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It’s a Girl: Women Experience “Gender Disappointment” for Boys

It’s a Girl: Women Experience “Gender Disappointment” for Boys

A friend of mine recently found out she was pregnant. When I asked her if she was going to find out the sex of the baby she said no. It didn’t matter to her whether she was having a boy or girl and she wanted to be surprised.

For other women, the desire for a boy or girl is so overwhelming that they will go to great measures to ensure their deserved sex is conceived. If mother nature has other plans for the couple, some women are so disappointed and unhappy with their child’s sex that they are unable to recover.

This new trend among expectant mothers has been coined “gender disappointment.” Elle magazine recently ran an article on the issue that is sprinkled with anecdotes of women whose desperation for girls is so strong that they go to great measures to ensure a baby girl is conceived. These women use a range of  sex selection methods from folk remedies like douching with vinegar and sleeping with a lime-soaked tampon to lower vaginal pH levels to favor girls, or sperm-sorting and spinning methods to separate faster-swimming boy-producing sperm from slower-swimming girl-producing sperm, and even in vitro fertilization of sex determined embryos. If these methods fail some women are so disappointed that they consider terminating their pregnancies or giving their children up for adoption.

MicroSort and the Ericsson method are two popular sperm-sorting and spinning methods that couples turn to for conceiving a girl. Seventy-one percent of families who use MicroSort want a daughter. For the Ericsson the ratio of girl-to-boy requests is as high as two to one at licensed clinics.

Why the greater preference for girls over boys? Elle’s explanation is puzzling:

“Women envision a brighter future for their daughters than they do for their sons. Boys are practically the underdogs these days, having fallen behind girls on nearly every measure of academic achievement, from college attendance to high school graduation rates. According to books such as The War Against Boys and Boys Adrift, they are in danger of becoming, as Christina Hoff Sommers has written, ‘tomorrow’s second sex.’”

With women still suffering from pay inequity, rape, domestic violence, etc. this assessment gives me pause. Do mothers really prefer girls because they “envision a brighter future for their daughters?”

This is a difficult question to answer, especially because the mothers interviewed for Elle’s story don’t talk about their potential daughter’s brighter future as a reason for their preference (or at least the author doesn’t include this information). The women in the article talk about ballet recitals, tea parties, doll houses, manicures and, of course, pink paraphernalia of all sorts – pink, pink, pink! When their daughters don’t live up to this ultra feminine ideal, which was the case for one of the women in the story, some mothers find themselves severely disappointed all over again. They may have a daughter, but not the daughter they envisioned.

The obsession for girls that these women experience stems from our culture’s socially constructed definition of what it means to be a girl. When mothers hope for a daughter – one that lives up to our culture’s gender stereotypes – it puts pressure on little girls to conform to this ideal. If and when they don’t, “gender disappointment” rears its ugly head. What if the little girl they dreamed about turns out to be a tomboy or ends up being a lesbian? How will mother’s react to this news? What if the mother has a boy? Will she be able to get past her preference for a girl?

I am not a mother, but I understand the desire to have both boys and girls. I’ve always thought that I would have a boy and a girl so I could experience both the mother / daughter and mother / son relationship. I’m sure many women have a preference one way or another, but it’s the extent to which this preference affects a mother’s relationship with their child that is most important. I am sure the women in this article love their children, but am worried about the negative consequences of “gender disappointment” on their children.

Sex selection is a controversial issue in and of itself and the new trend of “gender disappointment” only further complicates matters. We need to learn more about “gender disappointment” so that mothers can learn to accept their children regardless of their sex and children – both girls and boys – can grow up to be who they want to be regardless of their gender.

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Photo via http://baby-gender-selections.blogspot.com/

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58 comments

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12:27AM PST on Nov 29, 2010

Not surprising...this has been going on for probably all time (of course, depending on your social setting, you would prefer a boy or a girl). In any case, parents have dreams for their kids and most of the time their kids want things their parents would never want them to wish for. Parents need to stop thinking about their children as accessories and more as individuals that have to lead and create their own lives.

10:56AM PST on Nov 5, 2009

Weird but the story is contradictory to the Indian scenario, here boys are favored and people in remote villages n town even go to the extent of infanticide of the female baby. Sad but true... even I was shocked to see that this is prevalent only after watching "India's Missing Girls" on National Geographic. Favoring the Male child is so great that in many regions of India the sex ratio is utterly skewed.

11:04AM PDT on Oct 29, 2009

The sex of the child isn’t important to me. I have two girls and a boy and I love them all. I think that to have healthy Childs is more the more important thing we must desire.

1:33PM PDT on Oct 23, 2009

A child is a child regardless. I find it overall ignorant that someone would have an abortion or give up a child for adoption because the child is an "undesirable" sex. I'm not totally discrediting someone's feelings though, I understand and know the sensation of wanting to have a certain gender of child. However, I'd just be happy to have a child. Also, I think there is no set definition for the female stereotype for a mother-to-be. I think they envision their child but not all have a vision alike. Someone may want a tough, feminist daughter whilst another would clamor for a delicate wallflower. Anyway, I think gender disappointment is acceptable but if the parent(s) often express this feeling towards the child, that is when it becomes unacceptable.

3:52AM PDT on Oct 23, 2009

I have 3 boys and 1 girl, I was delighted with all of them Boys are great fun, they are a lot easier than girls ( at least when they are small) but it's nice to have my daughter too. We share our little girly secrets amongst the rest of the testosterone-filled family.
I love them all!

4:52PM PDT on Oct 22, 2009

David Harmon, your comment is ignorant and reveals your anger toward women. I suspect you have issues with your own mother. I don't mean to offend you, but you really need to calm down. I really doubt it's "FIMINIST" who are attempting to rid the world of boys. After all, these women still need boys to participate in baby-making. No, I think our consumer culture is to blame. These women don't really want a baby at all. They want a dolly to dress up and cart around. They want to decorate a girly room, not a baseball themed one. Simple as that. They will be just as crappy mothers to these girls eventually, as they would to a boy. Visualize what these women might look like, David. Do they look like feminists to you? Or do they more resemble Paris Hilton types.. tiny dog in a tiny designer handbag becomes a tiny, pre-anorexic daughter in a designer stroller, wearing the same pink thong as mommy.

1:59AM PDT on Oct 22, 2009

I was happy that I had a girl because when my husband and I got divorced, it was easier FOR ME, I'm not saying everyone, to raise a daughter. I never had any more children and I never re-married. My daughter was only 2 when I got divorced and she hasn't had much of a relationship with her father, so her and I are very very close. She is now 16.

9:45PM PDT on Oct 20, 2009

Before I had my Beautiful daughter, My husband and I wanted to be surprised, and we were. God gives us a beautiful gift, accept the way he intended: Be the Best parents you can be.

1:35PM PDT on Oct 20, 2009

Parents who want a certain gender that much even before their child is born are not having children for the right reasons. They are being self-centered and unaccepting even before the child enters the world. I pity the children of such people. Parents like that should just buy a doll or a video game to amuse themselves. Children deserve to be loved unconditionally for the person they are.

1:30PM PDT on Oct 20, 2009

Please remember that a healthy baby is the most important outcome, not the gender.

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