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“My husband and I stared at our daughter for that first year. She was worth every cent. Better than a new car, or a kitchen reno.”
September 25, 2012 10:57 PM   Subscribe

How to Buy a Daughter: Choosing the sex of your baby has become a multimillion dollar industry "Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year. The average cost of a gender selection procedure at high-profile clinics is about $18,000, and an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed every year. Fertility doctors foresee an explosion in sex-selection procedures on the horizon, as couples become accustomed to the idea that they can pay to beget children of the gender they prefer... Much of the evidence that Americans preferentially choose girls is anecdotal, as no larger body tracks gender selection procedures. But data from Google show that “how to have a girl” is searched three times as often in the United States as “how to have a boy.” Many fertility doctors say that girls are the goal for 80 percent of gender selection patients. A study published in 2009 by the online journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online found Caucasian-Americans preferentially select females through PGD 70 percent of the time. Those of Indian or Chinese descent largely chose boys."
posted by bookman117 (215 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
After fertilization and three days of incubation, an embryologist uses a laser to cut a hole through an embryo’s protective membrane and then picks out one of the eight cells. Fluorescent dyes allow the embryologist to see the chromosomes and determine whether the embryo is carrying the larger XX pair of chromosomes or the tinier XY

That is amazing and terrifying.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:11 PM on September 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable.

I prefer the time-tested balancing method of giving probability room to work, myself.
posted by michaelh at 11:21 PM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


“My husband and I stared at our daughter for that first year. She was worth every cent. Better than a new car, or a kitchen reno.”

I am still unsure of how I feel about gender selection in babies but this quote makes me feel a little bit queasy. I wonder if this person is one of the more outrageous gender selection patients or if this sort of person is simply par for the course.
posted by kiskar at 11:22 PM on September 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


As someone who might someday need to make use of PGD for very legitimate medical reasons, the frivolous use of this technology really makes me mad-- primarily because I fear it will be strictly regulated or even banned.

On the other hand, if we're already doing PGD, would we go ahead and choose the gender too? I really don't know. It's hard enough trying to consider the PGD vs. dice roll decision, and our geneticist just shrugged her shoulders and told us that it was completely up to us, that there are risks in both directions, that there was no good medical rationale to go either way. Just a gut-wrenching decision that we get to someday make.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:23 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ($18,000) Gate To Women's Country
posted by not_the_water at 11:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Caucasian-Americans preferentially select females through PGD 70 percent of the time. Those of Indian or Chinese descent largely chose boys."

Hmm.

...damn, babyswap.com is registered. Ooo, globalbabyswap.com isn't..
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


This will come back to haunt us, "us" here being humanity. Most of the world (India and China) prefer boys, and with the already large surplus of boys, especially in China, that will come to no good. Already China has 1.24 boys per girl (source). In the years to come, competition for the comparatively few women will be fierce.
posted by Harald74 at 11:53 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wouldn't it be easier to just fertilize a handful of eggs and keep the one of the gender you want?
posted by Malice at 11:56 PM on September 25, 2012


This brings up an interesting point: If so many people do choose girls, what would a larger percentage of women in the population mean socially/economically/politically in 20 years or so? Could gender equality become a reality, or the "glass ceiling" finally get shattered, via sheer strength in numbers? Or might it go the other way, and women become more commodified as the pool of available men shrinks proportionately? Or perhaps opposing trends in various global cultures could end up canceling each other out?

In any case, many people making individual and personal choices will certainly affect greater human civilization even if they don't mean to.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:00 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


So where does this preference come from? And with the sex-selection rhetoric in the United States centered around “family balancing,” a feel-good term that implies couples are rationally planning their families, is it still sexist to choose for girls?

For Jennifer Merrill Thompson, the reasons were simple. “I’m not into sports. I’m not into violent games. I’m not into a lot of things boys represent and boys do,”


Well that should turn out well then because, as well all know, girls hate sports and video games universally.

We like to knit. And pink things.
posted by fshgrl at 12:00 AM on September 26, 2012 [113 favorites]


There has got to be genes for knitting and pink things. I wondered science could create a boy who likes knitting and pink things. Nah, that is just too out there isn't it.what kind of monster would even suggest that.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:14 AM on September 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Fastforward ten years when these longed for girls turn out to hate baking, sewing, or god forbid, pink. Can you return her if you get a tomboy or sue because you didn't get a 'proper' girlygirl? *Sigh* What have we come to?
posted by Jubey at 12:14 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jesus Christ, genophage and be done with it already.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:26 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


This will come back to haunt us, "us" here being humanity. Most of the world (India and China) prefer boys, and with the already large surplus of boys, especially in China, that will come to no good. Already China has 1.24 boys per girl (source). In the years to come, competition for the comparatively few women will be fierce.

Sadly, this "competition" for women is not a good outcome for women:
Decades of unchecked sex-selective abortions have made the once fertile States of Punjab and Haryana suffer a drought of brides, making human-trafficking a lucrative and expanding trade.
posted by vidur at 12:31 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Already China has 1.24 boys per girl
America's debt to China keeps growing. Will this mean the commodification of women?

Another stray thought: is it (sixteen years or so) too soon for a Mormon president, with a cultural shift to traditional Mormon values?
posted by fredludd at 12:32 AM on September 26, 2012


Hysteria aside, I wonder if this is the downside of increased medical knowledge. Would the reactionary right wing patriarchies of the world be all about selecting a gender prebirth so as to keep just enough baby makers (blech) around without them getting, for lack of better descriptors, too uppity?
posted by axiom at 12:46 AM on September 26, 2012


Already China has 1.24 boys per girl. In the years to come, competition for the comparatively few women will be fierce.

They'll be coming for that American surplus. Lock up your preselected daughters!

Curious as to why Americans prefer girls? Is the a straightforward answer to that? (i.e. preferably as "straightforward" as the typical reasons given for Asian families preferring boys)
posted by iotic at 1:14 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Before my daughter was born, some woman I met once was all "Oh, you poor thing, I feel so sorry for you," upon hearing I had three boys. I was slightly furious, and told her not to waste her sympathy on me, as my boys are "awesome and totally rock." I was keen to have a daughter, for kind of stupid reasons (that I can't really articulate, but they don't have anything to do with some weird pink dress mini me obsession), but I was never disappointed in my sons. I like boys just fine.
posted by thylacinthine at 1:19 AM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


There's a dystopian sci-fi book/movie plot here (if you extrapolate these trends out for a long while)...
posted by gen at 1:58 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Count me as one of the people who seriously considered gender selection.

My partner and I both want a girl for our only child. We passed due to the cost, but we have had serious discussions about "gender disappointment" and the expectations (for us and the child) that led to our preference.

It's difficult for me to articulate the exact reasons. "I 'get' girls" would be a start, but it also goes deeper than that. There is an entire host of experiences that women can relate to each other through (biological, emotional, cultural) and I have had that kind of invisible connection my entire life. This invisible network of supporters has protected me against violence, provided the initial basis for lasting friendships, and has inspired me to acts of kindness and assistance for other females. There is also an amazing recent history of women's rights and demanding our equality and breaking glass ceilings.

I expect that I would find things to share with a male child, but if given the chance, I would choose a girl. There are a lot of things to like about being female and I hope to pass some of that to my child. There is a very real chance that the year we conceive, a woman may sit at the desk in the Oval Office. It is an exciting time to be a woman in my culture and I expect that things will only get better.



/I find it difficult to understand why sex selective abortions have anything to do with this. This is a prohibitively expensive procedure only available in a few affluent nations. The cultural pressures that lead to male-dominated populations are always linked to lack of opportunity and education and where poverty is endemic. By the time this technology would be available to the average citizen (assuming it would be so widespread as to be "affordable" and the country would have the relevant facilities) the factors that led to culturally motivated sex-selective practices would be largely removed.

Would there be some lingering pockets of "traditional" values? I'm sure, but this high tech, complicated procedure taking place in the US is hardly comparable to sex-selective abortion or infanticide in rural China or certain regions of India. It's a false equivalency and a derail.

posted by Vysharra at 1:59 AM on September 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's interesting to note that it is affluent Whites who prefer daughters.
So who are all these girls going to marry? White Americans tend to practice monogamy. So I think there will be a trend for these girls to marry inter-racially.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:23 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's kind of customary if you're going to use an abbreviation like PGD to use the full term first so people know what it stands for, at least if you're writing for a general audience. I can kind of guess but it would be easier if you'd written it out. Thanks.
posted by rubber duck at 2:35 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Assuming all of this is taking place ONLY in the US, we're talking about something on the order of 0.25% or the population. Of all the problems humanity is facing, this is pretty trivial.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:37 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


A Google search for "Americans prefer girl babies" throws up a bunch of pages suggesting the opposite. So I guess the preference for girls amongst those rich and/or motivated enough to do the preselection is skewed. I'm still curious as to why this would be.
posted by iotic at 2:38 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't China's boy obsession largely financial? China should simply reverse the dowry obligation, criminalize even asking for a dowry from a woman's family, while obliging males to pay some dowry.

Americans aren't selecting girls in large enough numbers to matter. An 6000 extra girls per year out of 4 million U.S. births, that's only a 0.3% shift towards girls.

In fact, there are naturally 5% more boys than girls because traditionally more boys died young while Fisher's principle applies at breading age.

As those boys don't die young today, America needs about 50,000 extra daughters per year merely to attain a 1:1 gender ratio amongst children.

You simply cannot contribute to cultural problems by choosing a daughter anywhere in the world, not China, not America, not Europe.

We could discuss whether breeding at all creates cultural, environmental, etc. problems, but I expect you guys having multiple children already considered those issues.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:47 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


while Fisher's principle applies at breading age.

Yum!
posted by snofoam at 3:40 AM on September 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


When my husband and I started the domestic adoption process, we were told by our agency that if we had a preference for a girl, we would wait longer because more waiting families wanted girls, and more boys are placed for adoption. (We were open to whatever, including multiples, and ended up with a girl and a boy.)
posted by candyland at 3:47 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is the drive for girls actually changing the demographics a significant amount? Because it doesn't seem to be a 'only girls' or 'only child being a girl' - far more a 'had boys, want a girl as well' which may skew the gender balance but not nearly to the same point as 'only boys' and 'only children being boys'.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:02 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just failed a google interview question, geek anachronism.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:23 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see how this develops into a evolutionarily stable strategy at the conscious level.
posted by DU at 4:35 AM on September 26, 2012


I'm sure, but this high tech, complicated procedure taking place in the US is hardly comparable to sex-selective abortion or infanticide in rural China or certain regions of India. It's a false equivalency and a derail.

So... it's totally different when rich Americans do it? We can presumably agree infanticide is bad, so let's restrict our attention to sex-selective abortion. I see two ways of arguing that that's bad. One is that abortion is bad. The other is that it's the sex selection aspect that makes it bad. If your objection is sex selection, to differentiate selecting via abortion from selecting pre-pregnancy, you're left having to argue that the timing of that selection is somehow paramount, which I don't see an argument for at all.

I suppose you could also argue that sex selective abortion in rural China is bad because it's not safe. But I have no idea whether there's access to safe abortions in rural China or not. I'd hazard the access is better than in a lot of the US, though.
posted by hoyland at 4:36 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I still remember the SNL version.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:42 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


this high tech, complicated procedure taking place in the US is hardly comparable to sex-selective abortion or infanticide in rural China or certain regions of India. It's a false equivalency and a derail.

This is wrong. It is entirely an equivalent procedure if the concern is not phrased as 'murdering babies' but rather as a worry about the broader effects sex-selection can have on a society when it is practiced widely. Yes, at the moment this procedure is limited effectively to affluent Americans, but surely as with any technology the cost will plummet and the take-up rate will rise. It is entirely easy to foresee a situation in 30 years where any couple can select the sex of their baby for a minimal fee. The fact that only rich people can do it now simply masks the issue.

If it turns out that on the whole 70% of Americans want a female child or 70% of Chinese want a male child and can afford to make it happen and there are no regulations to prevent that choice, that is going to have a shocking societal impact. Put me in the camp that sex-selection ought to be banned. This "family balancing" euphemism is horrifying. Anyone experiencing 'gender disappointment' needs to really step back and think about what they're saying. I read Vysharra's comment no differently than I would parse a man's comment about the importance of having a male heir. It's just bizarre.
posted by modernnomad at 4:51 AM on September 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


So who are all these girls going to marry?

Maybe they won't get married, or they will marry...other girls! They can start calling this generation of girls Fish Without Bicycles.

I don't think I would do this, just because I've enjoyed the inherent SURPRISE! factor ever since I got my Cabbage Patch Surprise Newborn. But I get that people might have medical reasons.
posted by sallybrown at 4:54 AM on September 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Curious as to why Americans prefer girls?

A husband who wants a boy can still do "boy" things with his daughter. A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son. At least, not in most of America right now.

Also, if the husband wants "Just one more, to try for a boy," the wife gets to say "Dale, you don't have to blow up like a balloon for nine months and then squeeze a human being out of you." In all but the most fringe places in the U.S., women still have some aspect of that basic control over their bodies, even if it's only "Not tonight."
posted by Etrigan at 5:11 AM on September 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


My mother had family friends who, if my mother was to be believed, had five children because they really wanted a son and kept getting daughters. Now, I am sure that isn't entirely true -- they were rather affluent (both doctors) observant Jews in a culture where Lots Of Babies was encouraged (although not nearly to the point of, say, Hasidim -- but I can't help thinking that maybe one or two less kids on their behalf (via getting that daughter a little earlier) would have been better for Society.
posted by griphus at 5:13 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Er, getting that son a little earlier.
posted by griphus at 5:13 AM on September 26, 2012


ctrl-f "risk" and "health" turn up no answers to the question: are there negative impacts on the eventual child from cutting open and removing 1/8 of the embryo? Or is it too soon to say?
posted by jepler at 5:23 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether it's couched in sexist ("they won't play loud videogames and they like pink things and kittens!") or 'feminist' terms ("I understand women better because of our shared experience!") this kind of gender essentialism on the part of "selective" parents is frightening to me. I had a mother who desperately wanted a daughter (or thought she did) and resented me and treated me like some sort of bizarre specimen every day because I was not what she wanted and expected me to be or want based on gender stereotypes (and that belief that "I know what girls want and how they think because I WAS one!"). In my case, I was too butch (but still straight!), too loud, too smart, too ambitious, not even on the same planet with tastes in books, movies, academics, clothes, values, etc. If she just could have accepted that I was what I was and dropped her own preconceived notions of what I was supposed to be, based on gender (on top of everything else, I was supposed to, as a daughter, be her "best friend" even though we had literally nothing in common and she doesn't care for where the differences lie). But I could easily see it going the opposite direction: despite my best efforts and rocking genes and beliefs about what women are and can be or "should" be based on my own temperament or choices, I could end up (like one of my mom's sisters who is a constant source of jealousy for other reasons but this didn't help) with a daughter obsessed with pink, and bows, from the cradle, who demands a baby bikini at 2, hates dirt and "outside animals", wants to be a cheerleader and date the high school quarterback, and has as her highest aspiration, going to the state college to meet a husband who can support her goal of being a kick-ass stay at home mom of 5.

And that would be OK, even if I had secretly hoped to be gestating the next female president of the United States with whom I could debate philosophy, go camping, gift with my book collection as soon as she turned 9.....
posted by availablelight at 5:24 AM on September 26, 2012 [55 favorites]


A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.

