The Infirmary

Step right up, Flyboy.

You've entered The Infirmary—one of the many craft bastions tucked away within the framework of the rider's weyr, with traditions and politics all its own.

Their History

The Interval

Ista Weyr’s infirmary operated like any densely populated settlement pre-pass, the healers were set to dealing with everything from birthings and the common cold to the occasional injury and geriatric complaints. As the Pass neared the infirmary at Ista, as well as those in weyrs all over Pern, began hosting an even larger healer contingent in preparation for Threadfall.

The First Fall

Casualties were expected. The old records had been examined, the usual surplus of medical supplies has been readied. They even drilled, practicing deployment and proper conduct in the ground-aid stations so that by the time Thread came again they could run the business of their craft like a well oiled machine.

Their World


Their Culture

It's important to remember that in Pern, the Weyr, the Hall and the Hold are considered autonomous entities. The healers may be stationed at the weyr and work to keep the weyrfolk and riders healthy and safe, but they have their craftmaster off in Healerhall that they also are considered answerable to — their pope in Rome, so to speak.

Due to this system of checks and balances, this separation of Weyr, Hall and Hold, crafters were one of the few exceptions to the island's Isolationist policy during the Long Interval as neither Ista Weyr or Hold had the right to block Hall transfers and policies. Healercraft in particular has high amount of transfers presently working at the weyr, especially since the Infirmary was required to transition to a full Pass compliment of professionals once Fall began. Tannercraft, on the other hand, tends to have a low amount of foreign workmen as they can generally source the likely lads they need out of the lower caverns and train them locally. In general, crafters tend to be the children of crafters, following their parent into the trade. After all, crafters are notoriously zealous of their tradesecrets and naturally would rather pass on their knowledge — and rank and privilege — to their own children, rather than some stranger's.

Slang

Healers Purps, Purples, Purple Pounces
Apprentice ‘Prentiss, ‘Prentice, Boy, Reds, Pinks
Latter two are generally in-craft terms.
Journeyman “JM,” Jayem (ex. Jayem Dudebro), Healer
A polite way to address a full Healer since ‘journeyman’ is a mouthful.
Plain 'Healer Dudebro' is also perfectly acceptable as journeymen are considered full healers.
Journeyman, Junior Jayge, “JR,” “JJ,” Jayjay
Latter three terms are NOT really a polite way to address a JMJR. Used to make a point usually.
Journeyman, Senior “JS,” Jayess
Polite way to address a senior jayem. (Jayess Dudebro)

Apprenticing

  • Very serious in this craft, big investment on both sides
  • Probably second most craft-teaching songs, after harpers
    • LOTS of oral tradition to commit to memory.
    • Just because you can sing your list of symptoms. and treatments doesn’t mean you can sing it WELL
      • But many are functional singers due to Pern’s focus on oral teachings.
  • Wear a redder purple until they walk the tables.
    • “To hide the blood better. Haha.”
    • “See me after you get the Pink out of your robes, boy!”

Walking-the-Weyr/Hold

  • As far as Ward space goes, the Weyr Infirmary’s priority is the riders. To keep their beds open for Fall casualties (and to do their jobs) they do a great deal of outpatient care. Walking-the-Weyr refers to making house calls around the weyr.
  • It includes both Follow-Up care, checking in on former/current patients; as well as Preventative care, checking in on the various cavern branches with particular attention to the young and the elderly.
  • This is a daily duty. ALL professionals take part on rotation and multiple members will be out Walking on the same day due to the size of the Weyr.

Specializing

  • Get two steps forward in one field, Two steps back in general practice
  • They ALL went through the general training, enough to be the local village doctors, enough to ‘theoretically’ treat Thread. ALL the ones who get weyr assignments have to be able to do trauma and violent injury to some extent.
    • During Fall it becomes ALL-HANDS-ON-DECK!

State of Medicine

  • NOT THE BEST
  • A lot of undiagnosed illness
    • Sometimes all you can do is treat the symptoms
    • A lot of stories of “that one weird case”
    • They aren’t bad at their job— they just can’t know everything
    • No WebMD
  • Some BAD, but commonly held, advice and folk remedies. Doesn't mean the healer is bad at all.

