Dec 24 2005


“Jesus,” quoth patriarchy-blamer Tammy Wright in her introduction to this link, “H tap-dancing christ!”

Tammy’s succinct vituperation alludes to the flourishing habit of certain knocked-up Canadians to slip down to a Los Angeles fertility clinic for fetal sex selection. Canadian law, which clings nostalgically to some quaint notion of equality, has banned the practice, so creepy self-absorbed cakers who view sex selection as a high-caliber idea are forced to travel south to execute their delusions.

It boggles the Twisty mind that people can become so sentimental about their genetic material, so unbalanced when suffering the romantic disease of reproduction, so mired in patriarchal gender clichés that they think nothing of undergoing this icky and weird procedure.

A half-witted spokes-Canadienne who has selected the $18,500 XX option for her next kid expects us to believe that she and her husband made the decision in order to appease an existing toddler daughter who “desperately wanted a sister.”

I quite agree that the desperation of toddlers should always be the motivating factor behind life-and-death decisions that hinge on delusional parental fantasies and confer unrealistic expectations on fetuses! I mean, think about it: when was the last time you met a desperate toddler in whose infinite wisdom you could not place your complete trust?

Still, loath though I am to condone governmental interference in the goings-on within private uteri–and believe me, I am really fucking loath–the bioethicist quoted in the article and I share the opinion that “sex selection is ultimately about sex discrimination, therefore it’s a public policy issue … not a private choice.”

I don’t see any getting around that.


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  1. Mrs Bine

    How is this different from say, elective abortion?

    You can’t have it both ways, what if the parents simply decide to abort every fetus of the “wrong” sex?

    Are you pro-life after all? Because eliminating abortion and legislating against this sort of meddling with the Lord’s plan is one of the other options.

    It’s none of your business what goes on in the uteri of others, period. If the sex discrimination is their private choice, please, stay out of it. It is none of your business.

  2. mythago

    It is a public policy issue. That doesn’t mean that we can therefore eliminate private choice.

  3. Hattie

    As one salmon said to another, “Spawn till you die.”
    All this icky stuff is because women have money and this is a way to spend it. It’s all part of being a consumer, right along with the diets, the face lifts, and all the rest of the crap women are buying these days.
    Most people are pretty dumb and gullible, ya know.
    Happy holidays.

  4. anashi

    They used this same precedure in China and most of the women opted out of having girl children cause having male children was considered a better economic choice. I think they actually banned the precedure in some places in China because of this. I know there was a campaign in China to get women to have girl children instead of aborting them, there was banners and everything. It just made me really ill cause they showed all these fat-ass baby male kids, seriously these male kids were very well taken care of, and then they showed these prison like places where orphaned girls were living in China because there parents didn’t want girl children.

  5. belledame222

    That’s some photo above the article, in that above-referenced link. Says so much without really meaning to…

  6. Erin

    And now China has an entire generation where the gender ratio is very skewed toward men. None of these men can find mates, because all those girls weren’t born.

  7. NancyMc

    None of these men can find mates, because all those girls weren’t born.

    That’s right, which is why I’m thinking of getting me a passel of mail-order Chinese husbands for my harem.

    But seriously – the technological ability to choose gender is not the root problem in the case of China or India. The problem is that in such societies the patriarchy is so pervasive that all wealth is still controlled by directly by males.

    The Chinese and Indian farmers will do whatever it takes to increase their economic prospects, and if that means getting rid of girls, they’ll find a way to do it. Gender selection technologies are preferable to infanticide.

    But I agree that it’s truly stupid to select a child’s gender because your expectations are that all girls behave certain ways and all boys behave certain ways. You are just setting yourself up for frustration, for yourself and the kid.

  8. Ms Kate

    If I was to spend that kind of money to get the sister my elder son desired, I would take his advice: go to China and pick one up! Or adopt one from the US.

    He has a lot of friends who are Chinese adoptees, so he naturally understands that if you want a girl baby, you should adopt an orphaned or abandoned child. He is adamant that he will never spawn kids of his own, but adopt as many as he can raise, partner or no.

