Monday, February 23, 2009

Boys Over Girls

Traditionally, Chinese families have always preferred having boys over having girls. That's because of the following:

  • Boys carry the family name. If they marry and have children, their children will still carry the family name. That's because, as with the majority of the world, Chinese families are patrilineal.
  • Boys are traditionally trained to become the breadwinners. The more boys in the family, the more earnings the family is supposed to have. Girls are supposed to be mainly homemakers. Of course, nowadays, many girls are already career women. But if they earn, their priorities are still their husband's family (if they're married) over their own family of origin.
  • When boys marry, they bring their wives into the family fold. When girls marry, they are married "out" and are already considered as members of the husband's family instead of the family of their origin.
  • Traditionally, only boys could inherit.
  • Women who bore sons are more favorably looked upon than women who only managed to have daughters. When a woman bears a son, people will rejoice and congratulate the couple. If it's a daughter, people will say, "That's ok, daughters are also ok, you can always try for a son next time."
  • Traditionally, only boys could aspire for higher positions and glory within the government system. They can become high officials. Of course, times have changed and these may not always be the case. But then there has never been a female prime minister in China. Come to think of it, not even the US ever had a female president. Here in the Philippines also has an imbalance of more males in government positions than females, although the current president is female.
  • Boys have are physically stronger. For farming communities and other communities that need and emphasize manual labor, this is an advantage.
The preference for boys, although more pronounced with China's one child policy basically limiting the number of kids a couple has to only one (with a lot of exemptions nowadays), is actually not just limited to Chinese. Here in the Philippines, we'd hear of men wanting sons because they want someone to carry on their name. People would also cite the same reasons as the Chinese would if they are pressed to why they want boys. Even the more progressive countries, however much they try to promote gender equality, still have that glaring preference for males.

Will that change over time? I think it's going to take a while.