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When you get down to it, there's not much difference between what men and women can do. Even if on average one gender or sex is more suited to the role, as long as it doesn't involve reproduction, there will be exceptions to the rule. And sometimes even then. Even with physical appearance, if nudity isn't required, there are some people who can convincingly pass themselves off as the other gender.

Not so in fiction where your access to the supernatural powers or ability to use the Applied Phlebotinum may depend on your gender. If so there are rarely any exceptions to this rule.

This trope doesn't apply to cultural gender divides, only to times when certain magic or supernatural powers are restricted to one gender. In the case of magic, sometimes the sexes will both have access to it, but use it in a fundamentally different way - in this case expect a case of Un-Equal Rites as they disagree over which system is better.

May be handwaved by Bizarre Alien Biology.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Mai-Otome. Oh, gosh, how ridiculous the Techno Babble justification is...the only real justification is that they were based on the poorly understood HiME's from Mai-HiME (who had the same restriction, justified by the fact that its magic).
  • In Sailor Moon only female holders of Sailor Crystals/"True Star Seeds" can be Sailor Senshi. Men born with them do get powers a la Tuxedo Mask but aren't really Sailor Senshi. Also, this is why there is no Sailor Earth as Mamoru has that Sailor Crystal. Male holders of Sailor Crystals are very rare.
  • This is a major plot-point in Mnemosyne. When a time spore enters a woman's body, she becomes immortal. When a time spore enters a man's body, he becomes a mindless winged killer (called "angels") whose survival prospects are rather grim. Yeah, sucks to be a guy...
    • The anime also is one of the few series to explore the Third Option: intersex (ie, people who are both male and female at the same time). If a time spore enters one of them, they get the best of both sides, becoming immortal with the ability to fly and enhanced strength.
  • G Gundam makes a minor point of this near the end, where Ulube is reading over the research notes about the Devil Gundam, explaining why Wong wanted Allenby to be its core. It's justified that since the Devil Gundam was meant to be the ultimate lifeform, it requires an organism capable of creating life, a woman, as its core. According to the show, the ability to give birth makes women the "top of all living things" and have the most amount of energy.
  • Intentionally subverted in Shitsurakuen. Only men are allowed to wield the Weapons, while women are forced to be their submissive Contracts that supplies the Weapons. The protagonist is seemingly a Big Bad-approved Spanner in the Works, a girl with the determination to rescue the girls from their fate, given the tools necessary from the academy that instituted the male-dominating rules.
  • In Freezing, the girls have extreme speed and strength with the ability to summon weapons while the boys are debuffers and hold down the enemy. No explanation really comes forth as to why, excepting of course the obvious ones.
  • Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure's giant robots can only be driven by female pilots, with one exception.
    • Justified Which is because the race that made them put them in gender lock for females only. . . except for the fact that the male pilot also is a male mech. It also restricted certain functions in the mechs as well.
  • Partial subversion in Claymore. Claymores are all women not because men can't be given the same yoma-infusion, but because it's a bad idea; women are statistically less likely to go insane and become Awakened Beings than the men given the same treatment (which is not to say it doesn't happen).
    • The explanation given was that women have better self-control over their temper than men, so they're less likely to be goaded into accidentally going over their limits. Also, the process of going over one's limits and awakening, while excruciating, is also orgasmic. Men have less restraint in their sexuality, so they're less likely to pull back from awakening, unlike women, since All Women Are Prudes.
    • Well, it's been explained that releasing simply causes pain for women.
  • The title characters of Kämpfer have to be female. When a Kampfer bracelet finds its way onto the wrist of a boy, it turns him into a girl whenever he becomes a Kampfer.
  • The titular Infinite Stratos can only be piloted by women. The protagonist is the first male who can operate said device.
  • In Shikabane Hime only young women within a certain age range can be made into Shikabane Hime.

