Wednesday 24 August 2011

On Those 'Missing Girls'

Joe Biden has stepped in it. Again. (What a dork that guy is.)
Under fire from angry Republicans, US Vice President Joe Biden's office has said that he firmly opposes "repugnant" Chinese population control practices like "forced abortion and sterilization."

"The Obama administration strongly opposes all aspects of China's coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization," Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told AFP by email.

"The vice president believes such practices are repugnant," she said after Republican White House candidates blasted Biden for recent comments he made about Beijing's "one-child" population control policy during a visit to China.

Biden told an audience at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, Sunday that "your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family."

(Go to the link to read the hyperventilations of the ReThugs.)

Fetus fetishists were already stoked about one of their perennial faves because a couple of months ago a book by Mara Hvistendahl called 'Unnatural Selection' was published. Which got further ramped up by the release of census stats from India.
In the world's largest democracy a massive crisis of missing girls is unfolding, according to India's 2011 census. The latest census shows that the gap between the number of girls per 1,000 boys up to the age of six has widened to 914, a decrease from 927 a decade ago, at the 2001 census.

With the SHRIEEEEKfest came, of course, the mandatory 'Where are the feminists?!!?' jab lament. Because, you see, we feminists should be outraged because half of all abortions are done on 'pre-born women' (that's their phrase), and with sex-selective abortion, 'pre-born women' are actively targeted. Their (idiotic) question is: 'If you claim to be about women's rights, what about pre-born women's rights?'

Sigh. So I thought about writing about it. We at DJ! have taken on the subject at least twice. Once when wingnuts in BC proposed that if the gender of a fetus is known through an ultrasound, the results should not be revealed. (You know, to put an end to that rampant Canadian practice of sex-selective abortion.) And once when Ujjal Dosanjh stepped in it from the reverse direction as Biden. First, he was against sex-selective abortion, then he hadda walk it back by adding: 'But I am totally absolutely pro-choice'.

DJ! argued and argues that this is not a problem in Canada. The communities that prefer boys to girls are small, and besides, they'll get their comeuppance when their sons can't find partners of the 'right' sort and maybe bring home sweeties of the 'wrong' sort. Or 'wrong' gender. Or both. *evilgrin*

But, yes. Sex-selective abortion has created a ginormous problem in the benighted countries where it is practised.

I was going to argue this time that back in the 1960s overpopulation was the big bugaboo. We hadn't yet realized that that was too simplistic. It's not sheer overpopulation, we now know, it's overconsumption plus growing population that's going to kill the planet.

But that's when China and India began to try to grapple with their poverty problems by trying to slow population growth. China, because it could, instituted the infamous One Child Policy. India, being a democracy, couldn't be quite so draconian and tried kinder, more innovative policies.

Besides, both countries were fucking sick of being poor.

And I was going to argue that the best way to lower population growth is to promote women's rights and in particular to educate women.
Ultimately, though, this shouldn't be seen as a medical dilemma, but as a social one. The way to prevent sex-selective abortion isn't to legislate against it or attack the women who seek it – it's to create cultural changes that transform the place of women. By offering girls education, training and opportunities for employment, femicidal traditions can be uprooted, and a world that values women and fully recognises their right to exist created instead. To get there, though, we must first accept that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, on their own terms. Because if no one gives them autonomy in their own skin, why should they believe that their potential daughters deserve it either?

Aside: I really liked one of the comments there by hillbillyzombie:
Q: In what language is religion an anagram of misogyny?
A: All of them.

What Joe Biden stepped in is the relatively new contention that the developed West promoted the practice in China and India.
Much of the literature on sex selection has suggested that cultural patterns explain the phenomenon. But Hvistendahl lays the blame squarely on western governments and businesses that have exported technology and pro-abortion practices without considering the consequences. Amniocentesis and ultrasound scans have had largely positive applications in the west, where they have been used to detect foetal abnormalities. But exported to Asia and eastern Europe they have been intricately linked to an explosion of sex selection and a mushrooming of female abortions.

