L is for Laws

Time to get a little serious here.

Most people with a job title that includes “anthropologist” are in some kind of academic or research position. They study. Most importantly, they don’t change or necessarily advocate for change.

You might see where this is going…

Everyone has laws they don’t like–how many drivers here always go the speed limit? We may even have laws in our country that we despise or actively oppress us or others (that we may or may not fight against with varying degrees of success).

But most people are accustomed to their home laws and derive a sense of normalcy from them, even if they are unjust.

So when an anthropologist goes somewhere with laws (or social customs, which may be as rigidly followed) that are both foreign and unjust, the effect is more dramatic.

There is no adult content warning on this blog for the A to Z Challenge so most of the law examples we had in school don’t actually work. The world is full of injustice.

My point is that anthropologists who go to study cultures with laws and customs they are not accustomed to and find unjust aren’t there to change anything. They aren’t there to “fix” the culture and, even if they were, those changes rarely stick.

It’s the same with worldbuilding. Unjust laws on the books may help drive conflict but if you build a world that is completely without laws you would find irksome, perhaps you’re thinking too much like the majority. Who do your laws subtly oppress? Who don’t they? If you don’t have any such rules, lawful or otherwise, why not?

Feel free to get inspiration from existing legal code. Who can and can’t marry? What are the reproductive rights? Does affirmative action exist? Why or why not? How do taxes affect the rich? The poor? Injustice permeates every society–based on race, orientation, religion, gender, age, income, class, etc. Every story relies on some injustice, but layering your world with the subtle oppressions that exist around us all the time will make your world more relatable and real.

Does your world make you uncomfortable? I think it should, even if just a little.

Author: V. Kane

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is ANATHEMA, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @ValkyrieWriting or Instagram at books_and_dogs

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