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.
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.
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?
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!”