Comic Books

  • In The Sandman certain forms of magic (such as walking the moon's road) are exclusive to women; even a male to female transsexual can't go.
    • Somewhat justified, in most neo-pagan interpretations 'the path of the moon' is based on the connection between moon and womb, which of course she didn't possess.
    • There was a passing reference to the Sandman example being based on chromosomes (the character who brought it up didn't know a whole lot about the subject). So it's about birth sex/genes rather than mental gender.
    • According to the Word of God the ancient deities and witches just can't get over some old prejudices; there is nothing that inherently prevents a biological male from practicing "female" magic, except a deity that can't get her head around the idea. As seen later on, Death feels no need for such discrimination.
  • The Darkness only gets passed to males. When a son is born, the current Darkness user dies, and the kid inherits the abilities when he goes through puberty. Luckily for Jackie, he had a daughter.
  • For the most part only women can wear the Witchblade, though there has been at least one male case.

Film

Folklore

Literature

  • Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear is a dual literary example. The neanderthals featured in this novel live their lives along sharply divided gender lines, and due to how their brains are structured, cannot do otherwise. It's not tradition that says male neanderthals hunt and females take care of the kids. Rather, they are literally hardwired into these roles and cannot function when taken out of them. Ayla, being a modern human, can and does, deeply disturbing them in the process. Yet, her jaw almost drops when she sees Jondalar, a man, cooking.
    • Ironically in Real Life it's believed that Neanderthals had less of a gender divide than Cro Magnons.
  • An enforced case in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. There are only female Confessors, but not because males can't get the power. It's because when a male has the power, it's a much stronger version, without the cooldown that female confessors have, and because of this they end up using said power to get everything they want. After the first generation of tyrannical male Confessors was dealt with, all male Confessor babies are killed shortly after birth.
    • There's also differences between Wizard (male) magic power and Sorceress (female) magic power. In practical terms, they can do more or less the same things: Throw wind, fire and lightning around, create spell forms, etc. But they're stated to work differently, such that each gender doesn't properly "get" how the other works. At the Palace of the Prophets, for example, it takes several hundred years for the sorceresses to teach young wizards how to use their gifts properly, but it takes a much shorter amount of time for a male wizard to teach another male wizard.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune universe, only women could be Bene Gesserit. They had a long standing breeding program to try and create a male Bene Gesserit. Mentats can be both genders, but there were no female Mentats in the book and there may have been an implication that significantly more males become Mentats.
    • Oddly, the trope is caused by its direct absence; there seem to be no Bene Gesserit abilities (save presumably those relating to control of an unborn child) not teachable to males, and various bits do get taught (shouldn't be, but it happens with some regularity). The problem is that the Bene Gesserit order relies heavily on access to the "ghosts" of their ancestors for their memories, advice and training. And the ability to hear said ghosts is based on chromosomal memory... so women can't reach their male ancestors. They don't want to deal with the advantages a male Bene Gesserit would have in the long-established order, and have institutionalized prejudices designed to prevent the possibility of any man being fully initiated. The flip side meant they never thought of the result of their breeding program (mandated by prophecy) as a male Bene Gesserit so much as an exotic animal needing only to be borne, trained to the leash and harnessed. Didn't go so well for them.
  • The Wheel of Time has a great variety of differences between male and female channelers of the One Power. For instance, women draw from the saidar half of the Power, are able to gauge each other's Power Levels by proximity, can initiate links with other channelers to combine powers, and typically have better mastery over Wind and Water. Men draw from the saidin half, can use Fire to take in and redistribute heat (women can only take it in and consequently burn themselves or even burst into flame), can naturally sense women channeling by way of goosebumps, are much stronger on average, and typically have better mastery over Fire and Earth. How various weaves are formed is also gender-dependent: women create Gateways by making two areas 'similar', whereas men bore holes into the fabric of space.
    • As well, men and women approach control of their respective magics differently: women control Saidar subtly, gently encouraging it to do as they want, and lose control as soon as they try to force it to do something. Men, on the other hand, must seize Saidin, controlling it by force and fighting against it, or they will be killed by it.
      • Quite a lot of these distinctions is drawn from the philosophy of Yin ("soft" control, passiveness, air, water, etc.) and Yang ("hard" control, aggressiveness, fire, earth, etc.).
    • Interestingly, we've seen The Dark One resurrect two of the Forsaken in opposite-sex bodies, without any change in their power type or strength. So either souls have an innate sex or this is the Dark One we're talking about and further speculation is pointless.
  • In Christopher Stasheff's The Warlock in Spite of Himself series, psis on Gramarye have sex-linked powers -- Witches (women) are telekenetic, and Warlocks (men) can teleport and levitate themselves. The hero and his family are the only exceptions, due to not being entirely out of the same gene pool.