Hvistendahl claims western governments actively promoted abortion and sex selection in the developing world, encouraging the liberalisation of abortion laws and subsidising sales of ultrasounds as a form of population control.

"It took millions of dollars in funding from US organisations for sex determination and abortion to catch on in the developing world," she writes."

Roll out that whole 'feminist secularist Culture of Death' meme thingy!!!!!!

But again, it's a bit more subtle than your average fetus fetishist can cope with.

While it's true that the West did promote contraception and abortion, the purpose was ^NOT women's rights but population control. If they'd promoted women's rights with the same enthusiasm and money way back then, perhaps the problem of devalued and now missing women wouldn't have happened.
No one combating sex selection in China or India now argues that the appropriate reaction to decades of violating women's rights is to swing in the other direction and violate them further. Just as a woman should not be forced to abort a wanted pregnancy, she should not be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

Yet more subtlety. Yes, it's a cultural thing, but more than that it's a 'rising expectations' thing.
In the mid-1970s, amniocentesis, which reveals the sex of a baby in utero, became available in developing countries. Originally meant to test for fetal abnormalities, by the 1980s it was known as the "sex test" in India and other places where parents put a premium on sons. When amnio was replaced by the cheaper and less invasive ultrasound, it meant that most couples who wanted a baby boy could know ahead of time if they were going to have one and, if they were not, do something about it. "Better 500 rupees now than 5,000 later," reads one ad put out by an Indian clinic, a reference to the price of a sex test versus the cost of a dowry.

But oddly enough, Ms. Hvistendahl notes, it is usually a country's rich, not its poor, who lead the way in choosing against girls. "Sex selection typically starts with the urban, well-educated stratum of society," she writes. "Elites are the first to gain access to a new technology, whether MRI scanners, smart phones—or ultrasound machines." The behavior of elites then filters down until it becomes part of the broader culture. Even more unexpectedly, the decision to abort baby girls is usually made by women—either by the mother or, sometimes, the mother-in-law.

They don't want girls, yes. But more than that they want to live like us in the West. Simply put: girls cost money, boys make money. (And just as importantly, operating an ultrasound clinic is a nice little earner too.)

Yes, the developed West deserves some blame for the missing girls. But it is the capitalist West and its values that provided the technology and the profit for its operators that deserves the much bigger blame.

Feminism is not to blame for this. If feminists had been in charge of the Club of Rome, I daresay the outcome would have been quite different.

Commenter Ngoho at the MoJo link sums it up nicely.
It's possible that, since men steered culture into valuing their sex above females, perhaps a generation of lonely men will change that culture into one which values women.

Payback is a bitch, isn't she?


fern hill said...

Sorry, anonymous, there was a problem with the ProgBlog feed, so I deleted the post and reposted. Your comment got deleted too.

Here's what anon said: '"Where are the feminists?" Do we have to do everything?'

Beijing York said...

Stellar post, fern.

I never thought about the western peddling of technology that made sex selection a growth industry. Makes sense that the west will sacrifice their supposed values just to make a buck.

But really, the problem lies with empowering living women, not pre-women, so that they are not considered less valued than males in society. It doesn't get any more obvious than that.

Niles said...

And this horror story is coming to us through what lens? The lens of the het menz without high enough status to dominantly access the Interchangable Monolith of Human Females in this scenario? When women are 'rare', they've traditionally been controlled by the powerful men in society, like every other commodity.

We have the Mormon FLDS model where Elders violently exile superflous young men who might cockblock the expansion of breeding harems and where men allowed to remain in the community are controlled by the gifting and taking of women and children.

Historically, we have 'poor'(however that is rated) men, often brothers, sharing a wife/servant/sex service for economic reasons. We have less socially influential(however that is rated) men everywhere who don't/can't marry, but avail piecemeal sex and labour services from trafficked women, girls and excess boys. Often while whining they have to pay for it or go without.

