April 11, 2002
8:35 PM   Subscribe

Getting the Girl. The NY Times Magazine ran a great article awhile back on the emotional and societal consequences of being able to choose the sex of your baby. In the US, the ratio for the overall population is 0.96 males for every 1 female. But it has been changing over time and there's some controversy as to why this is.
posted by euphorb (10 comments total)

I loved Lisa Belkin's article(first link)and the way she explained her interest by saying she's a reporter. I wish all reportage had the same distance. But I was creeped out by this quote:
"When I looked at my son, adorable though he was, I saw a stranger. Where was the daughter I had been talking to for nine months?"

A while back, way before you could know what sex your baby was, there was a big survey in Italy focussing on a mother's first words after her baby's birth. About 10% wanted to know whether it was a girl or a boy. The rest just asked "Is it perfect?" This roughly means "Is it healthy?".

As the father of two identical twin daughters, prematurely born, I find it strange that people would want their babies to have a specific sex. Isn't it more than enough for it to be alive and, if possible, healthy?

Though daughters are much better, of course. At least for a man...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:15 PM on April 11, 2002

you assume your babies are going to be born healthy because there's no other conceivable outcome [for most parents] - I don't know of many pregnant women practicing prenatal paranoia throughout the pregnancy. don't jinx it. of course it'll be perfect! then again, most of the pregnant women I've known have been teenagers, who blithely and naturally assume that it's all kosher. [even when they're smoking a pack-a-day.]
and I can understand the mother's feelings - she spoke to her little girl for nine months, pictured her from age 0 to 90. who's this boy thing?
posted by Nyx at 11:42 PM on April 11, 2002

perhaps they want a little girl, to balance a houseful of boys; or maybe they want a little boy, to carry on the family name.

25 percent of Americans would use sex selection. Of those, 81 percent of the women and 94 percent of the men would want their firstborn to be a boy. 

these were the bits that didn't sit well with me. (they only want a girl when they already have a house of boys; a boy they want right away). Of course, as she says, if people want it, it well get done, eventually. I do find the "nation of little sisters" thing a little worrying though, much as I try not to take one's place in the family too seriously.

I recognized this article, though I vaguely thought I read it on salon (I knew the ending before she said it). Anyway, the date shows it's almost three years old.
posted by mdn at 11:32 AM on April 12, 2002

My wife and I plan on having a child in few years, and we have idly discussed the possibility of using a sex-selection technique or some sort. Given that (a) we only plan of having one child and (b) we are both agnostics (i.e., religious arguments will hold no weight with us), I'd be interested in hearing any ethical objections y'all might have to a couple opting to use sex selection technology. (No, I'm not going to tell you what sex we would angle for).
posted by Shadowkeeper at 11:45 AM on April 12, 2002

Not an ethical objection, but a practical one is that the Microsort technique discussed in the article stains the sperm's DNA in order to separate the Xs from the Ys. There's no reason to think it's not safe, but any problems would be propagated throughout every cell in the body.

The Shettles method is natural but not very reliable apparently. I'm curious as to why you only want one child.
posted by euphorb at 12:55 PM on April 12, 2002

it amuses me in patriarchal societies how everyone wants to have boys (to carry on the line, etc.). who are these boys supposed to carry on the line with if everyone is having boys?

parents getting rid of their baby girls does not amuse me, though.
posted by witchstone at 1:50 PM on April 12, 2002

jim holt had some words on this, but it's pretty inconclusive:
Biologists of a neo-Darwinian bent have a theory to explain all this. Homo sapiens, for most of its evolutionary history, has been a polygamous species. If you are a high-ranking member of such a species, your son is likely to attract many female mates and thus furnish you with far more grandchildren than a daughter. If you are lowly, though, then your son may fail to win any mates at all, whereas your daughter can at least get your genes into the next generation by joining a harem...
but like the sciencenews article(fourth link)he thinks the "causative agent" for the skew could be hormonal.
posted by kliuless at 2:07 PM on April 12, 2002

shadowkeeper, the only argument I can make is to share with you how selective childbirth can be carried to extremes.

In a village called Dewda in Rajasthan, no girl child was born for years.
posted by bittennails at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2002

who are these boys supposed to carry on the line with if everyone is having boys?

This is a growing problem in Korea (and China as well), one that will continue to grow over the next couple of decades. In the 80's and 90's, thanks to the overwhelming culturally-determined preference for male children, many women, either willingly or under coercion from their spouses, parents, and in-laws, aborted female fetuses. It got to the point where doctors were formally forbidden from divulging the gender of a fetus. Regardless, the practice continued, clandestinely, and in this society that sometimes seems to run exclusively on bribes and corruption, doctors made huge amounts of under the table money in bribes.

Currently, there's a ratio of about 120 male children to 100 females in most elementary and middle schools. Which means in 15 years or so, there's going to be a lot of lonely, frustrated young men. I have a theory that this will be the trigger that will finally force Korean re-unification - 'Give us your women!'
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on April 12, 2002

I have a theory that this will be the trigger that will finally force Korean re-unification - 'Give us your women!'

Right, on my fine feathered freind! Where war and diplomacy have failed, raw hormonal lust shall succeed!
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on April 12, 2002

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