  9. Ms Kate

    And how long will it be, exactly, until our health care dollars are rounded up to pay for this shit? They already pay for IVF in Massachusetts because some spoiled parents played the “I can’t spread my own genetics around and that’s not faiiiiirrrrr” card.

    I can see it if there are serious genetic issues in a family, but come on!

  10. parodie

    I think this is a tricky topic, because there are many facets to the issue. Fwiw, I fully oppose sex selection (I like my Canadian laws, thankyouverymuch), but on the other hand we allow and occassionally encourage women to abort fetus with what we consider to be “serious problems” (medical issues – e.g. Down’s syndrome, etc). I have heard it convincingly argued that this amounts to a form of eugenics – we are saying that certain lives are less valuable than others (e.g. a life w/ serious medical problems is too painful to live, or a life with Down’s syndrom is unfulfilling) and as a society we encourage that type of thinking – through genetic counsellors who speak in somber tones to parents about how they need to “consider their options” and so forth.

    It is not entirely clear where this line should be: do we allow elective abortions for any reason? Do we withhold information from expectant parents so they can’t make a decision on that basis (I believe that’s what happens in Canada – parents aren’t told the sex of their child until it is too late to do an elective abortion). Do we allow abortions only in some situations?

    Generally, I would side with allowing more rather than less freedom – but there will always be idiots. Should they (and their children) be protected from their patriarchially-formed idiotic opinions?

  11. Nancymc

    It is not entirely clear where this line should be: do we allow elective abortions for any reason?

    Yes. It is up to the woman to decide whether her reason for wanting an abortion is “good enough” and nobody else’s.

    Society doesn’t encourage people to abort fetuses with Downs syndrome – there are plenty of people who will gladly try to make other people feel guilty and selfish for doing so, and mock genetic counsellors for daring to suggest pregnant women have options to consider.

    If you want to encourage people to have children under any and all circumstances, better support legislation that offers to pay people to have children under any and all circumstances.

    Either that, or ban abortion and make sure women can’t get jobs outside the home so they’re available to take care of all those children with serious problems.

  12. Kyra

    Actually, a few of them can find mates, by abducting them and/or buying them from someone who abducts them. These are adult women that this is happening to, adult women that are snatched away from their lives because some jackass wants a son and needs a woman in order to get one, and sees nothing wrong with forcing any random female he can get his hands on to devote her life to providing him with one.

    Somebody needs to invent an artificial womb. So that living women are not pressed into service compensating for the lack of them.

  13. parodie

    Well, I can really only speak for my country. But here (Canada) women who are “at risk” (above a certain age, pre-existing conditions, whatever else) are automatically slated for genetic screening (amnio and the like). If anything usual is detect, they are told in somber tones about what might happen to their child, etc. (see, for example, here and here)
    I think this is a murkier issue than we generally care to admit – I am all for allowing abortions (though I do wish there were no demand) but I also think we need to look long and hard about how we, as a society, are set up for this kind of thing. There should absolutely be support for people who have children with various conditions and in various circumstances where they require more support – be that early intervention for autism or support so that people with Down’s can learn to live on their own (or not). But we also need to consider whether we are encouraging parents to seek “designer babies” …

  14. Twisty

    Whoa, you guys: sex selection as described in the article has nothing to do with abortion. They give the chick fertility drugs for a few weeks, extract eggs, stick sperms on’em, see which one comes up with the right sex chromosomes, and implant it.

    My point is that if patriarchy were given the heave-ho, and the outmoded boy-girl-dominance-submission model were to disappear, sex selection would be meaningless. It is only because the sexes are differently valued for certain stereotypical (and often hypothetical) traits that the practice exists at all.

  15. Christopher

    I think the point was that some people have abortions because they don’t want children of a certain gender, so therefore your stance that sex selection is wrong implies that you don’t/shouldn’t support abortion in all cases.

    I guess. Maybe.

    Of course, the obvious answer is that abortion is a procedure with many uses, and attempting to prevent abortion for sex selection, while allowing it for everything else, would be a severe logistical problem.

    Wheras sex selection only really serves to satisfy and re-enforce stereotypes about gender.