  • Averted on the Discworld, at least in the areas where most stories featuring wizards and witches take place. Wizardry and witchcraft are separate forms of magic which are mostly gender divided, but this is a social not biological split related to prejudices on both sides of the fence. Exceptions do exist, such as the early mention of wizards in Krull not caring much either way. Terry Pratchet's opinion, at least referenced in a narrative aside, is wizardry being systematic was more suited to men while witchcraft being initiative/emotional was more suited to women. Interestingly, despite her initial reservations, Granny Weatherwax is eventually convinced that Eskarina's mindset is wizard-like and that trying to shape it into witchcraft simply because she's female is a bad idea.
    • Unseen Academicals indicates that things are progressing: there is at least one female on the faculty of Unseen University, but most members of the faculty simply don't understand the concept and assume she's male. Even when told outright that she used to have a husband. And is a woman. In the same book, we finally get to see what happened to Eskarina, and it rather reinforces the gender divide - she's left the university and seems to be performing much more witch-like magic.
  • Partly subverted in Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld. Witches are female, sorcerers are male. They can use each other's magic, but not as well as the proper users can. Witch magic generally relies on incantations or healing brews, while sorcerer magic uses gestures. Witch and sorcerer genes are sex-linked and supposedly incompatible with each other, requiring them to breed with mundanes. However, there are hints in Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic that witches and sorcerers may be more alike than they think, particularly the revelation that neophyte witch Savannah Levine is the daughter of a witch and a sorcerer, supposedly impossible. It is also pointed out that social stigma prevents sorcerers and witches from having sex together.
    • Industrial Magic suggested that sorcerer magic and witch magic are branches of the same school. Witches only know the first level of their magic, as they eschew the second level spells (such as curing hiccups) as useless. Unfortunately for the witches, learning the second level spells is the only way to unlock the upper tier spells (contained in the witches' own Great Big Book of Everything, but dismissed as unworkable). Most supernaturals dismiss witch magic as weak and useless, as both witches and sorcerers believe that the basic tier of witch spells is all there is.
  • Andre Norton's Witch World has female virgin witches. They are shocked when Simon Tregarth, a man from another world, has the same powers. (And more shocked when a witch marries him and keeps her powers.)
  • In Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey's The Halfblood Chronicles, the female elves have only weak magic compared to males. But, as the series points out, even a rose petal in the wrong place can kill someone...
    • It's implied that the differences in magic are due to training rather than innate ability, as female elves in that society generally have little freedom, and are only taught "small" magic. There are brief mentions of powerful elven ladies who learn to wield magic in a masculine way. Also, some male elves have difficulty with using small practical magics commonly used by females simply because they haven't been trained in the same way.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy featured mostly male wizards. In fact, there was a proverb "As weak as a woman's magic." This is -- altered in later books.
  • In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, witches are a One-Gender Race, possessing magical tendencies and long life. Their male offspring (fathered by human males) are normal humans.
    • This was only true of Lyra's universe. Male witches did exist elsewhere in the multiverse, though they are only mentioned once.
  • In First Lensman, Mentor explains to Jill why it is impossible to create a Lens for a female. Mentor is lying his head off, as Clarissa will prove later in the series, but for the first couple books that's how the Lens works.
  • In the Sector General novels, Educator Tapes can't be tolerated by human females. This started as Values Dissonance because the first book was written in The Fifties, but we later learn that it's a species restriction; alien females (those species that have females) can and do use them.
  • The Archive of The Dresden Files is always the daughter of the last Archive.
  • In Garth Nix's "The Old Kingdom" trilogy, the Clayr (prophets who live in the glacier) are almost all women, the rare occurence of male Clayr are seen as anomalies. Plus Clayr who choose to have children with men generally always have daughters.
  • In Anne Bishops "Black Jewels" saga, female magic is almost always more potent than men's. Ranking within the Jewels can extend to Queen for females, whereas male ranking extends only to Warlord Prince. However, the magical power depends on the darkness of the jewel of an individual.
  • Holy spellcasters in The Banned and the Banished get their powers either from the god Chi (for males) or the goddess Cho (for females.) The two deities are equally powerful, but Chi splits his power among a large number of casters, while Cho only gives her power to one woman at a time. This means that female casters can store twice as much Mana and have access to three times as many spells.
  • Almost the case with the Jordain in Counselors and Kings. Jordaini girls are almost always stillborn, so that the vast majority of actual Jordaini are men, but occasionally a Jordaini female will survive. Cassia, Jordain to King Zalathorm is the only one we actually meet. It turns out that Tzigone, one of the main protagonists, is a Jordaini birth gone wrong, so she has the Anti-Magic abilities even though she's not considered a Jordain.
  • In the Thieves' World series, only men can become mages.
  • In Three Days to Never by Tim Powers, one of the characters is a sorcerer who, it turns out, was born female and went to extreme lengths to gain access to male magic.

