Culture

The Subtle (And Not-So-Subtle) War Against Baby Girls

By Elizabeth Condra··  7 min read
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The Subtle (And Not-So-Subtle) War Against Baby Girls

For expectant couples, nothing is more exciting than going in for a sonogram to find out the sex of their child. For around 49% of those couples in the U.S., they’ll receive the joyful news of a baby girl. Or maybe they won’t be as excited by the prospect of a baby girl as they would’ve been with a boy. But it’s 2021 already, and the consensus is clear: We need to stop girl shaming.

If you don’t know what girl shaming is, take a quick gander at your social media and online forums, specifically in the pregnant, child-rearing, and parenting tips communities. When it comes to expectant couples, there’s oftentimes a subtle (or not so subtle) preference towards boys versus girls.

This concept is so widely accepted, globally even, that it enables social media and other online content producers to feel comfortable enough to publish things like the following: I Don’t Want a Daughter. The Heartbreaking Reason Why I Never Want a Daughter. I Want to Have Kids, But I Don’t Want Daughters.

For couples who are only able to hope and dream of having a healthy child, regardless of what sex it is, these titles look pretty outrageous, to say the least. While it may be natural to hope for one gender or the other when you find out you’re expecting, this attitude towards baby girls should be viewed not only as socially unacceptable, but deadly.

Gender “Disappointment”

There’s even a term that’s been coined specifically for this phenomenon — gender disappointment.

You read that right, unfortunately. Gender disappointment is a “deep sadness” (which may even result in depression) that couples, fathers, or moms-to-be might experience when they find out they’re not having the boy or girl baby they hoped for. While gender disappointment with boys is definitely a thing as well, we’re going to specifically focus on girls, for the sole reason that gender disappointment regarding girls has forged actual social trends and attitudes that we can study. Girl gender disappointment also appears to be much more noticeable and culturally prevalent than it is with boys.

Gender disappointment is when parents are deeply sad they aren’t having the gender they hoped for. 

Not only is gender disappointment something a mother may feel personally, but she may also feel like she’s let down her partner or her family by having a girl, even if she herself is happy with the outcome. It can also happen when a woman convinces herself, for whatever reason, that she’s having one gender and then discovers she’s wrong. 

While some amount of gender disappointment may be natural, the last thing pregnant moms need or should feel is guilty or ashamed that they weren’t able to conceive the sex that they or their partner might have wanted. Those feelings might arise in the first place because of the pressure her family or partner is putting on her, or because she may feel she can better raise or relate to one gender over the other.

Why Is Girl Gender Disappointment Even a Thing? 

The big question is this: Why the heck is this even a thing? This question probably resonates most with women or couples facing miscarriages, infertility, and the like. There are countless couples trying to conceive out there who would do anything for a baby, without a second thought that she may be a girl.

Are our attitudes and expectations of women to blame? We do tend to think of women as high maintenance and difficult or overbearing more than we do men, and we especially think of archetypal little girls as spoiled, bratty, impatient, or prone to tantrums (though as any parent hardened in the child-rearing trenches will tell you, it usually goes both ways). 

When it comes down to it, the reasons people give for not wanting daughters are pretty simple. Men especially relate that they feel they could raise sons better, or they’re afraid of spoiling or loving a daughter too much. First of all, loving a child “too much” may be a fearful feeling for parents, but it’s so much better than the alternative. Other men are pretty blatantly obvious about why they don’t want daughters: they don’t want to raise women in the same house where they already have a wife (making them outnumbered), or they don’t want their daughters to grow up to be promiscuous

Some men don’t want girls because they don’t want their daughters to grow up to be promiscuous. 

Essentially, men who don’t want daughters want to have their cake and eat it, too. They’re perfectly fine with the Old Row, promiscuous lifestyle when they’re single, but heaven forbid that when they become husbands and fathers they have to actually work at raising their daughters not to be like that.

And therein lies the problem. “I don’t want a daughter because of the impossible standards society places on women.” “I don’t want a daughter because I don’t want her to grow up and act slutty.” Both of these claims and all of the ones in between act as if a woman’s adult attitude and behavior are completely predicated on chance and parents have no influence whatsoever on the women their daughters will grow up to be.

This Is the Real War on Women

Put the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, and the disadvantages of hookup culture aside for a moment. This blatant disrespect and insult to future women is the real war we’re facing, and it starts before our daughters even come into the world.

Gender disappointment doesn’t always result in depression or baby blues. Many times, an overwhelming majority of the time in many parts of the world, it results in death.

In Asia and the Middle East, the birth of a girl is often viewed as both an abject failure on the part of the mother and a disrespect to the family and its prospects. Palash Ghosh for IBT writes that in Pakistan, “Baby girls are considered a curse and a financial burden, especially to poor, rural families who must cough up expensive dowries upon their marriages, while boys are usually counted upon to take care of their parents during their old age.” This results in an overwhelming cultural attitude, prevalent especially in India and Pakistan, known as “son preference.” Ghosh also illustrates that violence and hostility are so targeted toward young girls in those areas that they grow up ingrained with son preference because of the aggression they’ve faced.

In Pakistan, baby girls are considered a curse and a financial burden.

Gender-based abortion is so commonly used that it’s caused these populations to suffer greatly. In regions in northern India, there are now only 800 females for every 1,000 males. In Pakistan, 7.8% of girls are “missing.” Biologically, anthropologically, and culturally, there should be a larger number of girls compared to boys, but these growing deficits have made that almost impossible. Ultrasounds and improvements in technology also make gender-based abortion more common, though that doesn’t stop parents from dumping their daughters at orphanages or murdering them after they’re born.

China’s notorious gender gap — of their own creation — has resulted in policies that have failed so catastrophically that gender preference has resulted in an overwhelming ratio of 30-35 million more men of marrying age than women. Even with these glaring consequences, son preference continues to be widely accepted.

Closing Thoughts

Gender bias is one thing. But sex-selective discrimination, up to the point of abandonment and death, is slowly but surely seeking the full-scale eradication of the very population they need to keep their societies going for generations to come.

And it starts with these attitudes, the attitudes we have in our own Western communities that treat daughters and girls as somehow less than boys. Not only are these types of narratives culturally acceptable, but they’re becoming more and more mainstream. 

This kind of rhetoric is actually dangerous. And it should be unacceptable. Many of us know that a child is precious whatever sex they are, but some have yet to realize that to our society’s detriment. 

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  Women's Rights  Motherhood
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