Weyr vs Hold Healing

  • Warfront vs Homefront medicine
    • Even the healers on the holdside have to learn how to treat thread injuries and whatnot so they can patch up the hold’s ground crews and incidental accidents.
    • Even the healers on the weyrside have to deal with the common cold and childhood complaints. It’s still basically a large village/city.

Healer & Rider Relations

Here's the deal: Not only is Healercraft one of the most foreigner heavy crafts of the Weyr, but anywhere else on Pern the healer (and harper) of a hold can expect to be to be an important figure in local society. They assist at birthing beds and death beds, tend minor colds and grievous wounds and, in general, are privy to a world of knowledge that the average layman can't begin to fathom.

Anywhere else on Pern, they are treated with with respect and even awe.

At the Weyr, the lion's share of awe is culturally reserved for dragonriders. The Weyr's very existence revolves around supporting this great big beasts and their chosen, feeding them, equipping them, comforting them. Working at a Weyr is a very different environment for your average healer than a Hold assignment. Some healers resent this social hierarchy, others embrace their place in Weyr service.

Food for thought.

Craft Rivalries

  • Healer & Harper
    • Bit of an traditional craft rivalry, both old, respected crafts
    • Both craft capitols operate out of Fort Hold— cheek to jowl with each other.
    • “Hey, blueboy. This man lost an arm, why don’t you sing him better?”
  • Healer & Dragonhealer
    • Often working side by side.
    • Dragonhealers are much more likely to be weyrborn so there's a cultural difference.
    • Healers are much more likely to be hold or hallborn and transferred in.
    • Despite some general similarities as medical practitioners, their patients are vastly different. In general, dragons are far more robust than humans.
    • A popular joke: "What's the difference between a dragonhealer and a beastcrafter?"
      • A popular answer: "Beats me!"
  • Healers & Other Crafts
    • Let's face it— Healing is one of the snobby crafts.
    • It's undeniably a Hallcraft, not a Holdcraft.
      • Like Harpering, Healing is not something that the general layman will bother with out on his holding. While he surely knows a bit of carpentry (woodcraft), tailoring (weavercraft) and smithing (smithcraft), and certainly knows a deal of farming (farmcraft) and animal husbandry (beastcraft), the vagaries of medicine and law are generally left up to the hall professionals that get sent out to holds across Pern on assignment.

Sexism Within the Infirmary

Here’s the thing:

Sexism is not a concept that exists solely between Hold notions of wives/childbearers and Weyr independent “loose” women.

It does not exist as a construct somehow independent of everything else.

It pervades everything, including the crafts… maybe even especially the crafts.

Remember our analogy from the Character Creation Guide that likened female riders on Pern to female soldiers and police officers on modern Earth? Consider now modern Earth, and how, even today, male CEOs, male scientists, and male doctors vastly outnumber their female counterparts. Even though all of these occupations are technically just as open to women as they are to men, women are less likely to seek to excel in those areas, and then more likely to encounter opposition and subtle (or not-so-subtle) barriers along their way if they do decide to pursue such a career.

Think, then, of how much worse the problem is likely to be on agrarian Pern.

It’s canon that female dragonriders fell out of favor fairly early on during Pernese history, because women were valued amongst the holders more for their value as marriage alliances (aka land grabs) and childbearers. And at least twice in Pernese history the population suffered a devastating blow due to illness that wiped out entire holdings, and repopulation became a very real, very tangible, issue. The very survival of the Pernese colony — though they may have no longer remembered that they were a colony — depended on women performing a very specific role, which brought with it an entire mythos of justifications, assumptions, and “truths” linked to that role. In short, as Pernese society became more and more agrarian and the need for wives and mothers became more and more vital, then any merits a woman might have outside those required for her accepted role — any qualities that might somehow make her suited for some other role — became unrecognized at best, undesirable more often than not, and downright offensive at worst.

And the most liberal places on Pern — the Weyrs — also absorbed this attitude… so strongly, in fact, that they either stopped allowing their own women on the Sands even though women had previously been considered the favored partners for green dragons, or the women themselves just stopped putting themselves forward, which is an even stronger indication of the internalization of these values. Even the Weyrs accepted this view of women so readily that, by the Sixth Pass at the very latest, they had actually forgotten that women had ever been, or could be, greenriders at all!