Not true.
posted by availablelight at 5:25 AM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


It's stuff like this that makes it impossible for me to completely dismiss Mens' Rights types (okay, maybe 95%). There is clearly some deep dislike of males happening among the most affluent members of our society.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:39 AM on September 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


While the sex selection is interesting in its own right, it's interesting to think about what our reactions to this tells us about the future development of foetus selection.

Screening for common genetic diseases with serious potential consequences (e.g. Downs) is already pretty common in rich countries. For known carriers of serious genetic disease with high penetrance (whether associated with infant mortality like FVII deficiency and SMA I, or later-stage illness like Huntington's or a specific form of breast cancer), screening and offers of "genetic couselling" are pretty common, as is the termination of these pregnancies at an early stage. This is relatively uncontroversial (at least, outside the anti-choice lobbies).

While not legal in the EU (where screening must directly benefit the resulting child; benefit to siblings, etc. are not considered), couples from the UK are known to have travelled to the US to select foetuses to benefit their existing children, ensuring that the new child will be a perfect tissue donor for their sibling with e.g. leukaemia or Diamond Blackfan anaemia. This is decidedly more controversial here in the UK, as it can't be argued that it's being done for the diseased foetuses' own benefit, and, campaigners say, risks the child growing up thinking that its parents only wanted it as a tissue donor.

But so far, this is still concerned with protecting health: even if it's not the child's own health, they may save the life of their sibling.

Sex selection seems like a big step away from this, from protecting health to just picking a potential child to suit the parents' preferences. It's not a world-changing act in itself (although in an inherently sexist society, large-scale adoption of the practice could certainly have worrying consequences), but it does seem to open the door for a much wider range of preference-based selection: If we choose boy or girl based purely on what kind of kid the parents want to have, why not tall or short? Blond or brown? Sprinter's muscles or all-rounder? Last time I skimmed the literature, I saw a claim that homosexuality is something like 60% genetically determined; would we allow people to screen for that?

We don't currently know enough about the genome to screen for most things that an ambitious parent might be interested in, and I'm not trying to construct a slippery slope argument against all screening and selection. But whether and where to draw the line defining what criteria parents can use to select babies is an interesting question, and one that our societies need to think hard about over the next decade or two.

In my professional life, I've done some work related to gene therapy of infants before birth, supplementing their DNA to cure an inherited disease that would otherwise kill them a few days or weeks after being born. We need a load more safety data before trying it in humans, but it should work. If people decide that they're OK with selecting foetuses based purely on what kind of kid they want, and in utero gene therapy is shown to be a safe way to alter kids' genetic makeup, that will be a whole other debate to have. But not one we need to worry about for several decades yet.
posted by metaBugs at 5:45 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Historically, male-weighted gender imbalance in a society usually leads to periods of warfare, either crime and political unrest at home, or military adventurism abroad. Interesting that China and India are right next door to each other...
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:51 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Historically, male-weighted gender imbalance in a society usually leads to periods of warfare, either crime and political unrest at home, or military adventurism abroad. Interesting that China and India are right next door to each other...

But the US is not China or India.

There are many obvious, non-Rape of the Sabines type solutions to a problem, if it exists, of gender imbalance. Consider the following:

1. Unlike the Romans, we are not, as a planet or a country, short on people.

2. Some percentage of people currently married in patriarchal cultures would prefer to be out gays or lesbians.

3. In cultures willing to dump the one man/one woman/kids patriarchal setup, which was originally about property transfer and not a "natural" setup, there are may possibilities; sperm and egg donation, poly relationships, less compulsory heterosexuality in general.

Overall, it's only worth hand-wringing if you think breeding our way to dominance is important.
posted by emjaybee at 5:56 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is clearly some deep dislike of males happening among the most affluent members of our society.

I tend to think sex selection is a gigantic waste of money in a world that has more than enough people and need, but I think I can understand the motivations. The affluent are mostly geeks, because of the correlation between income and education. I'm not exactly affluent, but I am a geek, and even those of us who are dudes have pretty dark memories of growing up with other dudes.

I know it's hard being a woman in a patriarchal world, but it was pretty damn hard being a man in a patriarchal world, too. There's not a lot of male solidarity, and where it does exist it is very often quite dark and misogynistic. I'm pretty happy to work with mostly women, to be married to a woman, and to teach mostly women.

When I think about having a son, it freaks me out to try to consider the ways in which a son will have to navigate confidence, friendships, sex and romance. How do you explain the difference between chauvinism and gentle-manliness to a teenager? How do you hope for your career son's success while also wishing for more women in his field? How do you discourage his tendency to mansplain while encouraging his confidence?

What if he's not nice to his girlfriend? What if he's a jock? In other words, what if he's an asshole? A lot of men are assholes, after all. Especially white men like me and my hypothetical son.

In contrast, with a daughter I can navigate all those issues without anxiety: I can hate her asshole boyfriend. I can support her confidence. I can hope for her to be president. It just seems simpler. But of course, simple is usually bad and unreflective, so I guess I've got some more work to do.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:00 AM on September 26, 2012 [31 favorites]


This brings up an interesting point: If so many people do choose girls, what would a larger percentage of women in the population mean socially/economically/politically in 20 years or so? Could gender equality become a reality, or the "glass ceiling" finally get shattered, via sheer strength in numbers? Or might it go the other way, and women become more commodified as the pool of available men shrinks proportionately? Or perhaps opposing trends in various global cultures could end up canceling each other out?

So, clearly this is not a capital-P phenomenon that is changing the demographics of the country. But if we were to pretend that it was, you might want to take a look at some of the elite college campuses that are struggling to maintain some semblance of gender parity. It's an interesting issue, and leads to all kinds of studies and speculations about how a shifting demographic trend changes campus culture.
posted by Forktine at 6:01 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I worry about the sexism angle, sure. And I worry about the designer children angle, sure. But what I really worry about is the idea this must create/ encourage in parents, that their child is not a human being with thoughts and rights and needs, but an object, a commodity, that they can order to their exact specifications.

I guess what I'm saying is that objectification on this level terrifies me. How are these children going to be treated? How are they going to be trained to think? What are they going to be like when they grow up?

What kind of society will be created by people who believe that humans should or can be designed to suit those more powerful than them? How will people learn to develop healthy relationships with others who disagree or are different or have qualities that they don't like, if they expect that they have the right to decide another person's fate on such a fundamental level? How long until parents are wanting to program their chidren's thoughts and aspirations and beliefs? What kind of class imbalances will this, and the more advanced technology that will surely grow out of this, eventually create or exacerbate?

Don't get me wrong, I know that many, many parents do everything that they can to control who their children are. But I don't think that making it easier will make humans any less selfish or dangerous or close minded. I am not the daughter my mom was planning to have, but she's a lot more accepting of people like me than she would have been had I never been born.
posted by windykites at 6:15 AM on September 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


My grandmother's gender selection process was an Irish Catholic stereotype: she just kept having boys until she had a girl. She had SEVEN boys before she got a daughter... who turned out to be a tomboyish lesbian. Oh well.
posted by desjardins at 6:16 AM on September 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


When I think about having a son, it freaks me out to try to consider the ways in which a son will have to navigate confidence, friendships, sex and romance. How do you explain the difference between chauvinism and gentle-manliness to a teenager? How do you hope for your career son's success while also wishing for more women in his field? How do you discourage his tendency to mansplain while encouraging his confidence?

What if he's not nice to his girlfriend? What if he's a jock? In other words, what if he's an asshole? A lot of men are assholes, after all. Especially white men like me and my hypothetical son.


It's terribly sad that you see this all as a compromise. Why not indeed write off boys as future assholes not worth the trouble if the best you can hope for is, "hope he only tries somewhat hard and doesn't ever get a promotion or an opportunity a woman could have gotten if he was never born."

How about you teach your son, should you have one, to be a really awesome guy who can do anything? And then teach him to teach others to be that way, whether they're men or women?
posted by michaelh at 6:17 AM on September 26, 2012 [38 favorites]


Vysharra,

Never show this post or share these thoughts to your child, male or female (whichever gender). This would not make them feel good, at all.

I already don't like that my parents think they know what's best for me, in terms of my religion, who I date, and what I should do with my life. Adding sex to the mix would just blow my mind. I wouldn't know whether to opt for sex change or just start questioning every aspect of my life, wondering at what point does their influence end?
posted by FJT at 6:26 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Men commit upwards of 90% of crimes, start almost all wars, and are far more likely to unnecessarily aggregate pathologically large shares of power and resources to themselves at great harm to others. Whether that's nature or nurture, it's a darn good reason to encourage sex-selection for females. Males are the troublesome sex. If the ratio were something like 60:40 female:male, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:30 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


this kind of gender essentialism on the part of "selective" parents is frightening to me

Yeah, I find it fairly horrifying. I was hoping we were moving away from putting people in boxes and demonizing anyone who strays outside that box or dares to visit another box. It's not a good or healthy thing for anyone of any gender.
posted by Foosnark at 6:30 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


A couple of people have mentioned medical reasons for sex selection, and I can't fathom what they are. Why would having a boy or a girl be medically advantageous?
posted by desjardins at 6:31 AM on September 26, 2012


A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.

Not true.


SO not true. My mom taught so much stuff that's considered stereotypically "girly" by mainstream. I feel I ended up a much more well rounded individual because of it.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:34 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a feeling this is going to go very badly for some people. In the words of the great Dr. Ian Malcolm, if there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh... well, there it is. I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:34 AM on September 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why would having a boy or a girl be medically advantageous?

I believe there's a medical condition that can only be passed to a child of a specific gender?
posted by windykites at 6:35 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


If the ratio were something like 60:40 female:male, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.

I don't, at least not in the long run. This is gender essentialist nonsense. There are power-hungry women and batshitinsane women (Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, I could go on). Men are clearly socialized to be aggressive (although certainly not all men are) and women could be socialized the same way if the tables were turned. Female aggression might look different, especially on an individual level because of our generally smaller size, but I have no reason to believe that women wouldn't fuck up as much as men do.
posted by desjardins at 6:39 AM on September 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable.

>>I prefer the time-tested balancing method of giving probability room to work, myself.


Someone said this above, but "Steinberg’s gender-selection patients are typically around 30 years old, educated, married, middle to upper class. They also typically have a couple of children already, unlike the women in his waiting room undergoing in vitro fertilization and hoping to conceive any child at all."
posted by subdee at 6:39 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Men commit upwards of 90% of crimes

Men are expected to be providers, and there is a strong cultural bias that says REAL men are tough and ruthless and unafraid of violence, while compassion and caring are for (weak, inferior) girls. This is probably the most fucked-up thing about gender expectations in our society, and changing the male/female ratio isn't going to fix that.

start almost all wars

You may have noticed that almost all heads of state -- you know, the people capable of starting wars -- are men. You may or may not have noticed what kind of public opinion is often directed at women in politics.

and are far more likely to unnecessarily aggregate pathologically large shares of power and resources to themselves at great harm to others

Men have major advantages over women in the business world, and until relatively recently there were zero women above a certain point on the ladder. And again, men are the ones encouraged by society to be ruthless.
posted by Foosnark at 6:40 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


desjardins - yeah, sex-linked genetic diseases would be a medically advantageous reason. off the top of my head, I think Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy would be an example - if you select for a girl, she has a 50-50 chance of being a carrier, but a boy has a 50-50 chance of being affected with DMD. ... hope I got the numbers right off the top of my head without coffee.
posted by circle_b at 6:42 AM on September 26, 2012


When I think about having a son, it freaks me out to try to consider the ways in which a son will have to navigate confidence, friendships, sex and romance. How do you explain the difference between chauvinism and gentle-manliness to a teenager? How do you hope for your career son's success while also wishing for more women in his field? How do you discourage his tendency to mansplain while encouraging his confidence?

Oh hey, it's anecdote time. So when I found out I was having a boy, I had many of these concerns. What if he was a jerk? What if he thought I was boring as a woman? What the heck would we talk about?

He's only 6 so I will not claim SUCCESS in any way, but: his father models the following things for him: sharing housework. Respect to women. Kindness to animals. Nonviolence. Hard work. Honesty. I model for him: a strong working woman. Respect for my partner. An insistence on consent when touching/grabbing another person (which I also must give him, except in emergencies). That girls are not icky, and neither are boys. That TV tells you stuff that might not be true.

We talk about history a lot. How women and nonwhite people used to be treated (and as he gets older, we'll talk about how racism/sexism persists). How war looked cool but how a lot of innocent noncombatants got killed and suffered. How important it is to tell us when something is wrong, and how to deal with other kids doing stuff he doesn't like.

We bond over Avatar: The Last Airbender and Star Wars. His dad plays Legos with him, and he helps me clean and do minor house repairs.

It's all good, really. He's a sweet kid and smart and I like him as much as I love him.

And the larger answer is: the world really really needs more nonsexist, well-adjusted men. Women need them as friends and lovers and allies. So doing your best to raise one is also really important.
posted by emjaybee at 6:46 AM on September 26, 2012 [70 favorites]


If nothing else, mothers who wanted girls, at least teach your sons to sew. They will thank you for it.

(I'm glad that we have at least come far enough that "doing the dishes", "doing the laundry", and "cleaning the house" are seen as universal things to learn, but sewing is for some reason still thought of as "girly". Sewing is awesome.)
posted by BeeDo at 6:46 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Men commit upwards of 90% of crimes, start almost all wars...

Humans commit upwards of 100% of crimes, start EVERY war, and always hoard power and resources to the detriment of everyone and everything, including other humans. Whether that's nature or nurture, it's a darn good reason to encourage limits on human breeding. Humans are a troublesome species. If the ratio were something like 60:40 robot:human, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.
posted by FJT at 6:47 AM on September 26, 2012 [22 favorites]


Why would having a boy or a girl be medically advantageous?

I believe there's a medical condition that can only be passed to a child of a specific gender?

There are several, and it may be a special concern if your family already has incidence of a sex-linked disorder or disease.
posted by heyforfour at 7:04 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Men are expected to be providers, and there is a strong cultural bias that says REAL men are tough and ruthless and unafraid of violence, while compassion and caring are for (weak, inferior) girls. This is probably the most fucked-up thing about gender expectations in our society, and changing the male/female ratio isn't going to fix that.

Men aren't really expected to be providers. Modern men think of it as an abstract goal and in practice, more women have to work and are encouraged not to leave the workforce because men aren't reliable providers for their families.
posted by discopolo at 7:06 AM on September 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.
As the father of a daughter, I'll make you answer for that comment. But first I have to get this pie out of the oven and iron some shirts.

We have a word for people who take it for granted that they will like a stranger more because they are the same sex. It's not a nice word, and people who express this opinion deserve to be mocked mercilessly.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


> How about you teach your son, should you have one, to be a really awesome guy who can do anything? And then teach him to teach others to be that way, whether they're men or women?

I can only assume that anotherpanacea would do exactly that, but I think he's right that you're working in and against very different social scripts when you try to do that with a boy vs. with a girl. Even something as simple as "you're awesome and you can do anything" is just begging to get hijacked by stories and expectations a lot bigger and more persistent than one dad.

That could be especially daunting if you were a boy on the fringes of the pack growing up, and you know that trying to raise your son as a decent human runs a good chance of making him extra vulnerable to the nastiness of that pack, at least for a while.

Not to say that's the only reason for gender preference. I've been a boy already. Since I won't be able to restart that particular game and see what other content's available, I'm rather taken with the idea of raising a girl.
posted by postcommunism at 7:20 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, people seem to be grabbing the least charitable reading of

A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son. At least, not in most of America right now.