Live Action TV

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Slayers are always young girls. Averted with witchcraft - though most practitioners are female, there are male users - Giles borrowed the power of an entire coven to take on Dark Willow, Angel and Xander are both shown to use spells, Oz and his bandmates accidentally summon the demon of fear, and there are a few guys in UC Sunnydale's Wicca group. On the other hand there are no real prominent good male dedicated spellcasters on the show to contrast with Willow, Tara and even Jenny Calendar.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, while gender is apparently irrelevant for most professions, including the priesthood, oracles, who have prophetic abilities and can tell the will of the gods, have been women in every case we have seen or heard of.
  • In the Doctor Who 2011 Christmas special, "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe", only women are deemed strong enough to carry the whole Forest's essence in their head.

Mythology

  • Amusingly averted in Norse Mythology. A majority of witches are female, but only because their magic relies on contact with another person's semen. Yes, that means the Uke can have magic powers too.
    • It should be mentioned one of the ways for people whom today we would consider homosexual or trans-female could live openly and still be moderately tolerated in Norse society was to practice witchcraft (much like the Hijira of modern India). Of course, they were still shunned and ostracized, but people still sought their services, and not many would want to anger a witch.
    • And to further make the point: Odin is a male witch. (He wanted to learn all the magic of the world...) This means exactly what you think it means.

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40000, the series of enhancements used to create a Space Marine is only usable on men.
    • Justified, since the enhancements are based on the biology of the Primarchs, who were all men because they were cloned from the Emperor.
    • Older source material also stated that acceptance of the implants and the ensuing muscle growth required the increased testosterone output in men.
  • In Warhammer both the Dark Elves and Bretonnians only have female magic users. Whether this is a cultural or natural restriction depends on who you ask; males of other factions are perfectly able to use magic, but each faction accesses and uses magic in a different way.
    • In at least some versions of the fluff, the lack of male Dark Elf wizards was related to a prophecy that one of them would topple the immortal Dark Elf king. Obviously, male study of magic was not encouraged.
  • Vampire: The Requiem features the Qedeshah bloodline, a motherly lineage who draw their origins from a group of temple prostitutes. Part of their bloodline-specific curse is that after joining the bloodline, they can only Embrace females. Attempts to Embrace men result in the man experiencing agonising, incapacitating pain for 24 hours before they expire horribly, the Qedeshah "mother" suffering a portion of this pain through the sympathetic connections of their shared blood. Men are not barred from joining the bloodline from outside the family tree, but upon doing so their vitae is rendered sterile and they can no longer Embrace childer or create ghouls, earning them the position of eunuch.
  • In Witch Girls Adventures, unsurprisingly, only females can be witches. Though they have a male counterpart in the Immortals. Though female characters with the Half-Otherkin heritage can be half-Immortal...
    • To be clear, female Immortals do exist, although they're outnumbered 10 to 1 by the males. (Immortals are fond of joking about how their progenitors weren't quite as sexist.)
  • An early Dragon article for 1st Edition AD&D featured the "incantatrix" as a specialist wizard who could steal the magic of other spellcasters. Virtually all of them were female, although at least one male "incantator" was rumored to exist.
  • In the 2E Ravenloft setting, the followers of Hala included female clerics and male wizards, ostensibly because the goddess taught that each gender was better-suited to that sort of magic. Subverted in the 3E Ravenloft products, which left its Halan prestige classes open to both sexes.

