Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The Preference For Sons in India And China. Look What We got For it!
The Economist has a long and pretty fact-filled article on the consequences of the missing girls in India and China (sex-selective abortions and female infanticide), combined with a few other marriage rules. Worth reading it. You can also then read the comments if you wish.
I did. And then I got a sore stomach, as usual. The reasons are subtle, a bit like a giant hippo only showing its nose above the surface of the river. Everyone else writes about the nose, whereas I see the rest of that hippo, the ignored part.
Note that the article very quickly hints at the reason for all this sex imbalance: It's "preference for sons." Then it skates off to study how all those abortions and infant killings will soon leave many young men eternal spinsters (why not call them that?) and how that is very bad for the society and men, with more crime and violence and the need for more prostitutes.
The solutions offered both in the article and in the comments are not about that "preference for sons." If we realize that the same thing could be called "a dislike of daughters" or something much stronger, given that some parents even resort to killing the infant daughter, the disconnect between the problem (women are not valued) and the solutions offered (somehow get more women from elsewhere, say) becomes as clear as a hippo rising from the river.
The article has other interesting stuff, such as women "marrying upwards" in those countries. That's the same as men marrying downwards. Terms matter, my friends. Because if men marry downwards, it's better that there aren't too many women on the top of the societal ladders. They will become "leftovers" as they are called in China.
Now, the eternal spinster guys are also given pejorative names, such as "bare branches." But isn't it fascinating how something which has its roots in the fact that women are not valued results in an article where part of the problem of too many men is that educated women cannot find husbands? When you would have thought that more women with education (and thus more opportunities to help their families financially) would have been one of the solutions which could raise the valuation of women in general?
I may be nitpicking. But I have written about this particular slant in the media takes about the missing girls for many, many years. The problem really boils down, in those articles, to the question of how we can now get those men wives.
That the real problem is in the underlying assumption that all women are good for is being the providers of sex and sons just sorta sleeps under the surface of the debating river.
And yes, as I have written before, there are reasons for the dislike of daughters. In a system without good pensions it is the sons who are supposed to take care of their parents, while daughters must be provided with dowries and then they work for a totally different family. And it is the sons who are seen as continuing the family genes, only the sons. But all this, based on patrilocal marriage customs, is ultimately and circularly based on women not valued as much.