Yeah, you technically can, but it's more fraught for you and your son. That's a fair observation, albeit probably not one which concerns the demographic with enough money to preselect a kid's gender.
posted by postcommunism at 7:25 AM on September 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


The best thing you can add to a daughter's development is a brother. Luckily the reverse is also true
posted by MangyCarface at 7:26 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I fear in 40 years the pacific ocean will be like the center of a gym at a middle school dance. All the girls one side all the boys on the other.

Except they'll have nukes this time.
posted by French Fry at 7:27 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


If nothing else, mothers who wanted girls, at least teach your sons to sew. They will thank you for it.

My mother-in-law is an excellent amateur seamstress. My husband - her son - really wants to learn how to sew. But it's me and her daughter that she keeps talking to about sewing.

And I would characterize her as a feminist, most of the time (she was a scientist in the 60s and pretty much a trailblazer). But something just blinds her to her discrimination about sewing. Maybe it's because she so strongly associates it with making women's clothing.
posted by jb at 7:41 AM on September 26, 2012


the frivolous use of this technology really makes me mad

Define "frivolous."
posted by caryatid at 7:43 AM on September 26, 2012


I'm sorry I don't have time to read all the comments. But wanting to choose the gender of your child based on your preconceptions of what that would feel like seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of what parenting is. There's no guarantee a child will turn out liking the things you like, behaving in the gendered way you expect, sharing that 'special bond' you're dreaming of, or relating to you a particular way. They may be genderqueer, gay, troubled, or just plain different from you. Watching people who are related to you express their innate and selected differences is one of the joys and mysteries of life. You can't expect your child will fulfill a fantasy for your relationship with them any more than you can predict their predilection for food flavors, pastimes, school subjects, skills, tastes in dress, or any other characteristic. Or late-onset disabilities, for that matter. I think that, where there is counseling associated with making this decision, this kind of discussion - you can't control all outcomes for your child, and your child will surprise you and differ from your expectations in ways no one can now predict - should precede all other considerations.
posted by Miko at 7:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [25 favorites]


Men commit upwards of 90% of crimes, start almost all wars, and are far more likely to unnecessarily aggregate pathologically large shares of power and resources to themselves at great harm to others. Whether that's nature or nurture, it's a darn good reason to encourage sex-selection for females. Males are the troublesome sex. If the ratio were something like 60:40 female:male, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.

Wow, that's a pretty incendiary comment, don't you think?
posted by gagglezoomer at 7:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


If the ratio were something like 60:40 female:male, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.

Except for all the straight women. (Even if some women are gay, so are some men, so that would be a wash).

There have been periods when we had many fewer men than women, due to horrific wars. No one talks about Europe in the 1920s and 30s as being a place and time of unprecedented peace and harmony. Instead, we talk about a "lost generation" and of women living their lives unable to marry or have a family - something that is important to a lot of women, even now. Many made do, but many were also very, very lonely.
posted by jb at 7:45 AM on September 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


when I have a baby, I'm hoping for human.

But I'd make do with a kitten. Just no guinea pigs.
posted by jb at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


I am currently in the stage of life where every two seconds someone announces they're pregnant, and almost to a person, my friends (mostly white, middle-class, moderately educated, liberal) "hope for a girl". My best friend, before finding out the sex of her child, said "Is it bad that I really don't want a boy?"

As the mother of a wonderful little boy, this makes me really sad: it's like [some] women think they can't like a child who's differently-sexed. The squeeing that goes on when a baby girl is profiled in ultrasound on someone's facebook is very different from a baby boy.

A friend of mine actually said the other day, when we were talking about activities parents do with children of different sexes, "Boys don't dance with their moms, for example." !!!

I will admit that if we have another child, I'd like to have a girl just so I could have "one of each". But that's mostly meaningless and at least partially based on cute baby girl clothes and having a kid who looks more like me. After all, I can't possibly have one of every kind of child there is in the world.
posted by editrixx at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Do girls dance with their moms? I've never danced with my mom.
posted by Miko at 7:47 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like, turn up the radio and dance around in the living room. Not ballroom dancing.
posted by editrixx at 7:49 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I danced with the family dog, and only years later realized what the dog's hip-pumping take on things was.
posted by postcommunism at 7:50 AM on September 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


sewing is for some reason still thought of as "girly".

which is especially weird, because tailors are traditionally men.Plus, in the olden days, sailors, who are (were) possibly one of the most rough, tough, masculine roles out there, did all of their own sewing. I think military guys have to be able to sew too, right?

To me, a man being somewhat self-reliant is more sexy and masculine than needing a woman to do it for him because he never bothered to learn (I'm talking about basic sewing here, not complex garment making or tailoring, which are specialized skills).I feel the same way about women who can't change their own tires (if they drive) or wield a hammer or a drill. If you're an adult, you should be able to do the basics to take care of yourself and your things. Not doing it because of your gender is silly.

Having a boy or girl both seem equally perilous to me. A girl will have to deal with feeling constantly threatened, with a lot of oppression, and will probably suffer sexual assault or abuse at some point in her life. A boy will have to deal with social norms training them to become oppressors whether they want to or not, and with an expectation of violence, plus with having a woman (me) for a mother, who can't understand or relate to what he's going through, never having experienced it. Both could grow up to be murderers or sexual offenders and I don't know how I'd deal with that... which is (one of the reasons) why I'm seriously considering going childless my whole life.
posted by windykites at 7:53 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do girls dance with their moms? I've never danced with my mom.

You didn't even fake ballroom dance with a sister or friend?
posted by discopolo at 7:54 AM on September 26, 2012


Do girls dance with their moms? I've never danced with my mom.

when i was very, very little, my mom and i would have "girl night" which involved dancing around in the living room to 80's music and eat junky snacks. I don't even know what else we did. Movies? We might have done hair and nails, I'm really not sure. But I know we danced around to 80's music, and I know I loved it.

Nowadays? Not so much.
posted by windykites at 7:58 AM on September 26, 2012


You didn't even fake ballroom dance with a sister or friend?

Sisters and friends aren't my mom. I thought we were talking about moms' expectations for their daughters.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on September 26, 2012


which is especially weird, because tailors are traditionally men.Plus, in the olden days, sailors, who are (were) possibly one of the most rough, tough, masculine roles out there, did all of their own sewing. I think military guys have to be able to sew too, right?

People say this about knitting, too, as if it makes knitting magically not a strongly gendered activity. Whenever someone makes some comment about me knitting, I tell them that my grandad taught me (which is only sort of true--I learned from the back of a magazine while my grandad kibitzed) because that generally disarms them enough to not make some further somewhat condescending comments about the fact I'm a guy who knits.

(As far as I know, most 80-odd year old British men did not knit or do needlepoint when they were younger. I assume my grandad learned in the Navy, which wouldn't make him a massive outlier, but he kept going.)
posted by hoyland at 8:05 AM on September 26, 2012


Except for all the straight women. (Even if some women are gay, so are some men, so that would be a wash).

Have you seen some of the relationship questions on the green from female posters where the poster is being emotionally abused to such an extent that she doesn't even see the reality for what it is anymore?
posted by discopolo at 8:06 AM on September 26, 2012


I believe there's a medical condition that can only be passed to a child of a specific gender?

Yes, a bunch. Mostly due to mutations on the X chromosome. A mutated gene on the X chromosome is generally not a big deal for a female (XX), because the correct copy of the gene on her other X chromosome can pick up the slack. However, a male (XY) doesn't have that backup, and therefore suffers the consequences of missing that gene.

The available combinations are:

Carrier mum + healthy dad: half the boys are sick, all the girls are healthy (although half are carriers)
Healthy mum + sick dad: All the boys healthy, all the girls healthy (although all are carriers)
Carrier mum + sick dad: Half the boys sick, half the girls sick (the other half are healthy but carriers)
Sick mum + sick dad: All the kids are sick.

So for X-linked diseases, choosing to only have daughters either improves or doesn't change your chances of a healthy family.*

That said, I think that for most of the common X-linked diseases we know the genes responsible. This means that most couples who are worried about genetic disease could just test every embryo for the mutation, with no more invasiveness or difficulty than testing their sex as described in these articles. So I'd expect that sex selection purely for this reason should be pretty rare, if it happens at all.

(NB: I'm not a medical doctor, and may be overestimating the proportion of X-linked diseases for which we know the specific mutation(s) responsible. If you speak to a doctor who disagrees with me about any of this stuff, you should definitely believe them, not me).

*The real picture is a bit messier than this, of course. "Carrier" females might not be perfectly healthy, although they're certainly much better off than the males with one copy of the mutation and than the females with two. There are also other causes and contributors to sex-linked diseases. But it's a fairly solid rule of thumb.
posted by metaBugs at 8:10 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Men commit upwards of 90% of crimes, start almost all wars, and are far more likely to unnecessarily aggregate pathologically large shares of power and resources to themselves at great harm to others. Whether that's nature or nurture, it's a darn good reason to encourage sex-selection for females. Males are the troublesome sex. If the ratio were something like 60:40 female:male, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.

To the extent the problem is biological and not cultural, it's not really maleness so much as just testosterone. But good luck getting men to voluntarily reduce their testosterone levels.
posted by jedicus at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2012


While this discussion is very, uh, high-minded, I do not think it's absurd for a family to want a daughter. After all, adult daughters are generally their mothers' closest confidants. Sure, this may not work out for any particular scenario for any number of reasons, but blindly having more children in the hopes of the ratio evening out seems ... a lot less preferable. (Pity the third boy.)
posted by purpleclover at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


metaBugs, isn't that one of the theories as to why autism is more prevalent in boys?
posted by discopolo at 8:18 AM on September 26, 2012


A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.

Not true.


Seriously? You didn't read the next sentence?

A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son. At least, not in most of America right now.

We get it: you're awesome and don't have a problem with boys doing "girl" things. But in most of America, kids still get teased, beat up and killed for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
posted by Etrigan at 8:21 AM on September 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


If we were rich, I might have been interested in gender selection for our kids. I always, always from the time I was little, pictured my future kids as girls. I'm fairly sure that this is because of the rather severe abuse I suffered at the hands of my father. I couldn't picture having a good relationship with my son, and I wasn't keen on having more males in the family. For the first kid, we got a girl (yay!). But then when we did the ultrasound for #2, it was a boy.

I can't describe how deflated I felt. It was awful, getting stuck with a boy. I moped around for 4 months, dreading this unwanted change in our life. I knew I preferred girls, but had no idea just how much I dreaded a boy until we got the news.

Now he is three and a half, and is absolutely my favorite person in the world. He has been a delight since he was born, and has transformed our family in incredible ways--and he is exactly the sort of stereotypical Spider-man and dinosaurs boy that many of these families are avoiding.

I'm sure it wouldn't work that way for everyone, but I shudder to think how impoverished our lives would be if we had gotten our way and had only the kinds of kids we thought we wanted. I love my daughters, too, very much. But my love for them was less transformative because it was expected. Sometimes it's a wonderful thing to be surprised by the genetic lottery.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:21 AM on September 26, 2012 [21 favorites]


We should simply call bullshit on this entire article :

- A couple doctors advertising to women who prefer girls sounds like anecdote, while iotic's search turns up survey data saying that Americans prefer baby boys.

- As I mentioned upthread, there is massive a gender imbalance towards boys created by reduced child mortality for which we need an 50,000 extra female births per year. You simply cannot complain about too many daughters until after we've 100,000 more parents selecting daughters than select sons.

There could be numerous cultural reasons for choosing daughters over sons, like crime, worth ethic, family connection, etc. too, but those aren't having much effect right now.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:24 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not to say that's the only reason for gender preference. I've been a boy already. Since I won't be able to restart that particular game and see what other content's available, I'm rather taken with the idea of raising a girl.

As I said when my son was first born: Babies - they're like DLC for real life!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:34 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I prefer the time-tested balancing method of giving probability room to work, myself.

It seems foolish to enourge people who would be happy with 2.4 kids to keep procreating until the law of large numbers kicks in.
posted by Mitheral at 8:36 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


You simply cannot complain about too many daughters until after we've 100,000 more parents selecting daughters than select sons.

But this gender balance evens out at around the teen years according to here. In fact, it tips towards females at 65+, and among the whole population it's pretty even at 0.97.

I mean, as time goes on, things like immigration, emigration and death start to take effect. There's more ways to resolve the imbalance than just to focus on births then.
posted by FJT at 8:40 AM on September 26, 2012


I am sickened that an opportunity to even do this exists. No, really. I felt physically ill at my desk reading that article and what these so-called parents had to say about having children.

You know what? It's pretty freaking easy to love and adore your own child.

I happen to have a boy and a girl through the wonders of chance. And it pisses me off when people comment on how perfect that is, and that's all you need, and aren't you lucky to have one of each. I didn't care if I had a boy or a girl the first time. We didn't even find out the first time. And I didn't care if I had a boy or a girl the second time. We did find out the second time, and I wasn't any more or less thrilled than the first time when I didn't know. And I'd have considered myself pretty darn lucky to have two healthy and happy boys because what I cared about was if they were healthy.

My parents had three girls and then a boy for their last child. My mom kept getting comments that, "Oh, you had your boy, so you stopped having children!" My mom would say, privately later because she is not confrontational, "No, we stopped having children because we had four children!"

It's your child! It's not a menu item.
posted by zizzle at 8:40 AM on September 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


"It's interesting to note that it is affluent Whites who prefer daughters.
So who are all these girls going to marry? White Americans tend to practice monogamy. So I think there will be a trend for these girls to marry inter-racially."



There's nowhere near enough of a population wide impact/exercised preference for female children in the U.S. to make husbands of the socially expected race (and class, even) unavailable for these women in the same way that socially & ethnically equivalent wives will be unavailable to Chinese/Indian men.
posted by Selena777 at 8:41 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I shudder to think of the day when they isolate the gene that determines sexual preference. This procedure will be performed at WalMart. It's a slippery slope; one we are already on, I guess.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:44 AM on September 26, 2012


My wife put up with a lot of comments about how she must be so disappointed that our first child was a boy, and even more so when our second child was also a boy. She politely told them that no, she was happy with her boys, but I got to hear later about how hurtful and rude it was for people to make presumptive comments like that. I also got a lot of "your wife must be disappointed" comments when we had the second boy.

Because I was also to polite to say anything to people's faces, I will say here what I have to say to anyone who thinks this is even a remotely acceptable comment to make: SHUT THE FUCK UP.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:46 AM on September 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


Another mother of a boy chiming in with a bit of anecdata - we didn't know what our son was going to be until he was actually born (he wouldn't stay still for the ultrasound) but I thought if I had a choice I would probably want a boy. Having a boy is awesome. Having a girl would have been awesome. You know what - a healthy happy little individual (who then grows in to a big individual) is awesome.

If you start down the path of 'well, I want a girl because girls are so X' or 'we decided to engineer a boy because boys are so Y' you are truly setting yourself up for disappointment.
posted by Megami at 8:51 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's your child! It's not a menu item.

Thank you. The bullshit sense of entitlement of the people in that article, and in this thread, is staggering. Seriously, if your life is so charmed that you care so damned much about your child's gender you are willing to pay what many people take home in pay for a year to choose whether you have a boy or a girl then shut the fuck up.
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:52 AM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am the mother of two: one daughter and one son.
Daughter Anna is beautiful and innocent and son Agastya is so handsome;
They are darling to me; I am living my childhood once again. What more a mother wants.

Gender obsession should not be a matter of concern. Boy or Girl, they are precious gift of God and should be equally loved and cared.
posted by molisk at 8:54 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


A husband who wants a boy can still do "boy" things with his daughter. A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son. At least, not in most of America right now.