Toys

  • In Bionicle, only the female Skrall have psionic powers. However, it turns out that these were given to them by an Eldritch Abomination purely for it's own amusement, and are not a natural ability at all.

Video Games

  • In the Ace Attorney series only Fey women can be mediums.
  • The Sorceress power in Final Fantasy VIII is only passed down through women, with each woman passing the power to someone else upon her death (it appears that it's usually the closest woman, so long as she holds the proper potential). This power is the central focus of the game, as every Sorceress is powerful enough to change the course of the world or control the fabric of reality itself. An in-universe legend posits that the Sorceress power is really the immortal spirit of a god who'd once gone to war with humanity and lost, and escaped by hiding himself in the body of something mankind instinctually wants to protect: women.
  • Fire Emblem has female Dancers and male Bards, though they essentially do the same thing. In addition, only females can ride Pegasi, explained at one point as the weight (amusingly, generic enemy Pegasus knights count as male stats wise). Another explanation claims that it's because it's hard enough for a woman to get her Pegasus to trust, while a man is incapable of gaining a pegasus' trust.
    • In the earlier games in the Fire Emblem Akaneia series the enemy pegasus knights were male, but they appear to have been have Retconned out of the series as they're gone from the remake.
    • In Shadow Dragon, the spell Excalibur can only be used by men and the spell Aura can only be used by women(despite it being used by a male character used it in the games story). It is also noted that Falchion can only be wielded by male descendants of Anri.
  • In the later Wizardry games, The Lord class is male only, while the Valkyrie class is female only.
  • In the Ogre Battle series, males and females have entirely different classes available to them, with no class in common. The starting female class is Amazon, while the starting male class is Fighter. Some classes are obvious counterparts (The female Dragon Tamer and the male Beast Master for example). Some of the Tactics Ogre games however do not follow this formula, instead being like Final Fantasy Tactics where a handful of classes were gender-specific (like Dragon Tamer, Beast Master, Witch and Dragoon), others are shared amongst both genders (like Knights, Wizard, Clerics and Fighters).
  • Achaea features the Siren, a female-only race who eventually get the ability to charm others with their good looks as they level up.
  • In Bioshock, only female children under six can be implanted with ADAM slugs. This makes them invincible and able to puke up EVE serum. they also heal instantly (this is not as good as you think, one fell down the stairs and broke both legs, which then healed cokeyed. the doctors had to re-break her legs several times to put them right). However, one researcher discovered that if you manage to restrain them and tear out the slug, you kill them instantly and get a huge shot of ADAM. Enter papa Frankestein...

Webcomics

  • The Wotch: Wotches cannot be male, and cannot even be turned male by magic. Although, that's not to say they can't have been male prior to their becoming the Wotch.
  • In Sacred Pie the sacred objects can only be used by men, regardless of species. This is a side effect from Lucifer creating them for his own use.
  • In Footloose, men's magic is (semi-artificially) restricted to the Fae realm, and there vastly weaker.

Web Original

  • The Trait Positives in Lonelygirl15 are always female, for some unspecified genetic reason.

Western Animation

  • In Trollz, only the females are able to wield magic. It wasn't always the case, but the Big Bad's attempt to take the magic for himself made it so only girls could use it. Males are left to their physical and mental skills, though older Troll males are able to use magic, still.

Real Life

  • Singing voices. While there is some overlap in the alto and tenor ranges, natural male sopranos (as opposed to castrati and singing falsetto) and female basses are extremely rare and usually due to a hormone imbalance.
    • For modern-day male sopranos (also known as sopranists), you have Radu Marian and Jorge Cano who are called natural castrati due to endocrinological issues, and Angelo Manzotti who taught himself a special technique with his vocal chords. Michael Maniaci is the closest you'll come to a natural male soprano -- his vocal chords never went through puberty, but the rest of him did.
    • As for female bases, Sweet Honey In The Rock is the only example that comes to mind.
  • Giving birth.
    • Though technology can get around those limitations.
  • Lactation, although occasionally subverted by men with a prolactin imbalance.
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