Friday, November 27, 2009

Gender Disappointment

Apparently, some moms are very, very unhappy with their baby boys.

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 cafĂ©. 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.


  1. I think this trend is a natural progression from the common depiction of men today-- that they are less, dumb and can't do anything right. At least that's the way modern media paints them!

    Believing in and encouraging girls is a very very good thing. But not at the expense of boys!

    I wonder how many of these women that would go to such lengths to ensure having a girl are happy and secure in their marriages? Or have good relationships with their fathers or brothers? I'm not saying that all of them have bad relationships or negative feelings, I really would like to know out of an academic curiosity.

    "...because they have a Y chromosome and love to leap off couches."

    For some reason that reminds me of the movie Jurassic Park. They choose to clone a female dinosaur due to the assumption that she would be more docile and easier to control. :) And we know how that turned out!

  2. Marsha,
    I love the Jurassic Park comparison! And I think you're right: men have definitely been portrayed as the oafs of society lately. The depiction of husbands and dads on TV has long been a pet peeve of mine.

  3. Continuing with the Jurrasic Park theme: Nature finds a way. People really shouldn't mess with it.