black. Saying no because their biology is different comes off as pretty sexist.

Yes, Men can be Aes Sedai on TarValon.Net.

[quote author=Lael Miskeri on September 13, 2016, 07:46:46 PM]

Thank you for the information about TV. With regards to that, I withdraw my argument! If men at TV can be Aes Sedai, then the reverse also makes sense.

[quote author=Illinger Covale'rahien on September 13, 2016, 08:22:21 PM]
That last part was actually news to me, as well.

But, more to the point, I was going to remind people that Aes Sedai here is only a title, nothing to do with rank. As explained above, this is in line with the books with regard to Aes Sedai at The Black Tower.

Also, there's plenty of titles in the books, some gender neutral, others not. And only a few that we've applied any special meaning to, so far. (Master/Mistess of whatever is for staff, Blademaster and Innkeeper have specific cultural meanings in WoT-fandom, etc.) I'll post something separate about titles in general later.

[quote author=Gabriel Kross on September 13, 2016, 08:36:26 PM]
[quote author=Ariana Davion on September 13, 2016, 07:42:19 PM]
I don't think it is wise to alienate women from the Asha'man rank because the book has only men as Asha'men. What the BT stands for is being a Guardian, while Aes Sedai stands more for Servant. Two different philosophies, and many of us (women) DO identify with the Guardian aspect of the Black. Saying no because their biology is different comes off as pretty sexist.

Yes, Men can be Aes Sedai on TarValon.Net.

^ this just all of this, plus there are many females that actually want to be Asha'men if I understand correctly.

Also to go into what I promissed earlier about clarifying how DM does their raisings atleast on the social side. They have an intro class like thing where you are supposed to participate in a discussion in each of the Ajah and Warder paths no matter what path you feel inclined to. Then after the class you have participation requirements and what not for getting to your tier two, and then declarations. However before you can declare you must apply to your path of choice's leader then the staff of that path will discuss whether they think you'd be a good fit personality wise and whether there are conflicts between the applicant and members/staff of that path. From my experience it was rare to be turned down, but I also feel it has most-likely happened. This is the long version of what was briefly mentioned before, it's kind of convoluted, but it's also kind of logical on a social level. Like I was the leader of one of the warder paths for a good while so I do know first hand how the system is set up.

all that being said I don't think this is a method we should employ, it's too complex and just kind of just not even fitting lore wise.

1 comment:

  1. This discussion may now be moot, as we are moving away from the forum-based structure. But, in addition to being one of the more interesting conversations (indirectly a thought experiment for how the Tower might be structured in the 4th Age), I thought it would be important to preserve in case we need to revisit the topic.



So, I know it has been quiet around here for a bit. I have a post I'm working on, and will hopefully have up this weekend. (Waiting ...