Monday, January 23, 2012

Do you know what it feels like in this world for a girl?

Yes, I just quoted lyrics from a Madonna song.

I used to think that I only wanted boys.  They seemed easier and less demanding than girls.  That was until I spent a summer living with, and cooking for, a camp of 12 boys, ages 16 and 17 with the Alberta Junior Forest Rangers.  I'm sure that not all teenage boys are like them, but I decided that I didn't want to chance it.  They were smelly, perverse, crude, and vulgar.  I had to force them to take down the porn that lined the inside of their outhouse on parent's weekend, in case one of their family members went in there (Thankfully I had my own bathroom in the trailer Mike & I stayed in).  Obviously you can't paint all teenage boys with the same brush, but I saw enough that summer that it turned me off wanting boys of my own.

So when it came time for us to have our own kids, we decided to stack the odds in favour of having girls and used the Dr. Shettle method.  It worked both times and we got the girls we wanted (me especially)!  Yes, I think that sometimes they are more demanding of my time and attention than boys would have been, but I look forward to (hopefully) a life-long, close relationship with them, as they grow up and become wives and mothers themselves, if they so choose.  I can't imagine that someone wouldn't want a daughter.

I realize now that my daughters won the lottery by being born in Canada.  They are valued as equal members of society that have all the opportunities of men.  Our aspirations for them as parents include higher education, and meaningful work in a society where they will receive equal pay for equal work.  They can hold public office, even as the leader of our country or representative of the Queen.  Their vote counts the same as men's and their voices carry just as much weight.  Well, maybe I should say that on paper all these things hold true.  It's easy to forget that in the majority of the world, women are not valued and have no say in society.

It may come as a surprise to many of you that I support the military action in Afghanistan, but not for the same reasons as most.  Long before "9/11" (how have Americans co-opted a date?), I was deeply disturbed by the human rights violations taking place against women by the ruling Taliban.  It says something about our still patriarchal society that the flagrant abuse against women and girls didn't warrant intervention by the international community, (verbal disapproval doesn't count as action, I'm looking at you, Madeleine Albright).

I'm not sure why patriarchal societies want to suppress women.  Sometimes I think it's because women are powerful in a way that men never will be.  We produce life.  I'm sure that you've all heard the saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world", but if that were the case, it would only take one generation of women teaching their son's to respect women to change the way the world works. 

The real problem is that women themselves have been brainwashed to believe that their own daughters have no value and have succumbed to men's view of their gender.  So much so that some violent practices, specifically Female Genital Mutilation, are enacted by women.  Sometimes a girl's own female family members are the ones who visit this atrocity upon them.

Nowhere is the devaluing of daughters more evident than in China and India.  I've long been aware of the 1 child policy in China, but assumed that most girls were "disposed of" through a combination of abortion and abandonment at orphanages (not that that makes it better).  I was wrong.  Apparently is it common practice in rural villages to suffocate daughters immediately after birth, as soon as their gender is determined to be the "wrong" one.  This horrific fact was brought to my attention after listening to an interview with Xinran on CBC radio last March and then reading the book that the interview was about, Message from An Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love.  The book is available to borrow through the Shortgrass library system.  Here is an excellent review of it from The Economist.  The women also carry tremendous guilt about their inability to produce a son.  Do they not know that it is the man's sperm that determines the gender of the baby?  Maybe someone should tell them.

Then, just last week I saw the trailer for a new documentary, "It's a Girl".

I really don't know what else there is to say after that.

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