Ever heard the song “It’s A Man’s World?”
This song may no longer be far from the truth.
Throughout the world, women are disappearing. In the past few decades, the sex ratio has jumped from the natural ratio of 105 men to every 100 women to 107 to 100. This seemingly minor jump actually has drastic consequences. When expanded to population-sized proportions, this gap is ‘biologically impossible’ to sustain. Journalist Mara Hvistendahl’s book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, records the causes and effects of this transition.
No [Wo]Man’s Land of China
It’s no secret that China’s one child policy has negatively affected their current female population in China. However, this alone doesn’t account for the astronomical difference of 121:100. When torn between bearing a child who can carry on the family name and business and a child who will be mistreated and undervalued societally speaking, the choice is quite simple. Looking at the culture of China and the technological shift, it’s no wonder this gap has increased significantly. The following have all aided this disparity:
- Affordability and easy access of the ultrasound machine
This growing availability of sex determining machines has allowed pregnant women to abort girls in favor of boys. This fetocide is often practiced in unsanitary hospitals that can cause major health complications for future mothers.
- Female Infanticide
In cultures where there is less access to ultrasound machines, it is not uncommon for them to practice female infanticide. They typically murder the child quickly after the birth, casting it aside carelessly on the street.
When Hvistendahl visited China, she saw signs in local villages with phrases such as “You Can Beat It Out! You Can Make It Fall Out! You Can Abort It! But You Cannot Give Birth To It!” Signs like these are just one of the many societal pressures to abort girls.
What are the consequences?
According to Hvistendahl, this imbalanced ratio can (and will) lead to an increase in sex trafficking, polyandry, and prostitution. It could also lead to a spike in demands for child and mail-order brides. With less wives to go around in these types of cultures, there will be higher demand to get them, no matter the cost or legality. If this issue continues to go unrecognized, it could slowly start to topple our society.
What is the Counter Argument?
While her book is extremely compelling, it is important to evaluate all information with a critical eye. Critics argue that Hvistendahl is incorrect in her theory that women will continue to be undervalued in the societies where female infanticide and fetocide are prominent (read more here). On the contrary, studies have shown that these women are becoming even more valued and desirable, marrying up and leaving their previously impoverished lives.
Experts also predict that this imbalance will begin to normalize in the upcoming decades, despite Hvistendahl’s doom-and-gloom interpretation. Already society is begin to equalize as more and more people in our global society are beginning to see the value of women.
Only time will tell if Hvistendahl’s predictions come to fruition. Will our generation struggle to manage the unbalanced ratio? — it doesn’t have to. If we as a society can be proactive and deter the negative effects through raising our voices and support, we can begin to reverse the damage we have already done. All it takes is a little bit of faith and a lot of action and willingness to change.