This, I think, is a large part of it. While certainly there are lots of individual exceptions, there is a widespread perception that it is more socially acceptable for a girl to participate in both traditionally-female and traditionally-'male' activities, than it is for a boy to participate in (or actually be interested in, in a non-grudging way) traditionally-'female' activities. This isn't really surprising; there's a lot more social stigma among kids for boys who are perceived as being too effeminate than for girls who are too masculine. I.e., a girl can be a "tomboy", which is mostly value-neutral, but the male equivalent -- a "sissy" -- is pretty loaded in comparison. (Though let's be honest, a boy who takes on any aspects of a female gender performance would be lucky to just get called a "sissy"; more likely are terms that directly call into question his sexuality.)

And if we look forward a few decades, and concentrate our attentions solely on the relatively rarefied air of upper-class white existence (setting aside the rest of the country and world), it's not clear that being male is particularly advantageous. Girls generally do better in primary and secondary school than boys, there will be many more girls than boys in college by the time today's babies are eligible to go, there will probably be more women than men in some professional occupations (or at least things will be trending that way), etc. It's entirely possible, if you were trying to set things up so that your child would have the maximum number of opportunities for success, that being male would not be an asset. (I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that being male is a drawback, because there are still income advantages, but within upper-class white culture those are largely attributable to childbearing decisions, so someone could easily discount them as a lifestyle choice.)

But we're talking about a very small number of people making this decision at all, and then only within a relatively small, but visible and socially important, subculture. My suspicion is that if gender selection became the norm in the US and were cheap enough to be available to all social classes, there are more people who would use it to express a male preference than to express a female one. It's just that the cost and expense is limiting it to a social strata where there happens to be a slight female preference.

I prefer the time-tested balancing method of giving probability room to work, myself.

I think the number of college funds required for the Monte Carlo method of family planning is prohibitive for many.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:55 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


This seems to me to be representative of the cultural shift seen over the past two decades where males have been increasingly marginalized.
posted by eas98 at 8:56 AM on September 26, 2012


In other words, what if he's an asshole?

What if your daughter is an asshole?

How do you hope for your career son's success while also wishing for more women in his field?

These things are not mutually exclusive. Plus, it is OK to root for your son. He's your kid, after all.
posted by asnider at 8:59 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


This brings up an interesting point: If so many people do choose girls, what would a larger percentage of women in the population mean socially/economically/politically in 20 years or so? Could gender equality become a reality, or the "glass ceiling" finally get shattered, via sheer strength in numbers? Or might it go the other way, and women become more commodified as the pool of available men shrinks proportionately?

It would lead to more disappointed, single women. That might be more socially beneficial than having lots of aimless single men, since frustrated men are more likely to resort to crime and violence.
posted by John Cohen at 9:09 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do girls dance with their moms? I've never danced with my mom.

Not as much as with my dad, because my mom wasn't as good a dancer as my dad was. We'd bust out the Saturday Night Fever moves while my mom changed the records.
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on September 26, 2012


What if your daughter is an asshole?

My daughter (the oldest) IS an asshole. Always has been, even as an infant. So bad, we had family counseling. My second daughter is as sweet as candy, so lovable I worry about her.

Doesn't matter, I fiercely love both of them.

If selection had been available for me, I would have chosen the second child to be a son. I wanted to know what it was like to raise a boy, I wanted to raise a humanist boy like mentioned above (socially conscious but also confident). However, I was still blessed with another wonderful daughter, the girly girl the oldest was not.

Part of me is icked out (probably the feminist part) by the selection but most of me thinks "Oh, cool, people can choose now!" Soon we'll be choosing eye-color, height, etc by just dialing it up. There will be a lot more social issues that kind of stuff will bring up than just gender imbalances.

Get used to it, it's coming.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:25 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, I see nothing wrong with selecting the gender of your child if that is what you want to do. Especially considering that most of the people in the US who do so already have several children. The writer of the article seemed to go out of the way to find the parents who sounded the craziest though. Some of the comments were creepy/terrifying.

And as others have suggested, some of these parents are going to be deeply disappointed when the girly girl they were hoping for turns out to be more interested in nascar than ballet.
posted by nolnacs at 9:26 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I look forward to a future where the world recognizes that women are equally capable of resorting to crime and violence, and start an equal amount of wars. This is the 21st century why should being a dick be limited to men. Women are just a capabe as men to be drug dealers, petty theives, muggers, warlords and heads of militaristic states as men and it is time the world accepted it.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:28 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


some of these parents are going to be deeply disappointed when the girly girl they were hoping for turns out to be more interested in nascar than ballet

Yeah, sure, some will--but not that many. Whether you attribute it to nature or to nurture, it is demonstrably the case that girls tend to end up more interested in "girly" things and boys in "boyish" things in our culture. If your aim is to have a child who is into the pink 'n fluffy side of life and not so much into the violent sports and breaking things you're making a sound statistical decision to opt for a girl. And, again, that's a sound statistical decision regardless of your position on the nature/nurture question. Even if you suspect that in a gender-neutral world these preferences would be randomly distributed among girls and boys, it is obviously a shit-ton of work to set out to counterprogram your child against the prevailing cultural messages that will be flooding them every time they read a book, turn on a TV set, listen to music, go to school etc. etc. etc.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm nowhere near having a kid, and I know it's kind of a horrible thought, but I think I'd prefer a boy just because of the heaps of unnecessary shit that women have to go through.

I will say that females dogs and cats make better pets, though.
posted by klangklangston at 9:48 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.

Define "girl things"?

I'm wracking my brains here, and the only thing I can come up with that I couldn't do with my sons is dress them in frilly shit. (And I would expect that if I had a daughter and tried that nonsense, the child's response would be "Jesus christ, mother, get a DOLL!")
posted by MissySedai at 9:49 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am so bemused by the fear that one's son will be at best inscrutably sports-and-toy-guns obsessed and at worst a genocidaire-rapist. Fathers: does this describe you? Mothers: Does this describe your partner? Do you just not "get" him?

If you/your partner is already the sort of person who thinks a lot about how to raise kind and well-rounded children, your son probably going to turn out ok.
posted by naoko at 9:49 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Boys don't dance with their moms, for example." !!!

Say what now?

A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.

What I don't even
posted by chavenet at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I happen to have a boy and a girl through the wonders of chance. And it pisses me off when people comment on how perfect that is, and that's all you need, and aren't you lucky to have one of each.

Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggh!

I have two sons. And I love the hell out of them, they're not just my kids, they're these amazing and hilarious people that I enjoy spending time with. In fact, it should be plainly obvious to anyone who sees us together that I am delighted to have them.

And yet, there's always some asshole who wants to know if I'm disappointed that I don't have a daughter. Some even go so far as to ask if I've thought about "trying for a girl"! The fuck? My boys are 20 and 16. I am 42! Why the hell would I want to start all over again? When I stare incredulously at these people and ask them exactly that, they get indignant, as if it's simply a matter of course that you "keep trying", and any deviation from that is a personal affront.

I guess we are freaks for being happy with the children we have. I can live with that.
posted by MissySedai at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can almost imagine doing offspring sex selection. What I cannot imagine is talking to anybody about it after, ever. That would definitely fall into the classification of secrets to take to the grave.
posted by bukvich at 10:08 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


These are the early stages to producing the Kwisatz Haderach. Another ninety generations or so, and we'll be getting there . . .
posted by exlotuseater at 10:13 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Amy Poehler's observations on the difference between having little girls and little boys.

So if you're into cleaning up pee from everywhere, then, by all means, have boys. (Kidding! Just kidding!)
posted by discopolo at 10:25 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son.

What I don't even


As has been said upthread, it's a matter of degrees. My parents were big on equality and treated my sister and I (male) pretty much the same. So alongside making fires, falling out of trees, using tools, pretending to be dinosaurs, etc, we learned to cook, bake, knit, sew, and dance enough ballet to pass a couple of grade exams. I got mocked a lot in school whenever I was daft enough to admit to this "girl stuff", and still can as an adult (by men far more than women) if I stray too far out of my little liberal bubble.

For their part, my parents' jobs meant that they were fairly visible in our little community, and that people had some slightly weird expectations about how they were supposed to behave. I never pickep up on it at the time, but in hindsight I can see that they got a lot of flack from their peers for making me too girly (and my sister too tomboyish), which can't have been easy to put up with all the time.

So a mother can certainly do "girl" things with her son, but unless you're in an extrmely liberal community it's daft to think that there's not a strong social pressure to conform to the current stereotypes. Even assuming that the mum sees the option of going against the grain, she might just not want the hassle.

metaBugs, isn't that one of the theories as to why autism is more prevalent in boys?

That's something I know basically nothing about, sorry. It's definitely an obvious place to start looking (for diseases more common in men, your first guesses are typically X-linked or testosterone-dependent), but I have no clue what the evidence says.
posted by metaBugs at 10:36 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


A husband who wants a boy can still do "boy" things with his daughter. A wife who wants a girl cannot do "girl" things with her son. At least, not in most of America right now.

Surely parents have adult friends they can turn to to do whatever stereotypical gendo-cultural stuff they want to do, no?

At any rate, as long as society keeps on promoting "girl" things and "boy" things and people keep believing that crap, we will never have a society where boys can wear pink nail polish without anyone batting an eye. Anything I enjoy is "girl" things, by virtue of my being female. I'm not less of a woman by digging holes, getting dirty, solving an engineering problem, sweating copper, wearing hoodies and sneakers, &c. If you don't broaden your definition of what it means to be feminine or masculine you're doomed to live in a judgmental and less permissive society. It's an especially galling thing to contemplate since so much current gender essentialism today is driven by commercial/material cycles. It wasn't cool for young men to wear perfume until Unilever decided to exploit the market and make a mint selling them fragrance products. When I was a kind, there was no "pink" aisle at Toys R' Us- that's a marketing tactic to sell branded products twice. People talk seriously about wanting girl children so that they can dress them up in pink frilly princess outfits- I was a girl that hated pink, hated frills, and would have seriously disappointed any parent who had imagined a girl baby with some idea of a dirt and bug-hating female who would want her toenails painted and a fluffy canopy bed.

Thank god I was raised by parents who didn't give a crap about this kind of stuff. For my third Christmas I got a Hot Wheels set that came with a gas pump to charge up the cars to race around the oval track. Two Christmases later, my sister and I got the huge Tonka fire engine and ambulance. We also got tiny boxes of jewelry in our stockings. We turned out okay. People need to stop living in fear that their children won't be the kind of person they want them to be based on their sex.Allow your kids to open your mind about what it can mean to be a boy or a girl in today's world. Raise thoughtful, observant, considerate, curious little people and chances are they will grow up to be awesome, no matter what their interests or material desires.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Define "girl things"?

Sit at a department store makeup counter and get a makeover, i.e. actually apply makeup to ones face?

This may have turned into a derail, but I think there is some truth in the general statement "there are more examples of situations where society would look differently at a mother doing an activity that is perfectly normal with a daughter if she did that same thing with a son, versus if a father did with a daughter the same activity that would be considered normal if done with a son."

Having neither sons nor daughters may skew my observations, but it seems to come down to the idea that society in general is more comfortable with females in activities that were historically associated with males, than it is of males in female-associated situations.

I'm thinking of it like "If I had a daughter, would there be things that I wouldn't feel comfortable doing with her that I wouldn't think twice about doing with a son, versus how would I feel about the reverse situation my wife and son". With some introspection I could probably come up with both, but more of one than the other. And you know what else? If my non-existent son liked makeup and wanted to sit at that counter I'd be OK with that and I want to think that if that's what he wanted I'd even take him. But remember the original comment had this caveat "At least, not in most of America right now."

p.s. Thanks Mom for teaching me to sew, cook, ...
posted by achrise at 10:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This will seem like a sidebar, but it's not, I promise. Can anyone remember a short from an animation festival in the very early '90's - it was narrated by a man and possibly a woman and it was all images of doors and keys and hearts and the man kept saying "Maybe that's the one we better not mess with". Every time I think of gender selection, I hear that in my brain - walking up to a door that is locked on purpose and saying to yourself, "maybe that's the one you better not mess with".
posted by PuppyCat at 10:45 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Surely parents have adult friends they can turn to to do whatever stereotypical gendo-cultural stuff they want to do, no?

It's not the mom doing dad things, it's the son doing daughter things. Adult friends won't help. Loaner offspring is what you're looking for.

I got a Hot Wheels set ... my sister and I got the huge Tonka fire engine and ambulance.

But did your brothers get dolls, makeup, and nail polish? That's the point.
posted by achrise at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm a mom, but not particularly girly and didn't care about pink dresses, princesses, etc, but I still had a (probably irrational) preference for a girl. My daughter is very into sports, video games, and tomboyish things and I think it's great. I also couldn't help but notice all the medical issues that are more common in boys (SIDS, autism, ADHD) - I don't know if there are other things more common in girls that would balance it out, but the high profile things you hear about (and that are purportedly on the rise, like autism) disproportionately affect boys. That was at least one reason I was happy to have a girl - the odds are on your side for some medical issues.

I think the analysis upthread is probably the correct one - often moms want girls, and dads want boys (obviously not universal, but a trend). Since in America women have significant control over childbearing, that preference is becoming more prominent.
posted by Mallenroh at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2012


People talk seriously about wanting girl children so that they can dress them up in pink frilly princess outfits- I was a girl that hated pink, hated frills, and would have seriously disappointed any parent who had imagined a girl baby with some idea of a dirt and bug-hating female who would want her toenails painted and a fluffy canopy bed.

While I think that gender-based socialization is very real and has a pretty big outcome on who kids grow up to be, kids are ultimately going to be who they're going to be. A friend of mine really doesn't want her daughter to be a pretty princess who loves pink frilly dresses. But that is who her daughter is, despite having very little exposure to pop culture so far in her life. Of course, she also thinks poop and fart jokes are hilarious, so ¯\(°_o)/¯

It wasn't cool for young men to wear perfume until Unilever decided to exploit the market and make a mint selling them fragrance products.

Cologne has been popular among men -- particularly young men who wear waaaaay too much in junior high -- long before Axe was a thing.

posted by asnider at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember when I was about 11 or so, the family was looking to get a new cat. I had always been told that female cats are calm and docile, while boy cats are rambunctious and playful to the point you have to cut their balls off to calm down. While there's some validity to this in regards to kitties, when the opportunity to adopt a new Siamese kitten from one of my mom's co-workers, I was upset to learn that it would be a female. Because as I'd been told over and over again, girl cats are boring, and boy cats are playful.

Needless to say, Merlin turned out to be a wonderful kitty, who was plenty playful and rambunctious, and made us all very happy until she passed away last January.

The point is, while I don't have kids, I feel like people are spending thousands of dollars only to end up learning something I learned at 11.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am actually surprised at the female preference in the US. I have two daughters and was often asked if I was disappointed in not getting a son for the second one. I mean very often.
I DID go out of my way to have a girl for my first with all of the timing of ovulation low tech tricks because my mother had died and I wanted to honor her memory with a daughter. Interestingly enough my mother had her two sons within her first 3 pregnancies and then had 7 more daughters, each of whom "should have been" a boy named Charles after HER father.
posted by Isadorady at 11:12 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also couldn't help but notice all the medical issues that are more common in boys (SIDS, autism, ADHD) - I don't know if there are other things more common in girls that would balance it out, but the high profile things you hear about (and that are purportedly on the rise, like autism) disproportionately affect boys. That was at least one reason I was happy to have a girl - the odds are on your side for some medical issues.

Depression
Biploar Disorder
ADHD Inattentive Type
Congenital Adrenal Hypoplasia
Anxiety disorders
Eating Disorders
Rett Syndrome
Trisomy-18
posted by zizzle at 11:28 AM on September 26, 2012


But remember the original comment had this caveat "At least, not in most of America right now."

