But what would it take to really do this?
Is the fungus enough? Conversely, is it too heavy handed?
I don't know.
I'm imagining a setting where every Disney princess movie is flipped on it's head. Princes are considered weak and need magical intervention before they are able to manifest their destiny and marry the all powerful princess. Petty stepfathers who've been slighted all their life because they are nothing more than eye candy to the powerful female warriors who keep them locked at home...stepfathers who imprison and punish their stepsons, emotionally because they know that a physical beating might kill them, and then they'd suffer the wrath of powerful regenerating women who could wipe the floor with them.
I'm imagining cultures where an inverse of the Islamic stereotype manifests. Powerful women keep a harem of men, not allowing any to injure them because possessing an old man is a symbol of status and prestige...possessing a collection of them from different exotic races is an even better conversation point, and worthy of more prestige. If a woman is powerful enough to protect many helpless men, then she is a worthy leader. If she is unable to land a man for herself, then she is wanting. In some of the "enlightened" lands, men are pushing for their own rights, but this is a difficult struggle because women are the bringers of life, and men can only take it.
Men are considered necessary parasites, groups who have reclaimed their technologies (or magics), and groups who managed to keep them viable, might have methods of artificial insemination, they might even have storage banks of "pure" sperm. Less technologically inclined races might see females drugging males to get them "sex ready" (this might be construed as rape), where a herbal concoction forces and erection and ejaculation to be harvested biologically or mechanically. Those with psychic potential might will a male to "say yes" when asked. Every situation that you've heard regarding non-consensual sex, just reverse the genders... And powerful women say the same things in that setting that powerful men say in ours ("the body has a way to prevent sperm forming if it's really not desired"..."they should think themselves lucky that their seed was chosen out of all the potential candidates").
Similarly, because males are so frail in this setting and females so hardy, men are only ever trained to do simple things around the house, or maybe become courtiers. Women are given the opportunities to hunt, to fight, to perform manual labour, to engage in sports, to become the pivotal figures around whom a community is forged.
Sketch by +MARCIN s, unrelated to this project, but I thought it was awesome and it fit my current thoughts.
Sexism isn't the only thing flipped on it's head here. Cultural and racial stereotypes have been deliberately subverted too. Take for example the "Khar-Tui" who are stereotypically known as a race of scholars. In the cultural description, I called their language "Khar-Tui-Go" (reminiscent of the Japanese language's name for itself, "Nihongo") and said they wore flowing robes embroidered with family symbols (reminiscent of Japanese Kimono). But I like fusing things to avoid falling into stereotype traps, so physiologically I made them black skinned, and made their "pure blood" traits more Elven... I've accidentally almost turned them into a black skinned version of the white skinned "Kiasyd" that I love so much from the Sabbat in Vampire the Masquerade. Almost, but not quite.
The most dominant group in society across the Darkhive are the olive complexioned "Nullans", the pale skinned "Riven" are basically like Valkyries, mercenary warriors with a specific caste in society. The other pale skinned races are the mysterious "Panaho", more attuned to their fungi than the social world around them, and the fiery red headed "Xelani", who have a cultural tendency toward religious fanaticism.
Everything has complexity, and cultures can be mixed and matched far beyond their stereotypes. That what is important in worldbuilding for me...and these are just the basic elements. We haven't even gotten to the truly monstrous elements that lie in wait to devour the unwary, the savage mutants that exist separate to the civilised realms of the Darkhive, the ancient mysteries that may bring dreams or nightmares, or even the special powers that certain characters are capable of manifesting to confront the darkness and change the destiny of those around them.
This is not a grimdark setting, it's a world of hope. But for hope to become poignant, it really needs a darkness for it to shine out from.
Nobody is "just a girl" in this setting...
Nobody is "just a girl" in this setting...