  16. Hattie

    A friend of mine had twin boys via in vitro at the age of 53. Reason? Her Nepalese husband needed sons to tend his grave after he died. When I told her I thought that was a lousy reason to have kids, she said, “You just don’t respect other cultures.” The levels of irony here are impossible to plumb. ust for starters I’ll wager that in vitro is not an option for Nepalese in Nepal.
    It cost something like $30,000 to perform this miracle on a post-menopausal woman, and now, age 62, she lives in a shack with them. Her husband travels around buying & selling stuff to support them & shows up now & then but is not actively involved in the boys’ care, mostly.
    Now how did this happen to a smart American woman? Someone offered her a product (post-menopausal kids with her husband’s heredity but not, of course, hers), and she bought it. She’s a consumer. And that means according to our eithical system that she has the right to do this as long as she can pay for it.

  17. mythago

    Do you really think it’s all and only women doing sex selection? That, say, their husbands don’t have any say in this?

  18. mythago

    Yup. Unfortunately, actually banning the procedure isn’t going to solve anything. It’s going to take some aggressive blaming to get people to stop–say, by certain countries getting rid of laws that only allow sons to inherit wealth, and providing old-age care other than “rely on your son’s income” for the elderly.

  19. Ms Kate

    If there is anything I can’t stand, it is women who hide their capitulation with the patriarchy behind “cultural sensitivity” shitscreens.

    I was once called culturally insensitive by a colleague because I went to the department head’s office upon witnessing one fellow student harass and sabotage the work of a fellow female student from the same foreign country. If your department policy says “sexist bullshit will be dealt with harshly” and the administration means it, then too bad for you when you get your lazy sexist ass thrown out and your visa cancelled.

    Similarly, the wife of one of my dad’s coworkers once threatened some little wiener oil prince with physical transportation to the back of a cue at Harrods if he did not self-transport. Somehow, having a gigantic American female pick him up and introduce some notion of cultural sensitivity to London customs did not appeal to Sheek Yabooty, and he moved it back to the back of the line of mostly female shoppers.

    I suppose her husband, who closely resembled the Andy Kauffman character in Taxi, relating this story in adoringly Czech-accented tones makes it even more culturally insensitive? Not.

  20. bitchphd

    One woman’s “capitulation to the patriarchy” is another woman’s “realism.”

    The problem of sex-selection for abortion is obviously one that comes from a broader culture in which sex is incredibly, incredibly important. I can’t tell you how angry people got–including total strangers!–when I told them that I knew the results of the ultrasound, but wasn’t sharing them with anyone but my husband. Gender is one of the major identifiers of our culture; it therefore stands to reason that to some people, being able to choose the gender of their baby would be very important.

    In other words, it’s the system, folks.

  21. Steph

    Exactly…This is about designer babies to order and consumer choice. I want a baby like this because it goes with the daughter/son I already have. And I have money to buy what I like and no one is going to stop me.

    It tells me that girls are valued for being stereotypical girls and boys for being ideal boys, not for economic value.

    I’m really leery of the choice rhetoric in the story. It’s eugenics, pure and simple.

  22. AyMayZed

    Can you sheet home the anger of enquirers in your anecdote to their not being given sex information during your gestation?
    There are a few other reasons for anger at your not sharing your knowledge that I can think of; exclusion from priveleged knowledge, whatever the substance, is one.
    Perhaps your example was too shorthand and there is a firmer basis for your including the anecdote.

    I’ve no argument with the main thrust of your post, however I read nothing about abortion in either the original post or the linked article.
    The sex selection is getting done in vitro.
    Discarding unwanted blastocysts isn’t abortion. This has already been emphasised a couple of times in the comments and I’m amazed at how the abortion definition refuses to get out of the way.

  23. Yeah, but

    Even the most heartfelt blamer can support sex selection. I am totally supportive of sex selection (and beyond pro-choice, admittedly pro-abortion for whatever reasons I breeder should choose) for these two reasons: one, that in the U.S. parents who express a preference are split about 50/50 on whether that preference is for a girl babe or a boy, and two, that having two children of the same sex increases doubly the chance that a breeding couple would choose to have a third child. And that “trying for a __” reasoning for bringing forth life I am opposed to. I’m not sure if we can blame the patriarchy for parents wanting to experience parenting a child of each sex. But I hear ya, Twisty… in the absence of difference, “one of each” means nothing.

