Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Abortion, Sex Selection and Growing Male Dominance: Asia/India

Daughters are liabilities! This has been the prevailing attitude held by men and women for millennia; it's traditional, generational, cultural! And why mess with a good thing? The world has been spinning OK up until this point, right?

Women's bodies have determined their roles and cultural status. The illusion is that in the US, since the passage of the 19th amendment and the outgrowth of the feminist movement, many women perceive that there has been a mega shift toward equalizing the male/female power structure in our politics and economy. And of course, this is not quite true. Monetarily, women still make less than men and white women especially, make less than white men in comparison to other all other ethnic groups.

I find a particular irony in areas where women have the power to choose between a male or female candidate for political office or a high paying professional position. We have equity in numbers of men and women in the House and Senate, CEOs of Hedge Funds and Corporations. Right? Right.  

During my experience in education as a teacher, administrator and researcher networking with colleagues, and fellow researchers at NYU, we would marvel at the dearth of female superintendents nationally and in the NYC area. On LI alone there are over 100 districts. To date, there have been only a handful of female superintendents. Women often are board members. How many of them would rather work with men than women? Is that old paternalistic obeisance fluttering the hearts of these potential female "bosses" who feel more comfortable taking "commands and dictum" from a male? This is probably just my cynical imagination. But old habits die hard in the US. (Black males received the vote before women of all races. Voting is empowerment and even after women received the vote, they didn't exercise their right. When women are in a position to choose not to, often they still defer to men because...they are brain dead? brainwashed? unconscious? oblivious? contented with their situation? oppressed? depressed, incompetent, insecure? I don't know why! Someone please do a study and convince me this is NOT happening!

But another form of this is happening. In India and Asia. Women are choosing between male and female candidates, and they are choosing to have boys and abort their female children. There's a vote of confidence for you. I know, I know, reproductive rights activists in India would be wagging annoyed fingers in my face affirming that husbands and fathers often badger and berate their wives and daughters into aborting female fetuses.

"In Gujarat, women do not decide whether they will have male children or female children," the leader   of an Indian feminist group has said. "To be frank, she is never consulted on whether she will go to bed with the man. So there is no freedom of decision...So many women die or commit suicide because they give birth to daughters. Husbands torturing wives because of the birth of a daughter is not unique." (note 1)

However, according to Marva Hvistendahl, in Unnatural Selection, this accounts for only a small portion of sex selective abortions in Asia; In China, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Azerbaijan; the pregnant woman or her mother-in-law (in deference to her son) are the ones deciding to abort the females, not the husbands. So for life, women select the male candidate over the female. Is this a form of self-genocide, the apotheosis of self-hatred being XX? Sounds fascist, doesn't it, sort of like the extremes the character in Wertmuller's film, The Seven Beauties was reduced to trying to survive in Hitler's Fascist concentration camps. Except in Asia, no VISIBLE gun is being held to the women's heads to abort the females. Their representative self- annihilation is much, much worse than the pressure the character in Seven Beauties undergoes. They never make it out "alive," so to speak.

The complete irony is that the more economically sound the family is, the more educationally advanced, the higher the likelihood they will practice abortion. OK. I can dig that. Excuse me? Sex selected abortion!
"Highly educated couples are more prone to abort a female fetus than couples with lower levels of education" (Hvistendahl, 31). Income and caste are factors that help to predict a great instance of female abortions: i.e. women doctors, lawyers and businesspeople (31). Doesn't anyone believe in using birth control? Or are they trying for children and oops! Ultrasound shows it's a girl:  ABORT! ABORT! ABORT! Mission Not Accomplished! Let's try until we succeed! It's a boy! Yeah! Status makes it all worth while.

Yes...but what happens when you are old and grey? Who will take care of you? Your son's wife will be busy taking care of her mother, not you! Perhaps a future investment in Nursing Care Facilities in Asia and India might turn a profit, if female workers are imported to replace a diminishing female population; The newcomers would staff the facilities, enabling care. Unless of course, the skewed population of men stepped into those jobs, humiliating themselves and losing face in gender bending roles? Anything is possible.

The societal effects of male dominated cultures, precluding an epidemic of boys and shortage of girls? According to French demographer and researcher Christophe Guilmoto (Hvistendahl) the consequences are dismal, the effects are ever present and worsening. And the story is largely under the radar, except for a reported iceberg tip here and there, largely unrelated to possible causation: female human trafficking, global prostitution syndicates, bride buying.

1 Michelle Goldberg. The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (New York: Penguin, 2009) 191.

1 comment:

Margo Dill said...

This post makes me think of the book HALF THE SKY. Have you read it? It has to do with women's issues around the world--the stories in that book are unbelievable. Is it really possible that women are still treated like this in the world? That book really opened my eyes, and your post here reminded me of that.