Fresh off of the release of Hanna Rosin‘s End of Men, we’re learning that girl babies are all the rage. An increase in gender selection procedures is giving parents with the means a way to make their long-held wish for a boy or a girl come true. While the gender selection and sex selective abortion debate have traditionally been anchored in preferences in boys, over here in the United States, our collective desire for girls is what’s turning heads. But if what parents are really chasing when they walk into the fertility clinic is pink clothes and a toy chest full of dollies, then they’re not really hoping for girls at all. Just stereotyped images of them.
Slate’s rather alarming piece, “How To Buy a Daughter,” on the gender fixations by modern parents uncovers the online world of gender selection. A place where mothers “adorn their avatars with pink and princess imagery” and “talk about their desperation to have daughters.” One woman with three sons offers up her very personal journey, shelling out an ultimate $40,000 over four years for her fourth child, a girl. Yet, her interpretation of being a “girl-mommy” is awfully one-dimensional:
Megan Simpson always expected that she would be a mother to a daughter.
She had grown up in a family of four sisters. She liked sewing, baking, and doing hair and makeup. She hoped one day to share these interests with a little girl whom she could dress in pink.
What a demeaning and fundamentally short-sided way to understand the capabilities of our sons and daughters.
As many parents of tomboys can attest, having a little girl doesn’t guarantee the aforementioned activities or preferences. Nor does having a child of the opposite gender automatically mean that such penchants are off the table. Even if we are trafficking in such simplistic definitions of masculine and feminine, there’s no rule that every pink, frilly princess is going to delight in makeup tutorials. Nor will she give two figs about baking brownies with you every Sunday.
Such limited understandings of gender, and interests according to gender, do a vast disservice to kids of both sexes by only envisioning them as far as their gender. Fixating on such potentially fluid aspects of a child’s life exerts such a desperate attempt at control that even the term helicopter mom falls short. You don’t need a gender-variant child to know that Easy Bake Ovens and Hot Wheels have massive cross over potential, as do an array of careers and professional opportunities in our rapidly changing times. Our personal stories may have a very pronounced gender narrative, but with recent upheavals in long-held gender structures, it’s clear that we have no idea where our sons will end up — or our daughters.
Gender isn’t the destiny that many parents would hope it to be.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine reportedly has concerns about the children who are being sought after in these sweeping artificial fantasies, and for good reason:
…the group points out the possible psychological harm to children born through gender selection. They fear these children would be pressured to live up to the stereotypes of the gender that was picked out and paid for by their parents.
“It’s high-tech eugenics,” said Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a Berkeley, Calif. nonprofit focused on reproductive technologies. “If you’re going through the trouble and expense to select a child of a certain sex, you’re encouraging gender stereotypes that are damaging to women and girls. …What if you get a girl who wants to play basketball? You can’t send her back.”
And at $18,000 a procedure, that’s quite the receipt. What’s next? Isolating a “sewing” gene? Mix and matching hair and eye color with a predilection for embroidery? Clearly, our kids are willing to go places that aren’t necessarily as rigidly defined as “male” and “female.” But apparently, some parents are intent on keeping them there.