And that’s the more liberal weyrfolk. Think about it: if we accept, as our canon, that holdfolk tend to have even more conservative views on the place of women in society, why should crafters, who primarily come from holds themselves, view things any differently?

Healing is not necessarily considered a “nurturing” profession on Pern. It is, at it is practiced at a professional level, very much a Hall craft — that is, not something that your average Pernese at your average Hold can do, or has the knowledge to practice or the time to spare to learn. There are certainly home remedies and locals who know a thing or two about herbs and basic care, but that’s a far cry from what a trained healer does. And the craft does not produce goods, like most crafts. The Healercraft is a craft of knowledge, of scholarship, of intangible things put to practical use… and it is also a craft of the taboo, because of the Pernese aversion to invasive procedure. Even healers who do not perform such procedures must have knowledge of the inner workings of the human body on some level — knowledge which your average Pernese would find distasteful.

So what qualities are beneficial for healers?

Intelligence. Healers have the longest apprenticeship among the crafts for a reason. They have to study vast amounts of text, understand the workings of systems that they rarely get to see, understand and retain knowledge, and be able to recall it reliably at the drop of a hat in an emergency situation.

Women are not considered to be as intelligent as men. They do not need to be — their role is not to be in charge of anything more complicated than their own kitchens and their own children. Their role is to obey, not to question, because the survival of the hold depends upon the existence of a clear order to things.

Logic. A healer needs to be able to observe symptoms, which may vary widely between patients, and consider setting and circumstance, and consult with his own knowledge base to determine what a patient is suffering from, and the best course of treatment. The wrong decision may mean the difference between life and death. He also needs to be able to make difficult decisions — removing a limb to save the body, quarantining the few (himself included) to save the many.

Women are not considered logical. Women are emotional.

Steady nerves. A healer can’t be distracted at a critical moment, or swayed by panicking patients or upset relatives. A healer can’t crack under pressure, whether from outside or from his own conscience. He has to be able to keep a clear head even when those around him are losing theirs, or when he has to inflict pain upon his own patient in order to see them healed.

Women are not considered steady. Women are flighty and unreliable.

A strong stomach. Even healers who refuse to perform invasive surgery have no choice but to deal with some disturbing, revolting things. Many Pernese wouldn’t bat an eye at skinning or gutting an animal, true, but it’s different when it’s a human being — maybe a friend or relative. Healers will be vomited on, spit on, shit on, pissed on, pused on, and bled on. They’ll undoubtedly see traumatic injury from time to time even in the sleepiest of holds — twisted bodies, broken limbs, animal maulings, gouged eyes, punctured abdomens, and any one of a thousand other gruesome accidents that can and do happen in perfectly normal settings. They’ll treat rashes and lesions on the private parts of complete strangers. They will touch corpses — they will arrive on-scene to find someone already dead or, sometimes, they’ll have their hands on (or in) someone when they die. They have to constantly be in the personal space of their patients, which comes with its own curiosities… and dangers.

Women are not perceived to handle disgusting things well. Women have weak constitutions, and are easily upset or frightened. Women should not see such disturbing things — they are not made for it.

These are the notions, the perceptions, that are working against women who are considering going into healing… and these are really only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s important to remember that these are not just notions that are inflicted upon women by men, too. Most women were raised believing these things, surrounded by them from birth, too, and so they also believe these things about themselves.

A woman who chooses to become a healer is definitely stepping outside the role that society expects of her, and stepping outside the role that she may expect of herself. It would be very rare that the random daughter of a holder would decide to pursue a healer apprenticeship, even if such a thing is available where she lives. It’s somewhat more likely that a girl raised within the craft, with a healer parent, may make that choice, but even within the craft it’s still unusual, and is still an uphill battle.

Because women are considered less intelligent, everything she does that is anything less than perfect would be considered an expected failure due to her gender. Things that might be dismissed, in a male apprentice, as “not applying himself” or “not paying attention to the lecture”, would be more likely to be chalked up to “inability to comprehend the subject matter” in a female apprentice. And if she performs perfectly, then it’s more likely to be dismissed as a fluke, or worse — as something her looks, or acts, have seduced out of her instructor.