I'm just reading this and just seeing it as a combination of parents that are both conformist and also want to shelter their kids from everything, including gender normative criticism. Honestly, let's put this in perspective. Children are precious, but they're not fragile. There are children out there in third world countries that can discern which plants to eat a jungle that won't kill them, that can field strip an AK-47 in under 10 minutes, that hunt a wild gazelle that'll feed a family of four for a week, and can probably recite half a holy tome (either the Bible or Tao te Ching or the Quran) by memory.

And here we are handwringing over how most of America may look unkindly to a dad putting on finger nail polish with his son. REALLY?!? Where the hell are Tiger parents when you need them!?
posted by FJT at 11:48 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


where males have been increasingly marginalized

seriously?

"Marginalized" is a bit much.
posted by windykites at 12:10 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


And here we are handwringing over how most of America may look unkindly to a dad putting on finger nail polish with his son.

I think the issue is less about what people will think about the parent and more about what might happen to the son. Homophobic bullying and murder are still very real in most of the world, America included.

A girl can generally be a tomboy without any serious repercussions. If a boy acts too effeminate someone will likely brand him a "fag" and make his life absolute hell.
posted by asnider at 12:12 PM on September 26, 2012


It's difficult for me to articulate the exact reasons. "I 'get' girls" would be a start, but it also goes deeper than that. There is an entire host of experiences that women can relate to each other through (biological, emotional, cultural) and I have had that kind of invisible connection my entire life.

Gender is sooo overrated.

A friend of mine really doesn't want her daughter to be a pretty princess who loves pink frilly dresses. But that is who her daughter is, despite having very little exposure to pop culture so far in her life. Of course, she also thinks poop and fart jokes are hilarious, so ¯\(°_o)/¯

You'd be surprised how pervasive gender stereotypes are. Look at kids' books. Before my daughter was even 2 she thought she had to grow up to be a man to drive a truck.

And every child thinks poop and fart jokes are funny. ;)

...

No one mentions circumcision? That's the main reason I didn't want a boy. There would be a lot of family pressure to do it, and I see no reason why.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am very surprised that no one has brought this up yet.

I believe the reason affluent Americans want daughters is because (stereotypically, of course, see below) daughters will take care of you in your old age. It's the same reason Chinese and Indian families prefer sons, just with the cultural flip.

From here: Of course, this is changing -- but cultural expectations take longer to respond.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hmm. We just had another daughter, so our two children are two girls. I guess some part of me wanted a boy but another wanted a girl given that our life is very gentle and ordered and our daugher is so calm, and there would be certain advantages to having two girls - sharing rooms might be easier, clothes are easier, toys are easier. A bit of it is because I'm familiar with having a girl, and quite frankly I just get along with women a whole lot easier than men, generally. My closest, dearest friends are women. No idea why.

But, this is all theoretical. Having children is a massive crapshoot, and gender doesn't really dictate conformity. All the things I list above are not guaranteed - just a little more probable that my younger daughter will prefer 'girly' things like wear dresses, etc. These are mainly financial considerations, mind.

Every kid is different, and if you're trying to make it easier on yourself in selecting a gender get ready for some serious disappointment in the planning department. Nothing goes as planned with kids. Be EXTREMELY HAPPY if your baseline is simply 'healthy'. Beyond that, it's a big old bowl of unexpected - and that's what makes it wonderful.

I felt really uneasy even entertaining what I 'wanted' because you get what you get, and you love the hell out of it not because it's a boy or a girl but because you're the parent and we're hard wired to love them unconditionally.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:25 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm confused at how there seems to be this black-and-white thing where girls are either frilly princesses or roughousing tomboys. I think that's dumb, and I also think that it's supe-confusing for girls, being expected to decide "what kind of girl they are" and force themselves into one of those molds. I was confused for years about "who I really was", and I think part of it is because of this constant pressure to "figure out what kind of girl you are" (that is, figure out what kind of products you want to be a demographic for) and conform to that. I mean, seriously. Why can't I be a frilly princess tomboy drag racer? Why does it have to be one or the other? If I ever have a daughter, and she wants to climb trees in frilly lace dresses, I am fully going to get behind that.

I don't know if there's the same kind of thing that goes on for boys. I feel like there are fewer socially acceptable options for what kind of person a boy is supposed to present as. I'm not sure if that's true, and if it is, that comes with a whole host of other problems. But it seems silly to me to assume that your child, regardless of gender, is going to be a static representative of a stereotype rather than a dynamic, complex, multifaceted individual. What if he likes spider-man and dolls? Then what will they do.
posted by windykites at 12:27 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


My mom taught me to cook the way moms usually teach their daughters to cook. I hung around the kitchen pestering her with questions and fetching things from the basement, and when I was old enough she let me take over some of the stirring and chopping and whatnot. Then I'd go set the table and tell my brother and dad that dinner was ready.

From a young age all the way through high school, she would put on her favorite music, and we'd dance in the living room to Roy Orbison or the Everley Brothers. When she and my dad would go out in the evening, I would hang around and watch her put on makeup, and help pick out earrings or a necklace that matched her outfit. I loved watching my mom check herself out in the mirror. She was so pretty.

I used to love going to the fabric store with her and picking out patterns for clothes. She was really patient with my clumsiness around the sewing machine. We'd spend hours sifting through my great-grandmother's button collection for the perfect set. By the time I was a Boy Scout, I could sew the patches on my uniform without missing a stitch.

I grew up to be my mom's closest confidant. She obviously taught me a lot about how to be a human, how to be a man, and I know I gave her the support a good daughter would. When her depression came I talked her into finding help; when other illnesses took hold of her I helped her through those, too. All through my adulthood, we chatted every few days about her garden, about her friends in the neighborhood, about my dad and my brother and her grandchildren.

When she died I lost one of my closest friends. I don't think I'm particularly atypical. I'm a straight guy, into a lot of the sports and math and war stories that are expected of men, and I have a great relationship with my dad and brother. My willingness to try new things or to be open-minded about gender roles is perhaps greater than average, and some of that may be due to my relationship with my mom, but I think most of that is just from who I am.

I was never teased for baking good brownies, or sewing my own surf shorts, or wearing a purple hat, green tights, and flattering costume jewelry to the Renaissance Festival. For all of you who think moms can't do "girl things" with their sons, I wish you could sit down and talk with my mom for an hour or two.

I wish I could, too. I really miss her.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [61 favorites]


there seems to be this black-and-white thing where girls are either frilly princesses or roughousing tomboys

My one year old daughter was wearing a shirt with pink and purple butterflies on it the other day while pushing around a huge yellow dump truck. She's already bucking both female stereotypes!
posted by zizzle at 12:30 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got a Hot Wheels set ... my sister and I got the huge Tonka fire engine and ambulance.

But did your brothers get dolls, makeup, and nail polish? That's the point.


I didn't have brothers, but I addressed that point anyway, if you read my entire post:

At any rate, as long as society keeps on promoting "girl" things and "boy" things and people keep believing that crap, we will never have a society where boys can wear pink nail polish without anyone batting an eye.


It wasn't cool for young men to wear perfume until Unilever decided to exploit the market and make a mint selling them fragrance products.

Cologne has been popular among men -- particularly young men who wear waaaaay too much in junior high -- long before Axe was a thing.


Sure, but not to this extent. How about middle schoolers? Were young men bringing cologne to school to spritz themselves several times a day? There's a ton of articles about how Unilver/Axe aggressively positioned their product in such a way as to create a whole new market of boys who think they will get chicks by spraying themselves multiple times a day with perfume. Here's one:

Axe has also changed the dynamics of the deodorant category by convincing young men that they need to spray their entire bodies several times a day. Thirty-five percent of guys 11 to 24 now wear body spray, according to Unilever. And users go through cans faster than they do deodorant sticks. The financial reality: while Axe Bodyspray is priced slightly higher than antiperspirants--at $3.99 a can vs. $2.76 on average for a stick--it's a lot cheaper than a $50 bottle of cologne. A teen can certainly afford Axe on his allowance.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:33 PM on September 26, 2012


Sure, but not to this extent. How about middle schoolers? Were young men bringing cologne to school to spritz themselves several times a day? There's a ton of articles about how Unilver/Axe aggressively positioned their product in such a way as to create a whole new market of boys who think they will get chicks by spraying themselves multiple times a day with perfume. Here's one:

Right or wrong, I'd really prefer not to live in a world where middle schoolers with Axe is a blow for gender equality.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:34 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sit at a department store makeup counter and get a makeover, i.e. actually apply makeup to ones face?

You know they do those for men, too, right? Elder Monster had one done before his Senior portrait shoot, and again before prom. No one even blinked. No one peeps when he goes with me to the manicurist or the threader either. He likes having well kept hands and neatly groomed brows. *shrug*

Having neither sons nor daughters may skew my observations, but it seems to come down to the idea that society in general is more comfortable with females in activities that were historically associated with males, than it is of males in female-associated situations.


I see where the disconnect is, then. You're assuming - maybe even correctly! - that most parents are going to bring their kids up in the societally "correct" fashion, because they're worried about what other people think. (See also the idea that the enkidded should have at least one of each gendered child for the "perfect" family.)

Thing is, I can't be bothered to give a deep fried shit about what society thinks I should do with my kids. They are people in their own right, and as such, they can participate in whatever activities they like. I expect this attitude is why gender selection does not sit well with me. Having preconceived notions of how your child will be, based on gender, completely ignores that children are actually people.
posted by MissySedai at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


A girl can generally be a tomboy without any serious repercussions.

Do you honestly think girls who are tomboys dont get called lesbians by mean girls?
posted by discopolo at 12:38 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


As one meaningless data point, my eldest son won't touch anything pink or purple because those are "girl colours" He didn't think a thing about colours until he got teased about a purple snowsuit that he loved when he started school by one of the girls in his class. So, he won't use any cups or plates or crayons or anything else that is pink or a "girl colour.". My youngest son, on the other hand, loves pink because he knows everything that is pink is his and his alone, because his brother won't touch it.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Those who consider a female-skewed population a good thing would do well to consider the example of modern-day Russia. Right now, there are 85 men for every 100 women in the Russian Federation.

I know a number of Russian expats, many women who were competent and/or driven enough get out. Universally, they have told me about women who put up with abuse or drunk men, with being scared to leave them because no others are "available". Of their fears of being employed, educated, young women living out their lives without kids or family because there are no suitable men to form partnerships with.

A high female ratio did not make these women's lives better. Life seems to be worse for many. Some feel trapped in terrible marriages, some feel they have to act in unhappy ways to attract a man, others contemplate lonely futures. Many women seem unhappy with the situation.
posted by bonehead at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


A girl can generally be a tomboy without any serious repercussions.

Just the fact that there's no male equivalent of Tomboy that has positive connotations leads me to believe that it's less likely that girls will be tormented for being Tomboys...but I'm generally of the opinion that adolescence/young adulthood is tough on pretty much everyone in one way or another.

I have the opposite problem - we have a whole jumble of leftover toys and clothes and my daughter overwhelmingly chooses the girly things with no prodding. I'm the only parent at Sportball with a kid in a dress, because she insists on it. She cries if I give her the blue milk cup over the pink one. It's trying, for sure. We have great clothes that are blue and green and she refuses to wear them.

She has a serious obsession with pink that has been entirely unprovoked - I try to put her in more sporty clothes occasionally but she rarely has anything to do with it unless it has flowers or pink or purple on it. Some things are just there I guess.

I could care less how she ends up, in terms of sexual preference, interests, etc. I have no expectations in that department, and that's really how you have to approach it.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:50 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


But did your brothers get dolls, makeup, and nail polish? That's the point.

My brother got dolls. He was into cuddly animals - both stuffed animals and pets. I think he felt pretty free to get into whatever he wanted. He liked traditionally 'girly' stuff as well as traditionally boy stuff. Was into theatre, reading, and cooking, inherited and used my EZ-Bake oven, owned his own fry-o-later at age 13, started a 4H group for rabbit owners. And ended up being a regular and otherwise unremarkable seeming cisgender straight guy. I don't doubt there were some ugly bumps along the way, because male socialization sucks. But he did have access to those things and took part in them. My mother similarly encouraged to me to play with 'boys' stuff, and I really loved my fire helmet especially.
posted by Miko at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(and nail polish? My mom didn't let even me have makeup or nail polish, high heels or pierced ears until I was 12 or 13. She wasn't eager to thrust me into an overly gendered pre-adolescence and I'm grateful for it).
posted by Miko at 12:56 PM on September 26, 2012


There is a thick layer of culture over gender stereotyping, for sure, but at some point the "blank slate" view seems to be indistinguishable from disbelief in the ability of hormones to affect the brain. Most social problems in any given society are caused by males. That is an observable fact.

I think it is likely that tipping the gender ratio towards males will increase crime rates, and radicalize a society towards (civil) war, and tipping it towards females will decrease crime rates. That is a speculation, however we are engaged in experimentally testing "increase males" right now in China and India and the results are not yet in.

I'd love to be proven wrong, this isn't some aspirational ideal of mine and on an individual basis I am happy to accept that your son is no worse-behaved than your daughter and will grow up to be a relatively well-balanced man who contributes positively to society. I just don't think this scales up well over large numbers.

I could be completely wrong in my initial knee-jerk assumption; it might even turn out to have pro-social results in a few generations if a skewed gender ratio, and social status measures linked to supportive and nurturing behaviour, causes the more anti-social males to not to get to be fathers, and in that case parental modelling will skew the effect further as a nurturing man will teach his sons to be like himself. And perhaps a female numeric bias would increase the desirability of anti-social males.

We're venturing into unknown territory here. I agree that we're probably not nearly responsible enough to have access to that technology, as is true of fossil fuels, radioactive materials, genetic modification, etc. But it seems that we do have it, so I think it is worthwhile to discuss what might happen when we use it, even if the content of that discussion becomes incendiary or pushes people's buttons with regard to gender stereotyping.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The other weird thing: the pinkifying of girls is a relatively recent phenomenon, showing it's much likelier a result of social factors than of any sort of internal wiring. At the turn of the century, pink (as a pale red) was considered too masculine for girls by some prescriptive parenting police. Kids wore generic 'baby clothes' until they were four or five. I do perceive that some kids going through the phase where they overidentify with gender markers in an exaggerated way really push that stuff to the limit, but it's not an irresistible, never-changing force of nature. Whether it's pink and fairies for girls or red, blue, and superheroes for boys, it's just what's trendy right now; the stuff is marketed to them, worn (and policed) by their peers, reinforced by adults, communicated in a thousand ways large and small "you're valuable as who you are because you wear and do this; these are your rules." But the rules really change. Try putting one of today's boys in the fantastic plaid-pants-polo-and-poncho ensembles of my youthful 1970s. It's not gonna fly. But not because it's not right-gendered clothing; because it's against the rules.

It's taste. It's malleable.
posted by Miko at 1:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hormones are a thing. But we have been able to regulate our responses to hormonal situations with our intellect for tens of thousands of years at the very least.
posted by Miko at 1:03 PM on September 26, 2012


As individuals we definitely have, Miko, however there are many individuals who do not choose, or perhaps cannot choose, to regulate hormonally driven behaviours. I see this as a similar argument to Libertarian views of poverty: given that any specific individual could discipline and motivate themselves to rise from poverty to wealth, the argument is that it is not necessary to accommodate the poor.

