Thursday, 1 March 2012

Why Girls Are Important: Films, Sex Ratios, and Unrest

One of the things that struck me when I was in Shanghai five years ago was the number of adolescent boys on school outings. I knew, of course, that there are a lot of "missing" girls, because Chinese parents for more than a generation have been trying to get around the government's one child policy to insure they have a son.

Who's going to marry them? I remember thinking. This is a recipe for social disaster, to say nothing about the trouble that's going to come down the line when there are so many fewer women to have children. Men without women are notoriously more volatile than married men, and far easier to recruit for dangerous work, including the military. According to a Forbes article, some changes may be coming in China, but they will be too late for the young men of today who may never find a mate.

Of course, China isn't the only country where a premium is put on male births. India is one, and I wager that there are a lot of Europeans and North Americans who, while they wouldn't terminate a pregnancy because the baby was a girl, are hoping for a boy. (One of the things I love about my son in law Emmanuel, BTW, is the way he was completely delighted to announce after Jeanne's birth that she was a girl.)

As International Women's Day approaches, here are two videos to fuel your reflection on the subject. The first is the trailer for a documentary about the "missing" girls, and the second is the testimony of a Chinese woman who wanted a boy, but wouldn't trade her girl now for anything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you want an excuse to do some poking around on the Web, take a look at the site of the 2011 census in India. Quite apart from what this census says about the Canadian government's decision to reduce the scope of our census, it makes for fascinating reading. In particular, even the preliminary Indian census data reveals a wealth of information about the male-female birthrate gap. In the poorer Indian states -- especially in the far North-East -- the discrepancies are staggering, and apparently growing. Another site you may not have seen is the Wall Street Journal's India blog, India Real Time. The economics commentator, Ruba Subramanya is always worth reading and you can look up her posts on women in the archives. One, for example, notes that the decrease in the number of women vs. men should lead to an increase in the value of women ... at least that's what classic economic theory tells us. But how do you calculate a woman's economic value? Another article points to research that correlates higher mortality amongst girls to the lack of care their parents provide, consciously or unconsciously, in the hopes that, for example, early weaning will allow the mother to conceive the next child -- with luck, a boy -- more quickly. All this makes provocative reading for, as you note, the upcoming International Women's Day.