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WATERSHIP DOWNTRODDEN

Dreamed 1983/6/22 by Chris Wayan

I'm a rabbit woman dissatisfied by my patriarchal burrow.


I'm a small animal living in a burrow big as a mansion, in a crowded clan. It's patriarchal, ruled by a choleric old alphamale. We follow ancient and revered traditions. We females live in a harem, each going into heat in a staggered pattern. Our alphamale mates with me lustily when I'm in heat--none of us can complain he's neglectful!

And yet, we have quietly organized, for we're dissatisfied... despite the fact that unlike humans, our species is biologically designed for this system--sexual domination excites us females. But we're bored, and want less domination outside of sex. Why should we be secluded by the alphamale? Privately, we want freer access to younger males, though we know we won't get it. But we can get more justice! Why should the alpha decide EVERYTHING? We want NONsexual equality.

So a delegation of us goes to consult the Owls.

They say, "Perhaps you should join a colony elsewhere, or found a new one with younger males willing to learn new rules. Your species has many burrows to the south; their inhabitants are all more egalitarian. You are the last clan upholding all the old traditions. They admire you for it in a perverse way; they say of your Alphamale 'He's the last true Burrower.'"

Even I am proud of this, of our portrait gallery of the unbroken line of alphamales going back to the beginning of recorded history (several paws of generations ago--not long, compared to humans, but we're proud just the same. Our culture isn't borrowed, but burrowed! We dug it all ourselves.)

Yet... despite my pride in our tradition, and the deep biological satisfaction in submitting to my alphamale... I want more. I want change. Too.

A NOTE NEXT DAY

It's true. You can want both. Submissive in sex, assertive outside sex, and one doesn't prove a damn thing about the other. So if what you want seems inconsistent, so you doubt you really want it... stop doubting. You do. You feel what you feel. And what's more, you have a right to feel it guilt-free.

A NOTE YEARS LATER

The title riffs on Watership Down, Richard Adams's fantasy on rabbits trying to found a new warren. I liked the rabbit religion and the rabbit shaman, Fiver; but I disliked the book's sexism. Told myself "Well, but rabbits aren't human." But a fascinating essay by Ursula Le Guin (Cheek by Jowl) exposes how Adams falsifies rabbit behavior; he even repeatedly cites a real study (Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit) that in fact contradicts Adams's portrait. Rabbits aren't patriarchal! My dream was truer than the book.

(see Ursula Le Guin, Cheek by Jowl: talks & essays on how & why fantasy matters, 2009, Aqueduct Press; pp, 79-82)



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