According to a recent article first published in Elle, increasing numbers of American women are voicing their preference for a female child. At least some of those women are spending perfectly good money to enhance their chances. Some are paying for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, a procedure in which conception occurs outside the body and only the "correct" sex embryos are implants in the woman's body. Others are banking on sperm sorting techniques, such as Microsort.
As a mom of boys (and all boys), I find this trend disturbing, to say the least. Even more disturbing is that the female-child preference seems to be an outgrowth of the current cultural thinking:
What’s behind the modern-day girl fetish? One explanation: Women envision a brighter future for their daughters than they do for their sons. Boys are practically the underdogs these days, having fallen behind girls on nearly every measure of academic achievement, from college attendance to high school graduation rates. According to books such as The War Against Boys and Boys Adrift, they are in danger of becoming, as Christina Hoff Sommers has written, “tomorrow’s second sex.”
“The way society is now—I feel there’s a preference for girls,” says Linda Heithaus, a marine biologist from Hollywood, Florida, who has two sons and is contemplating doing IVF/PGD in the hope of getting a girl. “They can do everything a boy can do, plus you can dress them up. It’s almost like, to fit in, you need to have one.” Girls, in other words, are boys plus. They can play sports and have careers, and you can dress them in pink and take them to tea at the American Girl café. What’s not to like?
Boys do have it tough today. They rank behind girls in academic achievement. They're more likely to be incarcerated. They're more likely to commit suicide. And given the current recession, employment opportunities for boys and men are limited as well. A man can no longer define himself as a success if he provides for his family; he can't even count on providing. Almost all the old benchmarks of male success have disappeared, leaving men and boys stranded in a world that doesn't seem to understand, recognize, or value manliness.
I'm not advocating a return to the "good old days" of the 1950s, a world of rigid sex stereotyping. I'm glad that today's women can (and do) compete in the boardroom, and I'm glad that men can (and do) change dirty diapers.
But boys and girls are different, and I'd like a world where my boys are accepted and valued as they are, not looked upon as less because they have a Y chromosome and love to leap off couches.
Children -- all of them -- come to us with unique personalities and potential. Let's not write off the boys.