This is my second blog post and I’m really excited about exploring the topic of gender and sex because it has been a hot topic recently in social media and in most of my classes, and before studying it in school I never really got the opportunity to really learn about the topic enough to where I felt comfortable and familiar with the notions/origins of gender and sexuality and how each operate within American society.
First, let me explain that sex and gender are NOT the same thing.
According to the World Health Organization, sex “refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women” (World Health Organization).
Gender, on the other hand, “refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” (World Health Organization).
To call something ‘male’ or ‘female’ would be a sex category, and to call something ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ is considered to be a gender category (World Health Organization).
Now that we have established the distinction between gender and sex, it is time to discuss the real matter at hand. The debate is whether parents ought to be allowed to decide the sex or gender of their baby. I would say no and I will explain why.
According to Plannedparenthood.org, Gender “is our social and legal status as girls and boys, women and men… [Gender] is how you feel about and express your gender, and culture determines gender roles and what is masculine and feminine” (Planned Parenthood).
But back to the topic at hand! There are a great deal of sources that tell why or why not sex selection is not a viable process; because nature ultimately controls more than humans can. For example, According to the guardian, the probability of having a boy or a girl varies according to when and how one makes love, the environment, and one’s partner. Studies have shown that male conceptions are more likely during spring and wartime and at the beginnings and ends of ovulation periods in women; however female conception are more likely to happen in the middle of ovulation periods.
On the other hand, according to scientists, two ways of selecting the sex of one’s child is through either artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both are very costly processes, in terms of time, money and safety, because one also has to take and know the potential risks of taking fertility drugs. AI has various methods of operation, meaning there are many ways to do it, but the most popular is called intrauterine insemination. For intrauterine insemination, the doctor will place a tube into your uterus and shoot the sperm closer to this area. For IVF, depending on ones age, the doctor will transfer an appropriate number of enbryos (usually its more than one). (Baby Center).
According to Dr. Valerie J. Grant, women who have higher levels of testosterone are more likely to produce boys (Grant). That is to say that women who are more domineering are also more likely to have higher levels of testosterone, and thus will have more boys. Grant studied a sample of 353 women and found that high stress levels in women led to producing more females than males, which explains why there were a lot of wartime data that supported the claim that more women were born during high levels of political turmoil. What Vivienne Perry claimed is that in-vitro fertilization being a viable option in being able to select a gender of a child is far-reaching because there are too many elements outside of human control.
In her book called “The Truth about Hormones”, Vivienne also spoke about the Trivers Willard Hypothesis, which asserts that high status parents favor sons over daughters and low status parents (economically, popularity), favor daughters (Duncan). Apparently there is a strategy to this theory: poor quality females are more likely to pass on advantageous traits (or any kind of traits) than poor quality males, who re more likely to be rejected and not pass on anything. There are studies from animals like caribou that corroborate this notion (.Also, what best determines a child’s level of educational and economical success is investment by the parents and their resources (Blau and Duncan). Both of these claims utilize Darwinism as a basis of finding a hypothesis and research questions to guide their research. Darwinism is what drives a great deal of the American mentality; objectivity, rationale and reason are often placed high in our society, as showing too much emotion is deemed “immature” or inefficient (Geert-Hofstede). This notion of people being able to create the perfect child is ideal and highly compatible for the American citizen because they were raised in a society that praises “masculine” traits (achievement, competition and success) over feminine ones (caring for others and quality of life) and individualism (looking out for yourself and immediate family) over collectivism (focusing on “we” and a group setting”). Being an individualistic society is compatible with the notion of selecting a child’s gender because it takes into account the idea that one is looking out for oneself and immediate family, ensuring they have a legacy and that their legacy is advantageous over others’.
I believe that one should not be allowed to select the gender or sex of a child because I only personally believe in gender constructs to an extent. Gender expression has a great deal of external objects that the child uses to make an association between their intrinsic gender and the external one that is reflected in society. However, I was not always a child that conformed to girly things, like playing with barbies or playing dress up, or even using my imagination. Since we live in a highly individualistic society, why is it that we must emphasize conformity in terms of gender and sex? Shouldn’t we be allowed to do what we want and express ourselves freely? Plus, according to Vivienne Parry and Valerie Grant, there are a great deal of forces out of our control. Gender is a cultural construct in which society or the culture that a person is raised in decides how the person is to act, think and behave based on an individual’s body parts (WHO). Now since society has that power over an individual and decides how that person is to express themselves, then why should the parents put even more pressure on the child to conform to an idea or mode of expression (whether that be through toys, pasttimes, or other interests) just for them to fulfill a “role” that is not true to the intrinsic self-image of a young boy or girl? After all, there is a community of people whose mental or intrinsic sex is not in unison with the genitalia that they have at birth. This population are known collectively to the rest of the population as the “trans” community (GLAAD), and their presence is emerging in social media venues and in books, movies, and television.
All in all I simply do not believe, nor do I feel comfortable with the notion that parents ought to be allowed to select their child’s sex or gender. In the end, the culture has a greater say in how that person’s life will be and how that person can express themselves, as well as how to act and even think. I also am not comfortable with the notion of parents trying to play God for some sort of Darwinian contrived notion of advantage to pass on to future generations. Plus, there are a great number of cons that are associated with in-vitro fertilization. One single round of in vitro fertilization pre-genetic testing can cost around $20,000. There are numerous side effects to fertility drugs such as weight gain, bloating, etc. Having one’s eggs removed can be very invasive and painful, there will also be unused embryos that one has to decide how to use (donate, research or adoption), in women younger than 35 years old approximately 46% of the time the embryos result in births that are live and then that number goes down drastically as time goes on.
I hope this was as interesting and informative for you as it was for me!
Baby Center. (2014). Choosing your baby’s sex: What the scientists say | BabyCenter. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.babycenter.com/0_choosing-your-babys-sex-what-the-scientists-say_2915.bc#articlesection2
Blau, P. M., & Duncan, O. D. (1967). The American occupational structure. New York: Wiley.
Freese, J., & Powell, B. (1999). Sociobiology, Status and Parental Investment in Sons and Daughters: Testing the Trivers Willard Theory. American Journal of Sociology, 104(6), 1704-1743. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/wlsresearch/pilot/P01-R01_info/aging_mind/Aging_AppA7_Freese_Powell_AJS1999.pdf
GLAAD. (2011, September 09). GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Issues. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender
Grant, V. J. (1996). Sex determination and maternal Dominance. Human Reproduction, 11(11), 2371-2375. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.bio.davidson.edu/molecular/restricted/01Dom/Dom.html
Hofstede. (2012, February 3). THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from http://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html
Parry, V. (2005). The truth about hormones. London: Atlantic.
Planned Parenthood. (2014). Gender Identity | Stereotypical Masculine & Feminine Traits. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/sexual-orientation-gender/gender-gender-identity
World Health Organization. (2015). What do we mean by “sex” and “gender”? Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/