In fact, the ghost of sluttery will follow her for her entire career. There will always be accusations — whispered or otherwise — that she only got where she is because she worked her womanly charms on someone in authority, because that’s easier for a person to believe than admitting that she achieved something they either could not achieve, or that she is just as special as they are for achieving something that they did achieve themselves. Every word she says, every look she gives, could be misconstrued. Friendships will be hard to find, because most of her colleagues are male, and the Pernese do not live in a world where men and women easily inhabit the same social sphere. Most of the women around her are the wives of her fellow crafters, who may well resent her for “stepping out of her place”, for pursuing something that inherently places her above them professionally and socially. She won’t find many friends there, either.

Male patients will not take her seriously, because they have not been taught to take women as authority figures for the most part. Female patients will not take her seriously, because they haven’t been taught to perceive women as learned authorities, either. She will not find herself promoted as easily, if at all. People will be more critical of her management style, her dress, her mannerisms, and anything else that causes dissonance between what they expect of a woman, and what she actually is.

And what of Ista’s Infirmary, specifically?

Braughan, and Rance, and any potential characters like them, provide the most obvious, most direct obstacles. This is the sort of sexism that people easily and readily recognize on an OOC level as well as an IC level — the mistrust of female colleagues, the direct questioning of their knowledge and qualifications, the outright accusations of incompetence and favor-whoring, the loud joking-but-not-joking assertions that women should bring them a sandwich or settle down and pop out some babies. Braughan’s reasons for believing as he does are both very simple and very complex, and even he doesn’t really understand that there is a reason for it — he only knows that he knows what he knows, and that’s that, that’s the gospel truth. The motivations don’t really matter to a potential female healer (or the writer of a potential female healer) at Ista: what does matter is that his beliefs are so absolute, so stubbornly held, that logic plays no part in how he expresses them. He will accuse a woman of sluttery and frigidity within the same breath, and never admit to a lapse in reasoning. He will single out the work of a single female apprentice to declare it trash in front of the entire class, even if some of the boys performed even less favorably. He will nitpick her work to pieces, send her out of his sight because he doesn’t want to look at her, and then rail about how she doesn’t understand the material from the lecture that he forced her to leave. He will work side-by-side with Sarada to save a patient’s life, and trust her judgment in a critical moment, and express satisfaction in what they’ve achieved together, and then immediately turn around and aggressively challenge every suggestion she makes towards the care of the very next patient. He will declare a woman too delicate for doing a man’s work, and then not hesitate to take his belt just as viciously — if not moreso — to a female apprentice as to a male apprentice. He will jealously protect and defend the virtue of his own wife and daughters, but think nothing of slapping the ass of a fine young aide when he sends her on her way to fetch him some klah. There is no logic, there is only very strong feeling, and any woman who comes to work in Ista’s infirmary will not be able to escape his abusive language, accusations, and insinuations, no matter how good or bad they might be at their jobs. He is a senior staff member, head of an essential and elite department within the Weyr Infirmary during a Pass, and though the worst he can do is make life very uncomfortable for her and everyone else if a female healer joins a different department, there will never be a female surgeon at Ista Weyr so long as Braughan is Head of Surgery, and so long as Master Paskam is Weyrhealer and allows Braughan to have his way.

Which raises the issue of the second, more insidious type of sexism within the Infirmary: the quiet, passive kind.

This is the type of sexism that is harder to easily identify, but exists in almost everyone to varying degrees, and which is even more dangerous in many ways simply because it’s considered so normal and harmless when it actually does great harm. Master Paskam, for instance, is not a man who appears to be sexist at first glance. He has never spoken out against any female healer. He hires them, in fact, and allows them to apprentice. His own two daughters were both very nearly healers themselves, and he even made Sarada a department head even though she was both female and unusually young for such a job, knowing that Braughan would vehemently object, and that it would cause him stress for the foreseeable future. Paskam certainly sees skill and value within his female healers, and even considers at least one of them his friend.

