I've been having a few thoughts about the use of "moon tea" in ASoIaF, and why I think Martin hasn't thought the concept through very well. Essentially, moon tea appears to be a reliable abortifacent which can be used at any time in pregnancy. If used early on - i.e., drunk when a woman might
be pregnant - it appears to have few to no side effects, based on Jon's discussion with the wildlings about not wanting to get Ygritte pregnant. Their attitude is essentially "if she wants it, she'll keep it, if she doesn't, it's no trouble to get rid of it". Lysa's experience seems to indicate it's more problematic if used later in pregnancy, but that's what you'd expect with a late-term miscarriage. (It doesn't make any medical sense for her forced abortion to have caused her to miscarry later in life, by the way, unless she was quite far along and it was a traumatic and damaging miscarriage; abortions usually don't cause sterility, though a lot of people seem to feel they should, metaphorically.)
In the real world, though, there was no such reliable and relatively safe chemical abortifacent available to women until very recently. I really don't think Martin has thought through how the availability of contraception and safe abortion has changed women's position in society, and how moon tea would change women's position in Westeros. At a minimum, virginity should be far less prized by nobles - it's not difficult to guarantee your wife isn't coming into the marriage pregnant with someone else's child, which is the basic reason behind the women-must-be-virgins bit. The ability to limit childbearing gives women a massive economic boost - it would decrease the number of women forced to sex work, for starters. Or maybe it's just not that available to most women? But if the wildlings have it, you'd think it would be.
Which brings up another thing that doesn't make sense; we don't see anywhere like enough women who aren't nobles or whores (and the odd innkeeper). If this is a medieval-Europe-style society, there should be women working in all the major trades; powerful septas, as well as septons; at least some female academics and theologians; women who have inherited workshops and companies from dead husbands and fathers. There aren't enough ruling ladies, really, either; we only know of four outside of Dorne (Arwyn Oakheart, Anya Waynwood, Maege Mormont...is Lyessa Flint a lady in her own right, too?) when the attrition rate among men in wartime should leave a lot more. And even for those with husbands, being a noble lady, should involve being able to do a hell of a lot more than look pretty and sew - Catelyn is depicted as having had special training because she was the heir apparent to Riverrun until Edmure was born, but every highborn girl should be able to run a large estate and defend it if her husband is away, including making military decisions.
I just feel like Martin has gone "right, medieval times, sexism" but not actually thought through the mechanics of why women were restricted in what they could do or how and why that changed. Or how involved they actually were in medieval life. It's not like the Leaders of the Patriarchy sat around coming up with ways to Oppress Teh Womenz; there has to be logic behind this sort of society. (Religious texts and their opinions on women's places play a BIG role in this sort of thing, too, so I'd love to know what the scriptures of the Seven have to say about it.)
Anyway, those are my thoughts; I'd be really interested to hear if anyone else has comments or wildly differing opinions on this!
Tags: gender roles in westeros