“Yes, it’s a Boy!”

How many times have you heard a man saying “I want a boy” when asked about his desires regarding having children; I personally lost count a long time ago. My parents always wanted to have two kids. My mother had my older sister and then lost a son while giving birth before having me. For this reason and since I heard that my dad really wanted a boy, I always felt a little guilty and bad for him. However, after reading and learning about communication, gender, and culture I realized that I should not feel bad at all. Why is it that men want to have boys? Is this desire a social construct? Does patriarchy play an important role in this preference?

Statistics & Implications

According to a Gallup Poll conducted in 2011, American men aged 18 and older prefer to have a boy rather than a girl, by a 40% to 28% margin. On the contrary, American women show no preference over children’s sex at all ages. The findings also show that republicans, conservatives, and less educated men report higher preferences of wanting a boy than democrats, liberal, and more educated men. Finally, a study conducted by Enrico Moretti and Gordon B. Dhal called The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage, shows that families who already have two children are more likely to have another child if all their children are female.

Boys are the desire or "target" of many parents

Moretti and Dhal also explain that, unfortunately, children sex-preference occurs not only in the United States but also world-wide including countries like China, Vietnam, Mexico, Colombia, and Kenya. The researchers add that in many developing countries women seem to also prefer males. According to R. Muthulakshmi and his book Female Infanticide, the implications of this phenomenon in developing countries such as India are practices such as female infanticide which refers to the practice of killing baby girls because of their sex. Finally, Mara Hvistendahl in who wrote the book Unnatural Selection Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World full of Men explains that another consequence of this phenomenon is a global demographic imbalance between sexes towards men. This can lead to the increase of prostitution, kidnappings, sex trafficking, rapings, and violence towards females.

Why?

As explanations for this phenomenon, some parents argue that boys make more money and can help support a family better. Some men say that a boy will ensure the family name passes to another generation.  Some say that boys are simply easier to raise.  I think that the overall and underlying explanation for this phenomenon is that we live in patriarchal societies that embrace all these traditional values. The Communication Studies and gender scholar Julia T. Wood in her textbook Gendered Lives explains that patriarchal societies and cultures are based on male dominance that tends to give privileges to men and to undermine women. Thus, the fact that patriarchal societies place a higher value on the male sex affects parents’ wants. Wood uses the example of women who take their husbands’ name after marriage as an example of a practice that conveys the idea that women are defined by their relationship to a man and therefore subordinated to them. A  nother example is the fact that men argue boys are easier to raise. Well, easier for whom? Again, this idea is patriarchal in the sense that it holds men’s convenience over women’s convenience.  This is a video produced by Daniel Tosh that makes fun of the privileges and qualities that patriarchal societies attribute to men. Finally, analyzing this phenomenon in terms of patriarchy helps us understand why Republican, conservative, and less educated people (groups who tend to hold patriarchal ideas closer) showed higher preference over the male sex in the study conducted by Moretti and Dhal.

What Can We Do?

We can create a cultural system based in equality among sexes

In conclusion, I argue that the patriarchal societies we live in influence the desires of many parents, especially men, who want to have a boy because it is the sex that society favors. However, I callenge all of them to use the energy and effort they put into having a boy, into fighting for equal rights among sexes. The good news is that, since patriarchy is a social construct, we can create a fairer cultural system so that one day future generations will not have to worry about their children’s sex. Maybe one day the only thing that parents of the future will enthusiastically yell when they see their children will be “Yes, it is a beautiful baby!”

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4 Responses to “Yes, it’s a Boy!”

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  3. Michelle says:

    I found your post to be really insightful with many interesting back up sources and viewpoints to go along with them. The concept and desire of wanting a boy versus a girl baby is something that I honestly don’t understand. It’s so ironic because I was having a conversation with one of my friends today who is one of three girls in her family, and she said “I feel bad for my dad, he never got to have a son around to do guy things with.” I don’t know why society has glorified the idea of the “father-son” relationship so much. Sure some people like to “pass on the family name” and I have also heard many parents claim that its apparently easier to raise boys. I don’t have any children of my own, so I’m not sure if I can really say much on the subject of raising children, but I don’t think the sex of a baby will determine any sort of relief or disappointment in terms of level of difficulty to raise. All children are different, and to put a place-hold on a boy in hopes that he will carry the family name or be easier to raise, is just adding to a bizarre patriarchal norm that has been in society for so long.

    Julia T. Wood explains that patriarchal societies and cultures are based on male dominance that tends to give privileges to men and to undermine women. I find this to be ironic because it says society places male dominance on a pedistool, and therefore receive more privileges in life. From a woman’s point of view, I consider the ability to conceive, gain 20+ pounds, and give birth to a child one of the best privileges that only a woman can have. After all, women are the key in order to “pass on the family name” or have a father-son relationship. I find patriarchal desires so numb-minded because with the rights and freedom that women have today, there aren’t too many things men can do that women can’t. It is possible for women to succeed in the career world, educationally, and developmentally. Men can not give birth to children, plain and simple.
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/04/30/o.why.didnt.want.girl/index.html
    Just for interesting reading, I stumbled upon this article from a writer at CNN who has a column on parenting. In this particular article, author Amy Wilson explained her shock, confusion and ultimate disappointment when she found out she was having a baby girl. As a mother of two boys already, she explained that both she and her husband were just “expecting” to have a boy, and they chose to keep the sex of their third child a surprise until one day they got a phone call alerting them of the good news of a baby girl. It really does amaze me how people place so much value on the sex of their children. In the end, isn’t it enough of a privilege to just be able to have children in general?

  4. Shelby says:

    Marta,
    You bring up a very interesting topic that I personally have never thought about. Any time I have ever heard anyone talk about having a future child, they have stated that they want a boy. And what actually surprises me is that when I think about my future family, I have always wanted two boys and a girl. I kind of wanted this type of family because this is how my family is; I have two older brothers and a younger brother so I guess I get the idea of having my first two kids to be a male came from my own experiences. Now that you have brought up this topic, it makes me think if this really the reason why I want two boys?
    Julia T. Woodhttp://comm.unc.edu/facstaff/facultyprofile/wood/index_html does explain in her book Gendered Lives that male is the sex that society favors. This does not make sense to me. Even though they are known to be powerful, strong-willed, hard-working, and so on, females can obtain the same qualities. We allow for these words to be associated with the sex of males, but why do we never associate these important characteristics with females. Even though males are known to be the ones who support the households, we are known to be the ones who hold it all together and make our family succeed. Isn’t that just as important?
    The traditional values that we keep referring to are only going to get stronger. We live in a Patriarchal society and I do believe this has a lot to do with why males are the dominating sex in what families want. They way that society has shaped our thoughts of what a dominant male is can explain why so many parents want to have a male. They are hoping that their views will become a reality if they have a male.

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