Does anyone else ever think about how strange it is that a galactic community ruled by
a monogendered race
an asexual race organized by matriarchal clans
an egalitarian race that doesn’t care if you’re male or female
supposedly came up with a very human-like misogynistic culture complete with gentlemen’s clubs and sexist comments (but only to Femshep) and rampant objectification of the asari? Like, isn’t it silly that the galaxy’s supposed culturally dominant race doesn’t actually dictate the cultural norms and instead is misunderstood and diminished for being more open about their sexuality? THAT’S NOT HOW CULTURAL IMPERIALISM WORKS GDI.
Asari attitudes towards sex (and most other things) should be the standard in Citadel space… but no, Bioware wanted sexy babes but also didn’t want to give them any actual power, so we get this weird universe with a race that’s simultaneously discriminated against while supposedly dominating in culture and philosophy. How even does that happen.
I’m always fascinated by worldbuilding that’s borked in this way, because it provides such a clear insight into the cultural blindspots of the writer/s, and can thus be used as a springboard for discussing cultural bias as a more general phenomenon.
For instance: in Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax is meant to be incapable of understanding metaphor - everything he says is literal, as is his interpretation of what other people say. But even knowing she’s not a whore, that’s still what he calls Gamora at one point, because casual sexist slurs against women are so culturally normative that the writers didn’t see it as a glitch in the characterisation. Similarly, in Firefly, despite the fact that being a Companion is a highly trained, socially respected profession, Mal still routinely insults Inara by calling her a whore - which, yes, I get that he was opposed to Unification, so there may be some cultural dissonance, but it’s jarring given that he’s shown to have no issues with women, sex or promiscuity otherwise, and especially given that he himself works as a smuggler. He certainly never insults Nandi the same way, or any of her girls. But it’s culturally normative for us, and so it sneaks into a setting where it otherwise makes no sense.
The problem in such instances is, I think, a failure to recognise the interdependence of various social mores: that cultures, whether fictional or real, are living ecosystems. In English, a great deal of our swear words centre around sex, women, genitals and their various confluences, because that’s the stuff we’ve historically considered shameful. But if you’re writing (for instance) a matriarchal, sexually permissive society, English swearing makes no sense: in that context, calling someone a bitch, a slut or a whore isn’t going to make sense. But because it’s an obvious insult to the writer, they don’t stop to think about why that is, and so miss an opportunity for worldbuilding.