Unnatural Selection presents a history of sex selection practises, the political or cultural desire to control populations, the methods of sex predetermination, and how these lead to the current gender imbalance crisis beginning to be felt in Asia, Eastern Europe and around the world.
This is a very topical book for me, as I begin to consider the kind of world my own daughter will inhabit as she grows older. What will it mean to be a girl or woman in the coming years, as the problems Hvistendahl outlines rage unchecked? How will she be treated at school, at a prospective workplace, or in society as a whole? Will this be a good world for her? How does this problem integrate with all the other crises she will have to deal with - be they economic, political, environmental or whatever?
I found that the author doesn’t fully satisfy me as to the big “why” - why do families all want boys so badly? Is this a self-evident truth that I am missing (seeing that I am immensely happy with my only child), or are the causes as diverse as the cultures manifesting this problem? If people want children of a specific gender because they have preconceived notions of how successful they could be (based on gender and position in society), perhaps how this manifests is situationally dependent on the society they live in. Hvistendahl does mention some customs and practises such as male inheritance, the practise of marrying daughters “up,” and the issue of dowries and so on. In any case, the potential variation of answers makes the first question below a good question that should stimulate discussion!
This book should lead to a lively discussion, although the book itself may be a bit challenging to read. It is quite dense, being a full cultural study of the historical and political background that leads to the growth of sex selection around the world, and how the idea of population control and abortion technologies were introduced into societies initially resistant to these concepts.
- Unnatural Selection documents the rise of sex selection, and the favouring of boy children over girls. Why do so many wish their babies to be boys?
- Why do human societies throughout history seek to control reproduction?
- How successful have attempts to control populations been (either to reduce or increase populations)?
- Is this a local problem? What common factors are shared by countries sliding into significant gender imbalance?
- If individual families just want to have “balanced families,” how does this collectively contribute to a gender imbalance?
- What happens to societies when there is a “surplus of men?”
- Have you noticed any effects of a gender imbalance in your experience?
- How do perceived gender roles in a given society contribute to gender imbalance?
- How can human civilizations rectify gender imbalances?
- Is this a problem that can be solved?