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Oathbringer Leeds signing ()
#2 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

What's the concept of the safehand?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes. There's a writerly answer and an in-world answer. Which do you want to know?

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Let's do the writer answer.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Writer answer, so. I am fascinated by taboo. I am fascinated by the fact that in Asia you don't show your, the bottom of your foot to people. It's terribly offensive. I am fascinated that in some cultures some parts of the body are shown and others aren't. Things that we would consider vulgar, to other people are not, and vice versa. It just fascinates me as a writer and when I approached the books I was looking for a ways that I could give a feel for a human culture but not one that we have seen before and the safehand grew out of that.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

With covering the safehand for women, how does that affect how left-handed women are treated or perceived?

Brandon Sanderson

Left-handed you are trained- Well it's not a big deal for darkeyes because they wear gloves. Lighteyed women are trained to use the right hand, even if they're left-handed; which does cause some problems, but that's how they are trained.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

I was wondering, in Roshar, if any of the women were left-handed, if that interfered with the safehand? Or do they force them to--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

They force them. It doesn't work for everybody, but at least--I read into this--there are countries where you're not allowed to be, in our world, left-handed. It's not a thing. They just force people to not be left-handed. It works better for some than others...

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

She wanted to know, the safehand, is it always the left hand or is it--

Brandon Sanderson

It is.

Questioner

That's what I thought, she thought it was just the non-dominant hand.

Brandon Sanderson

Nope, it is the-- So it's rough on lefties. But remember, most non-nobles they just wear a glove, so it's not such a big deal for them. It's when you're noble and left handed that you kind of have a problem.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

Safehands: Where did, that-- like why? Is there like a cultural *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson

There is a culture-- Now the actual answer to that is because different cultures have really different mores, and if you go around our world you will find places where, for instance, showing the bottom of your foot-- where the bottom of your foot is offensive, or where showing certain parts of your anatomy is not offensive that it is here. And that is very common, it's part of what it means to be human.

Now if you want to trace back in Rosharan time, there is actually a moment that you can point at and say "this is where it started" and it started right after the Recreance where all these Shardblades and Shardplate were suddenly out there everywhere, and certain people in power wanted to make sure that half the population didn't have access to them, and so they started emphasizing a certain philosophy book that had been written by a woman that said "feminine arts were one-handed, masculine arts were two-handed".

And because of this it became culturally ingrained, which then-- basically it was a misogynistic ploy to keep the women from having the Shardblades, and then in that a certain movement of the women seized writing, and that's when men stopped writing. It's kind of a reciprocation on it. But that's kind of where it went, but it's become much bigger than that, if that makes any sense.

Questioner

What do you do if you safehand is your dominant hand?

Brandon Sanderson

If you are darkeyed it's not a problem, you just wear a glove. If you are lighteyed then you learn to write with your non-dominant hand, which is a problem.

Footnote: The book here is likely Arts and Majesty, referenced in WoR 25
Shadows of Self Lansing signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

The thing about women eating sweeter foods, and how sharp the gender divide was and-- I just found that worldbuilding really interesting, so how do you *inaudible*? 

Brandon Sanderson

So I noticed that a lot of cultures have these really stark gender disparities. And I think in America we don't—like even around the world we still have a lot of them—in America we kind of-- I'm glad we don't because I think it is actual progress to not [have these disparities]. But at the same time that's a really big part of so many different cultures that I wanted to play with that idea.

And I loved in The Wheel of Time how Robert Jordan had the magic word differently [...] and so I was looking for a long time for something I can do that plays with the idea of gender roles, and that's kind of what rose out of it. It actually came from when I was working on the history and the moment when the men kind of seized control of the Shardblades. You know about this?

Questioner

Yeah, I read about it online.

Brandon Sanderson

So that moment I'm like "alright, there's a divergence there. How do they strictly define the gender roles to maintain the power of these weapons?" And I think that's-- and I just kind of built from there.

Questioner

It's really interesting though that women in a way are actually the creative minds-- they're actually not suppressed, but they're *inaudible*.

Brandon Sanderson

It is, right. It's this weird repression where you can't do what you want, but they're actually in many ways the most powerful ones in society, but they're constrained by it.

Questioner

Yeah, they're the ones that are creative because men don't even read because they're not supposed to. I guess that's what's really interesting to me.

Brandon Sanderson

It was sooo much fun to figure some of these things out because it plays with expectations a little bit but also plays into them in really interesting ways.

Shadows of Self release party ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Miscellaneous questions about safehands. So the women are described playing instruments, are they just instruments they can play with one hand?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, often feminine arts are one-handed arts, but you got to remember that one, a lot of the darkeyes will wear a glove instead, and number two, the safehands of some of the more utilitarian dresses are built with something like an oven-mitt glove on them, underneath, so you can grab things and stuff. So Shallan, she can grab her sketchbook with it and draw. But yes, feminine arts are supposed to be one-handed, so they would, y'know, try to play these it would be one-handed.