Well sure, any individual can, but the aggregate is what matters, and in the aggregrate a lot of people are poor, and a lot of people do not regulate their hormonal responses. (Obviously these are not necessarily the same people, although I am enough of an elitist to suspect a correlation exists on the lower side of the self-control bell curve.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:13 PM on September 26, 2012


Do you honestly think girls who are tomboys dont get called lesbians by mean girls?

Of course not. But, generally speaking, girls seem more free to present in traditionally masculine ways than boys are able to present in traditionally feminine ways. You're right, however, that I was being much too broad. There are still all kinds of issues that face tomboy-type girls -- it's OK to be athletic, but you'd better wear makeup when you're off the field (for example).

How about middle schoolers? Were young men bringing cologne to school to spritz themselves several times a day?

Yes. Maybe I went to an odd junior high, but there were a lot of guys who would be spraying Preferred Stock on themselves between each class.

So, while Unilever has definitely ramped things up and done an unfortunately excellent job of marketing Axe, I don't think this is an example of gender norms being determined and/or created by marketing. There are plenty of examples of that, but I don't think this is one of them.
posted by asnider at 1:15 PM on September 26, 2012


I believe the reason affluent Americans want daughters is because (stereotypically, of course, see below) daughters will take care of you in your old age.

I think most affluent Americans would rather drop dead than have to be dependent on their children for support when they're old. At least when they are considering having children; that calculus may change by the time someone is post-retirement and looking at the reality of life on a diminishing 401k, of course.

At least if we're talking about WASP stereotypes here, which is the group the article seems to be looking at. But I think it's pretty embedded in not just WASP culture but American culture in general that you are supposed to give your kids a fair shot at life with as few debts as possible,* and choosing your kids' gender in order to make them better caretakers would run directly counter to that. I think you'd find a lot of angry revulsion if you suggested to anyone interviewed in the article that they'd done that, consciously or not.

If anything, I think uncertainty about elderly care (and other concerns, e.g. inability to provide both for parental retirement and a college fund) leads a non-trivial number of people to forego having children. I've talked to people in the 25-40 age range who are wrestling with this right now. I think this is because in upper- and even upper-middle-class American families, the expectations were (and to a certain extent still are) forward-looking: i.e. "you will provide the same opportunities that we provided to you, to your kids," while the parental generation takes care of themselves. And this is, for a whole lot of reasons, becoming increasingly unsustainable.

* Evidenced by the stereotype of "trust fund babies" as children of the rich and/or elite. The whole idea behind a trust fund is that it segregates the kid's inheritance from an early age, so that it can't be burned up by Mom and Dad in their dotage, or even by Junior if he develops a coke habit while at Deerfield. That's not something you do if the primary purpose of having offspring is to take care of you.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:37 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


While working in an ultrasound clinic in Australia, I heard a woman express this kind of wish. She was about 16 weeks and had just found out that she was pregnant with a boy. As they were settling their account with me, she said to her husband, "I don't know if I want to keep it. I don't want another boy." Her two sons, aged about 5 and 7--well old enough to understand what she was saying--were standing right there.

I can't disconnect the idea of non-genetic-disorder-related gender selection from that moment, which I found terribly unsettling. I think it is a bad thing to do.

As for the woman, I didn't see her again, so I don't know whether she has three sons or not.
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:07 PM on September 26, 2012


Dystopian science fiction novel--
In China and India, desperate for a bride for their son, parents visit neighboring countries to kidnap young women. A family raising girls in captivity, to provide future wives for their son. Brothers sharing wives. Stolen wives.

More information--

Forbes Magazine, channeling Foreign Affairs.

Gendercide

Infanticide
posted by ohshenandoah at 2:13 PM on September 26, 2012


naoko writes: I am so bemused by the fear that one's son will be at best inscrutably sports-and-toy-guns obsessed and at worst a genocidaire-rapist. Fathers: does this describe you? Mothers: Does this describe your partner? Do you just not "get" him?

It seems reasonable that this view is wide spread. The belief that every male is a potential rapist is firmly held by a lot of people.
posted by Mitheral at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was talking to my husband about this article and thread. His only comment was 'at least with a boy you only have to worry about one penis'. So I guess there is that aspect to it ...
posted by Megami at 2:33 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


at least with a boy you only have to worry about one penis

I don't really understand this one. And if he means you don't have to worry about sexual predation or the quality of potential sexual partners - well, that's not always going to be true. If he's talking about dodging target practice while diaper changing, then yeah, I see that.
posted by Miko at 2:42 PM on September 26, 2012


Well sure, any individual can, but the aggregate is what matters, and in the aggregrate a lot of people are poor, and a lot of people do not regulate their hormonal responses. (Obviously these are not necessarily the same people, although I am enough of an elitist to suspect a correlation exists on the lower side of the self-control bell curve.)

Geez, I won't even address this point of view, I find it so odious.
posted by Miko at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Isn't China's boy obsession largely financial? China should simply reverse the dowry obligation, criminalize even asking for a dowry from a woman's family, while obliging males to pay some dowry.

It's actually the opposite in China: the male's family is obligated to pay dowry (the "bride price") whereas the female's family isn't. Traditionally, one considers the female to be married off to the husband's family and thus part of the other family after marriage, whereas the male stays with their original family, allowing them to provide financially for their original family.
posted by movicont at 2:56 PM on September 26, 2012


I think it is likely that tipping the gender ratio towards males will increase crime rates, and radicalize a society towards (civil) war, and tipping it towards females will decrease crime rates.

aeschenkarnos, I want to reflexively dismiss this idea, because it sounds SO much like the eugenics based arguments I've heard before. Things like "Idiocracy will happen if stupid people keep breeding" are at best spotty science and at worse, atrocious state policy.

Here's some back of the napkin stuff. Here are intentional homicide statistics per capita broken down by country, and here are the gender imbalance numbers. I'm comparing the sex ratio in the 15-64 age range, because I think it's safe to assume this cohort is the more likely to commit murder. I don't really see too much of a correlation, or it's so weak that other factors play a much, much stronger role.
posted by FJT at 3:00 PM on September 26, 2012


The saying goes, "With a boy, you only have to worry about one penis...with a girl, you have to worry about them all."
posted by pearlybob at 3:00 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really wanted girls and got two (yippie) and they are amazing and incredible. My sister also had two girls. We each have wonderful, supportive, kind, generous, fun, educated, helpful husbands. My mom said recently, "I love my 4 granddaughters and am so glad you both had girls, but with such nice husbands, it would have been nice to have a boy or two so you could raise a good one." Good point.
posted by aacheson at 3:50 PM on September 26, 2012


Men commit upwards of 90% of crimes, start almost all wars, and are far more likely to unnecessarily aggregate pathologically large shares of power and resources to themselves at great harm to others. Whether that's nature or nurture, it's a darn good reason to encourage sex-selection for females. Males are the troublesome sex. If the ratio were something like 60:40 female:male, I suspect we would all be a whole lot better off.

I'm sure societies and the universe are that simple.
posted by palbo at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe the reason affluent Americans want daughters is because (stereotypically, of course, see below) daughters will take care of you in your old age. It's the same reason Chinese and Indian families prefer sons, just with the cultural flip.

Curious as to why Americans prefer girls?

I just want to point out that the article says that Caucasian Americans are preferring the girls, and Chinese and Indian Americans are preferring the boys (of the people polled who are using this method) It seems to be coming up a lot here that the takeaway is Americans want the girls and Indian/Chinese want the boys, but they are all Americans.

This is interesting because it might be that the Indian/Chinese Americans who are choosing this procedure at all are doing so because of some residual pressure from their old country parents to have boys, and the ones who are not under such pressure are just letting nature happen.

I know people aren't meaning it that way but it's kind of weird that everyone is reading this as the Caucasians are the Americans and the Indian/Chinese who were in the poll are not American.
posted by sweetkid at 4:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thing is, I can't be bothered to give a deep fried shit about what society thinks I should do with my kids.

Yes, but the there's more of society than there is of you. I mean, you and I and everyone else commenting can raise our kids without the gendered stereotypes, and it doesn't change that there will be (right now), repercussions and pressure to fit the norm, for both us and our kids,because of that decision. It hopefully makes it so that future people who make that decisions will have less of that pressure, but it doesn't change the fact that for right now, we're bucking the trend.

The other part of the equation is that we're most likely to be the ones that put thought into it. I mean, doing what everyone else is instinct, you usually have to have a reason too change. I don't think most of the people I know whose kids are put in gendered roles do it intentionally (the exception being those who do it for religious reasons). It's just sort of the default in our society.


Of course not. But, generally speaking, girls seem more free to present in traditionally masculine ways than boys are able to present in traditionally feminine ways.


You want a great example of this: give out shaker eggs to a bunch of preschoolers. When a girl gets a blue or green egg, it's no big deal, but give a boy a pink one and the giggling starts.

EVERYBODY gets hurt by gendered stereotypes. I don't mean that to diminish the suffering that women go through. They get the far longer end of that particularly nasty stick. It's just relevant to this conversation that there "Momma's boys" are treated as creepy in pop culture to an extent that "Daddy's girls" aren't.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


A couple of people have mentioned medical reasons for sex selection, and I can't fathom what they are. Why would having a boy or a girl be medically advantageous?

There are a lot of reasons to perform PGD that have nothing to do with sex selection. If you and your partner were both carriers for cystic fibrosis or spinal muscular atrophy, for example, you might do PGD to ensure that your children didn't have the disease.
posted by KathrynT at 5:04 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was surprised by some of the responses in this thread. I had no idea that people were so concerned about too much "choice" or "preference" when it came to pregnancy and childbearing.

Perhaps I have been influenced by the pervasiveness of family planning in my life. I see no difference between the choice of delaying conception due to personal reasons and the choice of gender due to personal reasons. Both of these are "interfering" in a natural process, both of them are medical marvels, and both are entirely optional.
posted by Vysharra at 5:08 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


[Folks, dial back the personal attacks right now. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:16 PM on September 26, 2012


I was surprised by some of the responses in this thread. I had no idea that people were so concerned about too much "choice" or "preference" when it came to pregnancy and childbearing.

I don't think they care as much as they're looking for ways to say how they're so much better or more virtuous than other people. Look at all the comments from people actually telling other people they're all wrong about parenting and who should or shouldn't be parents.
posted by discopolo at 5:18 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


>at least with a boy you only have to worry about one penis

>>I don't really understand this one. And if he means you don't have to worry about sexual predation or the quality of potential sexual partners - well, that's not always going to be true. If he's talking about dodging target practice while diaper changing, then yeah, I see that.


I started to explain the joke, but jokes aren't funny when explained, and really I think this one is kind of obvious so I guess I'd rather just acknowledge that it is funny while also acknowledging the ways in which it fails in real life (say, with homosexuality).
posted by Forktine at 5:36 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]



I was surprised by some of the responses in this thread. I had no idea that people were so concerned about too much "choice" or "preference" when it came to pregnancy and childbearing



...I don't think they care as much as they're looking for ways to say how they're so much better or more virtuous than other people.




I mean, maybe. Or maybe reproductive issues are complex and there are no easy answers, and we're trying to think about what the answers might be, or what the question might mean. It's a multifaceted issue, and I doubt that trying to reduce it to a single, oversimplified concept is going to be effective, you know?

Personally, I don't know what the answers are, but hearing other peoples' thoughts helps me to hash that out. I don't know how much "choice" people should have. I don't know what the repercussions might be, but some of them worry me. That's one thing I think is worth trying to figure out, and there are a lot of different factors to take a look at. Just like any controversial issue.
posted by windykites at 6:23 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


i'd love to see the religious make of these people. white americans selecting girls instead of boys? what with a country that is fighting so hard to deny women their reproductive rights. there seems to be a whole story missing behind that piece of data.
posted by liza at 6:50 PM on September 26, 2012


i mean, think about it: white men "colonize", aka are more open to intermarrying than white women. if white people are selecting girls, could it be (1) so the girls can take care of their parents in old age (2) the girls, factoring in denial of their reproductive rights, can give their parents more white babies?
posted by liza at 6:52 PM on September 26, 2012


really I think this one is kind of obvious

Sorry, it honestly wasn't obvious to me. I could see a couple different interpretations, and I was absolutely not sure which one you meant, and the fact that it really doesn't cover all situations made me think it couldn't be the "obvious" one anyway.
posted by Miko at 7:09 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


i mean, think about it: white men "colonize", aka are more open to intermarrying than white women. if white people are selecting girls, could it be (1) so the girls can take care of their parents in old age (2) the girls, factoring in denial of their reproductive rights, can give their parents more white babies?

I don't understand this comment. White men colonize? It doesn't seem to relate to the topic.

can give their parents more white babies?

I don't think these parents are trying to create a master race.

I'm not being snarky I just really don't understand your comment.
posted by sweetkid at 7:09 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meta
posted by mlis at 7:27 PM on September 26, 2012


Sorry, it honestly wasn't obvious to me. I could see a couple different interpretations, and I was absolutely not sure which one you meant, and the fact that it really doesn't cover all situations made me think it couldn't be the "obvious" one anyway.

(First, it wasn't me that made the joke, though I've heard it plenty of times before.) The humor comes from the contrast between the low amount of worry that a person might have that their son is going to knock up a girl, compared to the much larger amount of worry about the line of boys outside the door waiting to knock up your daughter. That is, a penis can cause a certain amount of trouble, but a girl is at risk of the trouble caused by all the penises. (And there are some other layers getting into things like how sex (supposedly) dirties girls more than boys, etc, of course.)

It's a stupid joke that leaves out all kinds of real life issues, like gayness, say, or the ways in which teenage sex actually happens, but it touches on a lot of cultural buttons about gender and teenage sex and so people laugh at it.

Like I said, explaining a joke is the best way to remove every ounce of humor, and I hope this isn't sounding like a defense of it.
posted by Forktine at 7:32 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get the opposition to sexual selection on a socialital level (sexism, misogyny, female equality, the perceived value of one sex of babies over the other, etc.) but I don't really understand the opposition on an individual case basis. Especially in the case where the potential human being differentiated is a mere 8 cells; though I really don't mind even sex selection abortions in the first trimester. I mean it doesn't seem unreasonable for a couple limiting their families to desire either balance or homogeneity in their children's sex. And it doesn't seem like anyone is going to be personally, non abstractly, damaged by the parents taking action on that desire.
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that is not a good joke and is built entirely on paternalistic and cisgender assumptions. So OK, I get it now.
posted by Miko at 7:47 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


but it doesn't change the fact that for right now, we're bucking the trend.

My family and I have been doing it for 20 years. We just don't care about the "default", and never have. I get more shit for my lack of association with Christianity than I do about how I raise my kids, presumably because when it comes to my kids, I will brook no argument. They're mine, I'm raising them, and anyone with an issue is firmly told to mind their own fucking business.

Nope, still don't give a shit about societal "norms". And I will credit my Opa, who was in his 60s when I moved in with him, for teaching me that no one is obligated to pay attention to the nonsense "society" says is correct.
posted by MissySedai at 7:53 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I "got" the joke right away, and I really hate it and don't think it's funny. I'd worry about my son being a rapist as much as my daughter getting raped, my son impregnating someone as much as my daughter getting pregnant, &c. The humor quotient comes entirely from the idea that sex has nothing to do with "male" morality and EVERYTHING to do with "female" morality. God, I hate that joke. I hated it instinctively when I was 12 and heard it from a friend's mom (mother of two boys). In fact, I hated everything she said on the topic of raising boys, because I had four sisters and the conventional wisdom is that boys are crazy but free but girls are kind of awful and shouldn't be slutty and should have no control over their own reproductive choices, &c.