And yet Paskam, and many others, were also raised with this passive, casual sort of sexism as an ever-present backdrop. This is why, though he would never outright accuse a woman of being a slut, he also doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when someone like Braughan does so — even when Braughan is behaving in what could rightfully be considered an unprofessional manner. People like Paskam do not feel the need to make hurtful accusations, or yell about a woman’s place, but they also do not see anything particularly hurtful about such accusations, and may even, on some level, agree with Braughan’s assessment of where a woman really belongs. Paskam values his female healers, but he also considers them exceptions to a rule — very special stand-outs — and does not expect such competence in his craft out of any woman by default. Whether he realizes it or not, he is judging them more harshly, perhaps eyeing the work of the female apprentices — and the qualifications of female transfers — with a more critical eye than he might realize. And any master with a department to run has to weigh the practical risk of taking a female healer on, too, after all: what happens when she decides to settle down and have children? The natural assumption, of course, is that, because she is a woman and marrying and having children is the most natural possible thing, she will, eventually, do so. Paskam views a woman as a riskier investment than a man, both for these reasons, and for others — not the least of which is the harsh reality of healing at a Weyr during the Pass. Women are delicate, after all, and the passive sexist believes this to some extent.

Quiet sexism is everywhere. Someone like Bucnar can recognize Sarada’s knowledge and skill and worth as a healer, and respect her as a professional and as a person, and yet still think she’d be better suited, happier, as a wife and mother, because he honestly believes that women desire the comfort and protection of a man, and crave motherhood on a deep, instinctual level.

This is the type of sexism that will do the heavy lifting for a female healer because he does not believe she’s capable of it, that will call on one of her male colleagues to assist him with a procedure instead of her because he thinks she “shouldn’t have to see this” gruesome thing, that will assume that her anger over something is because someone “hurt her feelings”. This is the type of sexism that is patronization in a chivalrous cloak, that attributes a woman’s genuine concerns to emotional over-reactions, that reduces a woman’s very real professional struggles to a matter of hormones and biological needs and wandering wombs.

Someone like Quennas — even weyrbred Quennas — can be honestly surprised when a female apprentice like Kerya or Dellica aces a pop quiz, simply because he expects so much less of women (without realizing it) that it’s noteworthy when one achieves beyond expectation.

This is the type of sexism that makes people believe they aren’t sexist, because they are giving a woman positive feedback for a job well-done… even though it’s only considered well-done because they’re women, and a man performing at the same level would be taken as a matter of course. This is the type of sexism that makes women believe they aren’t capable of the same levels of performance as men, because what is considered normal and acceptable for a man is considered excelling for a woman, and it’s difficult and exhausting and ultimately self-defeating to feel that you have to excel all the time.

These are the obstacles that would be facing a female healer character at Ista Reforged, and it’s important to keep all of this in mind when considering, or creating, such a character.

Ask yourself:

  • The deck is stacked against women even pursuing this path in the first place — so what made your specific character choose to go against the grain? What made her believe such a career goal not only appropriate to pursue, but something she felt she was capable of pursuing? How did she reconcile pursuing such a craft with what she was likely raised to believe a woman’s place should be?
  • How did she even become a healer to begin with? Someone had to sponsor her, agree to take her on, and not every healer would even consider a female apprentice. And of those who would, they would likely be scrutinizing your character more harshly than if she were a boy. Who was convinced she had the chops for it, and wouldn’t be a waste of time and energy to teach?
  • If she served her apprenticeship at Ista Weyr, what inspired her to do so? What about the environment facing the female healers around her — Sarada, Caistina, Dellica, Kerya, and, to a lesser extent, the female dragonhealers Sudaje, Miritte, and Seinah — made her even consider facing the same? Potentially making Ista’s Infirmary home for the rest of her life? Despite our current PC count, women are realistically vastly outnumbered within the crafts in general — was/is this intimidating?
  • How does she handle the louder complaints? The quieter obstacles? Remember, women are often absolutely sexist against themselves, too, and may not even recognize it for what it is. Does she agree with some of it? Why or why not?

The goal is not to stop writers from playing female healers if they choose to! The goal is simply to lay out some very important considerations for play. Female healers absolutely exist, and are welcome additions to our cast, but they are also somewhat unusual, and it’s important that writers who choose to write one are aware of this fact, and play accordingly. Not every woman is going to want to, or realistically be able to, live and work in such an environment. Put some real thought into why your particular female healer chose this path, how she was able to pursue it, and how it affects her life on a day-to-day basis!

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