We have men literally ordering women out of catalogues from economically challenged places because 'available' women are rare enough or educated enough the bitchz think they have a voice of agency in their lives instead of focusing on Teh Suck menz suffer when socially thwarted.

Whose best interests is it for so many women around that the commodity female market gets glutted beyond what the elite men can control?

Untold generations around the planet have been sex selected by the simple process of feeding/nurturing born boys and neglecting/infanticiding born girls. Abortion or failing to provide necessities of life/murder while facing accusations nothing but daughters are the fault of the breeding mother and to keep trying until death in childbirth or sons. Decisions, decisions. If I was a woman with that range of choice, I'd go for legal abortion. The horrid eeeeevils of *modern* selective sex pregnancy termination is safe medical and routine, requiring less emotional and physical distress for a woman whose social value is still found in producing male children. Otherwise, as I've heard over and over on the topic of pregnancy termination, women would just resort to that which is not safe, but still a *chance* they won't have to be punished for not meeting the moving goalposts.

I just hear nothing in this latest but concern trolls and reactivist whining for teh poor 'non-alpha' het menz, which is different from regular MRA(mens rights activists) and PUA(pick up artist) crap how? Degree? Dialling it to 11?

Only this time, in the long run, women will make it worse by mass organizing for their own agency, like commie socialist guilds/unions after the Black Plague depopulation or something and it's-all-the-feminists-fault het men are suffering like this!!!111!!1 (Of course the flip side of this is women survive the initial neglect and become so populous they can't be controlled and communicate with each other and find meaning outside of raising children's-all-the-feminists-fault!!!111!1)

Not to mention, I'm sure there's an angle in this somewhere about desperate brown men from Mars coming to steal white women.

What? Deciding the societal model where girl children are icky Edsels with uncool cooties is a bad one? What?

Anonymous said...

"And I was going to argue that the best way to lower population growth is to promote women's rights and in particular to educate women. "

*Hits the 'Agree' button.*

I think educating -men- about women's rights is also one of those not-so-bad ideas. We are not well educated in this area either.

Pseudz said...

How many gametes can dance on the head of a pin is not a question which should steer/rationalize our collective policy decisions. Apparently intractable disagreement about whether birth-control is a foetal or womens' rights issue looks to me to be at the heart of this issue.

Ground gained in social equality is always vulnerable. The fundamental fragility of all biological and social systems to poisoning by various means is a fact - - For instance, Rob Fords's election with a small injection of fear, envy and greed.

I'm with "angry gaijin" (Agree button, above) on the education of men about womens' rights. Perhaps it might help to call it Womens' Human Rights - - create a tide which floats all boats.

Niles said...

It's not like men, and especially heterosexual men, live on another planet and have never had opportunities for education. Information about women's lives inundate men every day. But they've been trained not to see it as relevant to their male lives. A lack of sexual partners for heterosexual men resonates as a male issue, not a female issue. Forbid sexual selection abortion and that solves it, right? Women, I tell ya, they stick their tongues on live power outlets if you don't watch them.

Men around the world have the political power to *legislate* womens' rights, for good or ill. When a woman in the so-called 'developed world' can still have the experience of being ignored in a gathering including men where she attempts to voice simple Business, let alone gender-based problems, it takes either crisis gatherings of *many* women or *a* man speaking up in the same meeting saying the same words the woman did before other entitled men present will even consciously hear and consider it.

Men have to be willing to step up and acknowledge there is something to be educated *about* regarding gender/sex expectations before there is any learning. They have to be willing to tell other men to do the same, and more, like not making smirking jokes about womens' studies in universities or yelping how victimized men are in their already pathetic sex lives when women tell them certain behaviours are creepy and don't do that.

Womens rights are human rights and have been called that since sexism started being framed as something other than Natural Law. Getting a tipping point of men in the world population to treat it that way is another thing entirely.

It's not a simple rational lack of knowledge.

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