I find choosing the gender of your child pretty creepy. I would like to have a boy or a girl. I wish this kind of gender essentialism would go away. Also, I wish people would grant girls the same kind of sexual sovereignty they grant boys.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:11 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, I don't know, my parents were pretty hands-off and didn't push much gendered shit at us (our mom rarely ever commented on our appearance, though she was conventionally feminine), didn't shame us about sex, and didn't terrify us about what men were setting out to do to us, and we all grew up pretty hunky dory. Always knew we could tell them if someone crossed our boundaries, didn't stress about being feminine or thin or pretty enough, valued intelligence and a sense of humor as well as beauty. Our parents made birth control available and didn't care or pry as to whether we were having sex. None of us have had any issues with pregnancy or STDs, but if we had, we would have gone to the clinic and gotten appropriate care and abortion would have been an open option. I'm really proud of my sisters and the interesting, hilarious, stylish people they turned out to be.

One of my favorite memories is my dad chasing our great uncle out of the house when he came to visit, because he had previously been in jail for sexually abusing a minor. It was about our great uncle being a pervert sicko fucking moron, not about our precious femininity. There was no tolerance for sexual violence or abuse, but they didn't conflate normal sex with those issues. Protecting children from danger without making a big gender game out of it is possible and healthy.

In other words, raising girls isn't the terrifying minefield people make it out to be, and it's PRECISELY making it into that minefield that fucks them up. I'm sure if you raise your sons the same way, they'll get the message that being a rapist is actually aberrant and inhuman, and maybe they'll be slightly more loathe to be one.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think these parents are trying to create a master race.
posted by sweetkid at 10:09 PM on September 26


i guess you've never heard of dominionists.
that's why am wondering about their religious affiliation.
posted by liza at 8:25 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]




i guess you've never heard of dominionists.
that's why am wondering about their religious affiliation.


Did you read the article?
posted by sweetkid at 8:30 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


or fundamentalist mormons, for that matter. when i first came across the concept of certain fundamentalists groups preferring girls over boys it was while reading Marci Hamilton's GOD vs. GAVEL.

as to the colonizer comment: yeah, well the americas. but i am wrong on the comment about white women intermarrying less. it's actually african american women.

still, the question remains: what's the family back story?

in NYC fundies aren't yahoo looking people in petticoats. the fundies i met while homeschooling where SAHM with husbands working in government or Wall Street and carrying nice looking Birkin bags.
posted by liza at 8:40 PM on September 26, 2012


I have a kid. Totally not the child I expected in many ways, and totally a surprising, amazing person. You can't choose what your child will be like. Well, okay, now you can choose gender. Soon, maybe, you can choose height, or intelligence, or freckles.

Natural selection is so much smarter than you. If you choose no freckles, is there a little scrap of genetic material affiliated with freckles that is really nifty? And will it get lost? Natural selection means that trait may show up again somewhere else; evolution keeps moving towards the amazing creatures and plants on our planet. Evolution is no sissy, we'll have to get really, really good at fucking up our genes before we really screw it up (hello, GMO foods).

I get wanting a specific gender child. My son is foreign to me in a lot of ways. By the way, the part where your son falls in love with you and wants to marry you - that's incredibly adorable and sweet. The part where your son flirts with you a little (not in a skeevy way - sheesh) to charm the car keys out of you - also sweet. Having a grown man who is his own mix of you, your ex, and his own original genes plus nurture is literally awesome if you sit down and think about it.

I'd like to have also had a girl. I would like to experience the mother-daughter relationship from the Mom side. What-ifs, though, are a far cry from the reality of parenting. What if your little girl isn't all you expect? How will your child satisfy your need to have a specific parenting experience? We're screwing with more than genes; we're screwing with our culture in ways we can't begin to understand.

Also, I have a son, and I may be getting a daughter-in-law. So there's that.
posted by theora55 at 10:32 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find the amount of moralizing about sex selection pretty abhorrent, particularly when it comes from people who otherwise support reproductive choice.

That said, there are other reasons to prefer girls: genetic certainty of your lineage. When you have boys, you may or may not be aware of any grandchildren, and any grandchildren may or may not be genetically theirs. With girls, that is much less likely to be the case. (Unless they prefer women, in which case you can at least hope that they will trade off the babymaking.)

Also, women tend to live longer. Like, way longer. At least in my own family, at least twenty to thirty years longer than the men, who usually die in their seventies or eighties at best.
posted by corb at 11:09 PM on September 26, 2012


When you have boys, you may or may not be aware of any grandchildren, and any grandchildren may or may not be genetically theirs. With girls, that is much less likely to be the case.

This makes very little sense, being entirely based on a culture with sexist values (i.e. only a culture with sexist values can make sense of the statement). If you raise a child responsibly, which is to say, respecting who they actually are as people, not trying to force them into a mold, and teaching them responsibility (which in this case works not just through words but also through example), it doesn't matter what gender they are, they'll be more likely to keep in touch with you about grandchildren.

Also, women tend to live longer. Like, way longer. At least in my own family, at least twenty to thirty years longer than the men, who usually die in their seventies or eighties at best.

What does this have to do with anything??
posted by fraula at 2:22 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


women live longer but have more morbidity (aka illness) - so they are most expensive than men to our social welfare system.

That's why you should put me on an iceflow when I'm 65.
posted by jb at 8:52 AM on September 27, 2012


Also, women tend to live longer. Like, way longer. At least in my own family, at least twenty to thirty years longer than the men, who usually die in their seventies or eighties at best.

The difference in average lifespan between men and women in America is roughly five years. Your family is an anomaly that doesn't really have much relevance to this conversation.

Is it possible that people are choosing to have daughters rather than sons because they will likely live longer? Sure. Is it likely? I'd say no, but either way the difference in lifespan is not so significant and is, I suspect, largely due to socio-cultural differences between men and women (e.g., men are more likely to be employed in dangerous work that can literally kill them than are women) than biology. As more and more women enter the workforce in an ever widening range of fields, this difference might start to disappear (either because women will start being killed on the job in equal numbers to men, or because the workplace will become safer when people start hearing that lots of women are getting hurt or killed at work).
posted by asnider at 8:56 AM on September 27, 2012


Here's another article from a post I did back in 2002 on the same subject.
posted by euphorb at 9:31 AM on September 27, 2012


We wanted our child's gender to be a surprise - when he came out, he was face-down and my OB announced "It's a girl!" and I thought, "wow - a girl!" Then she flipped him over and said - "oops - it's a boy!" and I thought, "wow - a boy!" So I feel like in some ways I got to have the experience of 'having' both, and I don't feel like there was any disappointment when I thought I had one over the other. I adore my son, and I have to nth everyone saying that having a boy doesn't mean you can't do girly things - it depends on your boy and on your culture. My little guy loves Angelina Ballerina and Cinderella and My Little Pony (though these are fading as he has started to discover Batman and The Amazing Spiderman*). When he wants sparkle toenail polish too, I let him have it.

But if I am lucky enough to have another child, I do want a girl, and if I was able to do IVF with PGD (not a bad idea anyway, because of my age), I would probably ask to pursue this - not to the point of discarding all embryos and starting over if the only healthy ones were boys, but all things being equal, I would. Not just because of the mother-daughter bond, or the girly things that are unlikely to happen with my son (even if they never happen with a daughter, the odds are still better - I remember taking my paternal grandmother along with me to choose my wedding dress - she had two sons and never got the chance to do this, and it was palpable how much she enjoyed having that experience -- I can think of lots of comparable scenarios that just aren't relevant in most boys' lives but can be -- not definitively are, but can be -- for girls). But also because in my son's generation of my mother's family, there are no girls right now. My aunt had two sons. My sister has two sons. My brother has two sons. And now I have one. Maybe we're not meant to produce a girl for some reason. But if it's just a statistical game, then yes, I would love to have a girl to name after my maternal grandmother and pass on the wisdom that all of us have gained, things which a boy may not find relevant. I probably have fantasies about dressing a girl in sundresses and bobbed hair, but I also know that that stage only lasts for a year or two before your child tells you what they want to wear (as my son who currently only wants to wear his red dinosaur shirt or clothes with numbers can testify).

I think it's important to have the discussion that all girls are not alike, and all boys are not alike, and that no parent ever has had a kid that matched all their hopeful expectations so it's wrong to assume traits based on something as general as sex. But I don't think that all the reasons to want a child of a specific gender are wrong ones.

As for the preference for girls - if that is actually a thing, which seems sketchy and not really proven by the article - in America, for all the Republicans' efforts, women are still the ones wearing the pants when it comes to fertility planning. A guy can want a boy (or a girl), but he's generally not the one going to all the GYN / R-E appointments. So long as the doctor listens to what the mother wants, and so long as the reason for having biological children is to produce someone "like me", it seems likely that the result would be more women asking for girls, since that's the biggest similarity you can request right now.


* who is apparently different from/inferior to just plain Spiderman, who must never be mentioned.
posted by Mchelly at 9:32 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


At first I was against this purely whimsical gender preference option, but now I am all for it, as long as it is obscenely expensive.

If sexist, delusional people--the kind who think having kids is all about getting to dress them up like Barbie dolls or, alternatively, creating your own little super army of perfectly programmed robotic fascists--have their stupidity rewarded by the ability to choose the gender of their little fascists, I know I'll feel a lot better if at least they're having to pay through the nose for the privilege.

Honestly, there should be a test for anyone even considering starting a family, and the very first question should be Why do you want to have kids?.

In my perfect world, any answer other than, "I have a lot of love/time/patience I'm prepared to devote to parenting, and no pre-conceptions about what my kids will be like," would result in having to take a parenting course before a candidate would even be considered again.

Said course would be repeated until the concept of, "Any children I may have are unique individuals and will be appreciated as such, not treated as my personal sociology experiments," has been fully accepted and understood.

Anyone whose answer included any reference to kids being like little dolls, or kids giving you back "unconditional love" would be laughed out of the room and not invited to return.

Question #2 would be the gender preference thing, which hopefully would be moot after passing the first test question. Naturally, any answer reeking of sexism ("I don't want a son because he might grow up to be a rapist") or the desire to live in some weird echo chamber ("I 'get' girls and would experience "gender disappointment" if I had a boy") would also result in taking that parenting course at the very least, but only after an anti-brainwashing class in which they are specifically instructed on NOT drinking the crazy Koolaid.

Question #3, after passing the initial hurdles, would be Why do you feel you would make a good parent?.

In the absence of obvious mitigating factors like personal experience living in an abusive environment or a career in childcare, any candidate who disparaged the parenting methods of their friends in this answer would be sentenced to a good solid month living in a parenting friends' house, shadowing the PF 24 hours a day.

That initial month would be followed by an additional month of taking care of PF's child(ren) while PF takes a much-deserved vacation, at the candidate's expense.
posted by misha at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me to wonder how these parents will react when, as this becomes a more popular option and the law of averages plays out, some of them wind up having kids who identify as trans, and want gender surgery. Hilarious!
posted by windykites at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, women tend to live longer. Like, way longer.

Your credibility has been impeached.

Honestly, there should be a test for anyone even considering starting a family, and the very first question should be Why do you want to have kids?.

In my perfect world, any answer other than, "I have a lot of love/time/patience I'm prepared to devote to parenting, and no pre-conceptions about what my kids will be like," would result in having to take a parenting course before a candidate would even be considered again.


My answer is "to support me when I'm old and infirm," and I ain't taking no fucking re-education classes.

EVERYONE has pre-conceptions of what their kids will be like. It's genetics!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on September 27, 2012


Honestly, there should be a test for anyone even considering starting a family, and the very first question should be Why do you want to have kids?

A couple years ago we started the foster care application process, and it was way more intrusive than anything you've proposed. There's no alternative - you don't want to hand over already-existing kids to assholes - but it was hard not to be a little resentful that people who can have biological children do not have to go through this kind of questioning of their moral character.
posted by desjardins at 12:20 PM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Any children I may have are unique individuals and will be appreciated as such, not treated as my personal sociology experiments

Where's the fun in that?
posted by asnider at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the preference for girls has much to do with the perception of female bonding. The women in the article specifically stated that they wanted daughters to be "friends" with. There's a lot in popular culture that valorizes connections between women as being of a deeper, more nurturing and more long-lasting sort than either heterosexual connections or friendships between males. The whole idea that "girlfriends" will fulfill your emotional needs is what these women are responding to. If you accept a lot of the gender essentialist messages in our culture, than it only makes sense that you'd believe that only other women are capable of reciprocating emotionally in ways that would be impossible for your husband or sons.

Of course, I think this is all nonsense, but this is what seems to be out there. That these women are of the upper-middle-class tells me they probably subscribe to a very Oprah version of feminism in which empowerment involves breast-cancer-awareness pedicures with all your best girlfriends.

And my mom would have loved to do all that girly bullshit with me, but I insisted on wearing Doc Martens and black lipstick and she pretty much gave up on trying to recruit me for the hyperfemme side when I shaved the sides of my head in middle school.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:07 PM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I Think the preference for girls has much to do with the perception of female bonding.,.....The whole idea that "girlfriends" will fulfill your emotional needs is what these women are responding to.

That's exactly why Daughter = Mommy's Best Girlfriend is so troubling to me. It's incredibly narcissistic to use a child to fulfill the emotional needs of the parent. The damage done to the kids when they inevitably fail to meet those needs is tremendous.
posted by space_cookie at 2:02 PM on September 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


My mother had a spat of boys, and then she had me. If I had been a boy, she would have had tried again for a girl. I'm lucky in that she made an effort to meet me where I am and not where she had dreamed I would be. There were cracks when she couldn't keep it hidden, she had a literal foot stomping tantrum when I mentioned I'd rather wear a tux to prom then a dress.

A cousin recently had a boy when she was hoping for a girl. I asked her husband what she would have done if the baby had been a girl, but then grown up to be like me, and he raised his eyebrows sharply and said she'd be horribly upset.

That sickens me. For people rolling their eyes and muttering what the big deal is if someone wants a girl, you clearly haven't watched your parents froth and reject you for not lining up with their dreams of a sweet little pink girl child.

(Oh, Kitty Stardust, we would have been friends. I had the shaved head and the Doc Martens, but my lipstick was silver.)
posted by Dynex at 2:15 PM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my perfect world, any answer other than, "I have a lot of love/time/patience I'm prepared to devote to parenting, and no pre-conceptions about what my kids will be like," would result in having to take a parenting course before a candidate would even be considered again.

Hee.

My answer, when asked while I was approximately the size of a Cessna with Elder Monster, was "They're WAY more interesting than cats!"

This did not go over well with the nosy-pants SIL who snottily posed the question at a family thing, but my MIL thought it was hysterical.
posted by MissySedai at 2:16 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, there are other reasons to prefer girls: genetic certainty of your lineage.

I find this, like, disgustingly abhorrent. Just for the record. Also, I seriously doubt most of the people interested in sex selection give a fuck about this. It's useful for baby medical records but otherwise this just sounds like a configuration of patriarchal bullshit, and I can't see it being the prime reason for selection except in very fringe cases.

It is narcissistic to want a girl as mommy's best friend, I totally agree with that. And while I think it's true that you can teach a little girl "boy things" and a little boy "girl things," and I would love having either a son or daughter, it is true that I have bonds with other women that have never been possible for me with men. I've had close relationships with men-- my best friend is a man, and I have very emotionally close relationships with the men I date. But I don't think it's right to pretend that the experience of being a boy and being a girl are the same, and I think that's where some of the desire for bonding comes from. With a girl, a mother might expect to be able to bond over the shared difficulties and experiences that come with being a girl. She might be wrong, but it's not always about Disney Princesses.

To use a reductive example, I was a total tomboy as a kid, but I really enjoyed being able to make nasty period jokes (that my dad and guy friends were visibly uncomfortable with) with my mom and sisters. I enjoyed just being able to be myself without worrying about femininity or hiding the "female" parts of my life. I enjoyed being able to have leg hair without hearing "ew, gross" from anyone. Contrastingly, my boy cousin called me and my sisters "weird, loud lesbians" because we could get rowdy and thought we were funny, and my first three boyfriends were vocally grossed out by female leg hair and arm hair. So, I think raising a boy to be comfortable with girls and their normal, un-manicured selves is important, too, but there is something nice about being able to occasionally be a "neutral" human being with other people in your life, not an othered one--an experience that some men take for granted. The caveat being that some women are gender police, and some men aren't. As much as I like boys, I probably benefited from growing up with only sisters, because there was really no one around that would have taught my brothers to consider the basic human principles known as "feminism."

I think it is really damaging to specifically want a little sundress-clad, be-pinked princess, because girls express a wide range of personalities, and that shit is harsh (I remember feeling really wrong and out of place when my friends' moms wanted to bond over our "girlness" while I was interested in being loud and playing in mud or whatever, I felt held back). But the experience of being female for a lot of women is a more fundamental reckoning with power and a hostile society, and it makes sense that they'd seek out other women to feel relaxed with, or to have a place where they didn't feel the need to "teach" what are known as "identity politics" to non-women, a place where they don't have to take up the defensive.

I think that I wouldn't feel comfortable being a parent until I felt reasonably able to relate to my son on those terms, though. I wouldn't want a girl to work out my issues on. It's complicated, though. I don't think I would ever choose my baby's sex and I'm not a huge fan of the option to do so, but... yeah.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:30 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


My in-laws and some of our closest friends have all boys, where we have an only (girl) child. I see a lot of gender essentialist stuff going on with their interactions with her and their discussions about her as well; most of it is reasonable in terms of her actions. She is quieter, more empathic, more socially aware than all of the boys (including the ones several years older). But, and this is the bit they don't see/aren't aware of/don't want to be aware of, their actions reinforce it. Or in some circumstances create it - she's got shoulder length hair and thanks to some incessant squeeing from aunts she will now, unprompted, tell you about how lovely and long her hair is and how it's going to get long enough to touch her bum and I swear you can see my eye start to twitch. They compliment her on how she looks far more than the boys. They play in different ways with her. They squash her bad behaviour more. They are more permissive with the boys and more protective of her. My partner and I do what we can but we are only two people and none of the BS is big enough, stupid enough, to make into a hill to die on.

Apart from the hair thing, that drives me fucking crazy. Except I have long hair too and I just feel like I reinforce the stereotype but I also prefer having long hair and wharglblargh.

At the same time though, I get it. When I know one of my friends never gets to just chill with her boys so when we visit she sits on the couch and talks girly stuff with my kid, and pets her hair, and reads in a way she doesn't get to do with her sons I feel like for her, there is a difference. For her, this girly interaction is valuable, is something beautiful. And since I'mm not so good with the girly stuff I also figure it's something that they can do with her, as their special bonding activity.

And I have to admit my own bias; as much as I had always thought my first child would be a boy, I had a girl. Then never ever wanted anything else. I stopped wanting more kids. I still don't. I would be horrified if I got pregnant, and even moreso if I found out I was having a boy. Which reinforces the 'don't have any more kids' thing because if I am not emotionally ready for whatever child I get, I'm not ready to have a child/have another. Because if 'boy' (or 'girl' as teh case may be) is so bad, what happens if proto-child is disabled? Trans? Something else I'm not expecting?

If my kid is gay, or trans, or just not girly, I have no problem. I probably have more of a problem with the girlygirl stuff (I'll buy her MLP, the occasional pink thing but dresses and skirts on little kids is fucking obnoxious and curtail her active play to the point I am just about ready to chuck most of them) (and that's not even touching on the lake of safety presented by shoestring straps and incessant ribbons). But at the same time she's her own person and that includes liking swishy fairy dresses (until she trips on the hem, or can't climb something) and growing things, and building things, and wrecking things.

For me, the fact that I would choose the gender of my (next) child if I could (even though I wouldn't have with my first) means I won't be having any.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


It occurs to me to wonder how these parents will react when, as this becomes a more popular option and the law of averages plays out, some of them wind up having kids who identify as trans, and want gender surgery. Hilarious!

We thought our third child was a girl. We were wrong. He just started kindergarten as a boy a month ago. It's hard even for us in some ways--my partner is a female-to-male transsexual so it's not like this is something we've never heard of before. This sort of thing surely will happen to some families who had girls because they wanted a particular temperament or experience. I feel a lot of compassion for these hypothetical folks and sincerely hope their love for their children trumps all other considerations when push comes to shove. I have met many families for whom it has.

Being trans and having sex reassignment surgery don't have a one-to-one correspondence, by the way. Something to keep in mind.
posted by not that girl at 6:35 PM on September 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


A friend of mine is the third and last girl. Her parents REALLY WANTED A BOY. They have never loved or wanted her because she didn't come out with a penis. Now, admittedly her parents are freaking assholes. But I can't help but think that if they'd gotten their much-wanted boy, the kid they had wouldn't have felt so utterly rejected and fucked up in the way that my friend did. So that's why I'm inclined to say that hell, let some people get to pick the gender. Of course, we can't help it after that point if the kid comes out tomboy or gay or trans, but statisticswise the odds are better if certain people just got what they wanted already. If they can't handle not getting what they want and don't learn, well... let 'em pick.

I do think we should probably be very careful about who's allowed to pick a gender, though. Interviews, psych tests, stuff like that. Be careful about the gender imbalance (though frankly, I think it's worse if there's too many men rather than women, due to the more-likely-to-be-violent stats) when you're deciding who gets to do it and who doesn't.

I do think there are some good reasons for wanting girls. I can't think of a single dude I've heard of who has ended up having to do the caregiving of his elderly parents. It is almost always (in my experience) the daughter who lives closest to the parents. If there's only sons, it'll probably fall on the daughter-in-law closest to the parents. And yes, there's a difference in bonding between women that isn't replicable between opposite genders. There's the shit women put up with that men just don't, and I can understand wanting a kid who understands that as well, even if she's more tomboy-ish. (I agree on not wanting a girl just so you can bling her out, either.) I don't plan on having children, but I would be not be thrilled to be having a son that gets all the advantages of male privilege when I can't ever. And yeah, I'd be worried that he's statistically more likely to come out an asshole. I'd hope he got born with a more "girly" personality and less stereotypical Alpha Male Asshole, but I'd be worried about it. Sure, there's Alpha Female Assholes too, but I've run into less of them.

This whole thing is about statistical likelihood, though. Playing the odds that you will get a kid more suited to your personality, and if your personality is suited to one gender or the other, you'll want the gender more likely to do whatever it is you want.

On the other hand...
"That's exactly why Daughter = Mommy's Best Girlfriend is so troubling to me. It's incredibly narcissistic to use a child to fulfill the emotional needs of the parent. The damage done to the kids when they inevitably fail to meet those needs is tremendous."

...Yeah, been there, doing that. But I think my mom would have done that to a son, too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. There's just so much here that makes me sad and furious that it's hard to pin it down, but I'm going to give it a shot.

Back when I was pregnant the first time around, people would tell me they were sure I was going to have a girl. Part of this was because I have always been perceived as very "feminine", so of course mothering girls "fit" me. I'm nurturing, I'm the peace maker in my family, etc.

Hey, I remember when I was younger, I even entertained sentimental thoughts like, "Gosh, if I have a girl, I will share all these unique bonding moments with her and teach her everything I've learned to make it easier as she grows up." I remember vague worries like, "I don't know anything about boys! If I end up having a son, I won't know what to do!"

And then I grew up. I did a mental shake and reset my thinking, realizing all that kind of thinking is as sexist as the stuff with the long hair for girls and blue is for boys blah blah blah.

So, when I found out I was having boys? I was THRILLED.

My boys are incredible. They are smart, funny, engaging, wonderful human beings.

And yes, there's a difference in bonding between women that isn't replicable between opposite genders. There's the shit women put up with that men just don't, and I can understand wanting a kid who understands that as well, even if she's more tomboy-ish.

I know it's hard to get your mind around the concept, what with the whole patriarchal, Alpha Male bullshit you have clouding up your perceptions of men, but men and women are BOTH good! Or bad! The only problem comes when you start thinking one sex is better than the other. That's what sexism IS.

I don't plan on having children, but I would be not be thrilled to be having a son that gets all the advantages of male privilege when I can't ever.

I know it's hard to fathom because male privilege and all, but I can give you examples of how that sexism plays out on the other side, starting way back when my boys were toddlers.
Here are just a few of the most egregious:

My oldest son had a teacher who usually taught fourth grade. This particular year, the schedule changed, and she had to teach a first grade class.

My son is introverted, and was small for his age. He has always been very much a "rules" child, most comfortable with a set routine. Change and noise and chaos disturb him. He is that rare child you actually don't have to ask twice to do something--he's very anxious by nature and procrastinating just means he will spend more time worrying about things Not Being Done As They Should Be. I never even raised my voice with him when he was little; I never had to.

So, anyway, this teacher came into teaching first grade, and after teaching 4th graders for so long, she was unprepared for the relative immaturity of the kids. Se handled it by giving out a LOT of detentions. On the first day of first grade, a time when most kids coming in are still used to short-day kindergarten and afternoon nap times.

So I pick up my little boy from his first day of school, and I can tell by his face that he is trying to hold back tears. And my heart melts, of course, and I ask him how his first day went, and he starts crying because he got in trouble. He did not want to disappoint me, you see.

I'm hurting inside because he's hurting and frankly it was just so out of character for him to be in trouble i just couldn't reconcile it. All he could tell me about what happened was the class was "too loud". But he's been given a detention, and of course I have him serve it the next day, because you have to face the consequences of your actions.

While he is serving detention, I go to talk to the teacher. She's a mom like me, and I have an education degree too (I taught secondary English). I go in with a positive attitude of cooperation, wanting to do whatever I can to make things work out.

Only the conversation starts, and I'm having real trouble talking to her right away. She has all daughters, much older than my son (this turns out to be relevant later on). I ask for specifics about what happened, and she keeps mentioning how the little girls were hanging around her desk, complimenting her (and the boys weren't), and the girls drew her pretty pictures of flowers and things (and the boys didn't).

I ask her point blank what my son did to earn detention, and she's not even sure who he is. Which, okay, first day of school, I am HORRIBLE at remembering names and faces myself. But he is in trouble for something, right? So does she remember that specific thing? No.

Because, actually, she gave half of the class detention.

The male half.

That's right, every single boy in the class got detention on the first day of school.

Why? Well, the class "got loud", and she was talking to some girls at her desk, and wasn't sure how it started (!!!), but she knew it was the boys.

The boys weren't throwing things or getting into fights. She hadn't given them work to do that they weren't doing, nothing like that. It's just...well, girls are naturally the quiet, well-behaved ones, and they were so nice to her with their pretty pictures, so when the class got loud and rowdy and disruptive, obviously the boys were the ringleaders!

Yeah. He and his brother went to a different school the next year.

___
My youngest son, by contrast, has always been big for his age. He plays soccer, and he's been erroneously awarded fouls on the soccer field just because he's the biggest one out there. In one game, he and his teammates were run into and slide tackled repeatedly by a girl on the other team before she got called for a foul, because if a girl and a boy get into trouble on the field, hey, the boy must playing too rough!

___
There were girls in their high school who would punch guys in the stomach without provocation because they knew the guys had been taught it is never okay for a guy to hit a girl. (Fortunately, my sons have lots of girl friends, who stood up to this absurdity).

I have tons of examples like these.

And yeah, I'd be worried that he's statistically more likely to come out an asshole. I'd hope he got born with a more "girly" personality and less stereotypical Alpha Male Asshole, but I'd be worried about it. Sure, there's Alpha Female Assholes too, but I've run into less of them.

Frankly, the idea that a boy would be better with a "girly" personality pisses me right off. And the idea that men are more likely to come out assholes or Alpha-type assholes is just wrong-headed and sexist. You should be ashamed of that kind of thinking.

Not to mention that it sounds like you have major confirmation bias going on here, too.

Some of the worst bosses I have ever had were Alpha Female Assholes. I've run into assholes of both sexes. I assure you they are out there.

I'm not surprised you see more Alpha Male Assholes, though.

When you're a hammer, everything looks liks a nail.
posted by misha at 12:20 PM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Gender essentialism" or whatever you want to call it really is a hell of a beast.

I was just reading/singing through Free to Be You and Me with my daughter the other day, and we were looking at William Wants a Doll.

Even that (outdated yet) quintessential progressive child development book posits that it's OK for William to want a doll because he might grow up to be a father one day. There's that necessary rationalization for any sort of even mild deviation from the gender norm.

It really is a (depressing) head trip.

There were girls in their high school who would punch guys in the stomach without provocation because they knew the guys had been taught it is never okay for a guy to hit a girl.

Honestly, this was one of the more frustrating things about competing with girls growing up. That said, I am no gender essentialist and I have no problem with punching girls. NB: Punching a girl in the stomach will not be received well by conservative males. YMMV. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were girls in their high school who would punch guys in the stomach without provocation because they knew the guys had been taught it is never okay for a guy to hit a girl. (Fortunately, my sons have lots of girl friends, who stood up to this absurdity).

Ha! That was my sisters when I was growing up. I wouldn't dare hit them back, because then there would be Hell To Pay. Boys NEVER EVER hit girls, not matter what. The opposite did not hold true, and only a crybaby would complain about a girl hitting him.

I still have a nice scar on my chin from a fist-sized rock one of my sisters chucked at me.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:08 PM on October 1, 2012


Boys NEVER EVER hit girls, not matter what.

Am I the only one who thinks this isn't actually a bad thing to learn, and if followed through, might lead to less male-on-female domestic violence?
posted by corb at 2:35 AM on October 2, 2012


I was remembering the other day, reading the beginning of this thread, that my experience of being a boy was I was either being told off or I was between tellings-off. My primary aim was to try to get through a day without being told off.

It might just be me, but I suspect, given the sheer amount of role models for boys whose character arcs depend on misbehaviour, either deliberate - Dennis the Menace (UK), Mr Toad, William Brown - or inadvertant (for example, Paddington) - it's quite a common experience.

By having any behaviour automatically interpreted as miscreance, boys are specifically and deliberately taught to misbehave. It's what is expected of them.
posted by Grangousier at 3:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boys NEVER EVER hit girls, not matter what.

Am I the only one who thinks this isn't actually a bad thing to learn, and if followed through, might lead to less male-on-female domestic violence?


I think what they should be learning is "people should never hit people, no matter what".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:27 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Boys NEVER EVER hit girls, not matter what.

Am I the only one who thinks this isn't actually a bad thing to learn, and if followed through, might lead to less male-on-female domestic violence?


Women are just as capable of committing domestic violence and other assaults as men. Persons who are perpetrating violence do not deserve any special consideration because of their sex.

I think what they should be learning is "people should never hit people, no matter what".

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer "Don't ever start it, but do whatever it takes to protect yourself."
posted by Vysharra at 9:49 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Boys NEVER EVER hit girls, not matter what.

Am I the only one who thinks this isn't actually a bad thing to learn


The thing to learn is boy or girls never hit boys or girls. Gender doesn't need to be a part of it.

And in reality, as Vysharra notes, you don't get punched in the stomach repeatedly and keep turning the other cheek. (Unless you're Christian.)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2012


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