  24. Liz

    Sure. there’s a high enough value placed on baby girls in this culture to avoid the China syndrome. Little girls are valued because they’re ornamental. They’re so cute and malleable, just like little dolls: you can dress them up in chic little outfits, and play with their pretty hair! There’s an appealing expectation that girls will be quieter and cleaner, more convenient and more sociable than boys, and while boys go out and have their rough and tumble adventures in the dirt, girls will stay close to home, providing companionship for mom and a sweet little flirtbox for daddy. And in the end it’s daughters not sons who take care of the elderly parents, driving them to doctor appointments and changing their Depends.

    Just because there will always be an equal demand for girls in this culture doesn’t make it RIGHT.

  25. Ms Kate

    The idea that sex selection means fewer children is an interesting arguement. But we need to examine WHY a family seeks to have a certain mix and I personally think they need to submit to both psycological and genetic counseling before they do so. But I also think that IVF couples should be expected to do the same AND offered comparable adoption benefits.

    That said, this is a valuable service to those with fatal x-linked traits. A childhood friend of mine watched her brother die of hemophelia, knowing her own sons might suffer the same fate. There are other x-linked traits that are fatal or make for a very difficult life. Selective pre-conception work would be of great benefit, as there IS no abortion involved – and thus no five months of stress and then a medical procedure for mom.

  26. Hattie

    You said it so well, Liz. My kick-ass daughters exploded all the stereotypes, I’m glad to say.

  27. BritGirlSF

    There’s a fine line to be drawn between cultural sensitivity and thing which simply should not be tolerated, anywhere. Example? I’m very into Japanese pop culture, but a little creeped out by the prevalance of the slutty schoolgirl stereotype in said pop culture. However, this I can ignore as long as it is not being used as an excuse to harm actual scholgirls (I can also avoid all movies etc that feature the slutty schoolgirls, which is in fact the way I deal with it – don’t give money to the people who promote this obnoxiously patriarchal idea). However, I have had people try to justify the practise of female circumcision in Africa and the Middle East on the ground of cultural sensitivity and respect for “tradition”, and I’m not buying it. The minute we’re talking about actual harm being inflicted upon actual people, to hell with cultural sensitivity, it becomes a human rights issue.
    That probably didn’t make any sense to anyone but me. This really is a tricky subject, isn’t it?
    RE Designer babies, I think it’s a slippery slope leading to eugenics. As has been pointed out, however, in this country it has very little to do with abortion. The argument is really more to do with how much tinkering with embryos we consider to be ethical, and how far we as a society are willing to go down that path. If we allow parents to select for gender, how about height, or intelligence, or eye color further down the line as the technology improves? How about if they were able to select for sexual orientation – are we going to allow that? Where is the line to be drawn? That’s the ral crux of this issue, the fact that the technology has the potential to be used in very creepy ways as it becomes more sophisticated.

  28. Delphyne

    Don’t you think it would be better to do away with sex selection in the first place?

  29. Nin

    No the argument is really about patriarchy/sexism – if girls and boys were valued equally and birth control were free, easy to use and more fun than not using birth control, then abortion would truly be rare and sex selection would be weird (but whatever) (I’m not into controlling someone else’s life, just making them think about their values and thought processes). Taling about this like it is about abortion just sidelines the real challenges we all face in facing and defeating patriarchy.

  30. Twisty

    This is what I’ve been trying to say. How anybody can look at “sex selection” and not see “value judgement based on arbitrary patriarchal custom” is sort of beyond me. Eliminate patriarchy and you elminiate the frenzy for sex selection.

  31. That Girl

    Thanks, Ms. Kate – although I see the slippery slope arguement toward eugenics and designer babies, I also see an equal arguement for the slippery slope sliding my vagina into someone else’s control.
    If I wanted another child I would certainly consider this procedure as my children are prone to a Y-linked trait that causes severe defects.
    Even if we are talking about aborting fetuses rather than letting embryos die who would I have to convince that I was aborting for medical/fear reasons rather than medical ones?
    I do agree that if you eliminate patriarchy you eliminate the “frenzy” but not the occaisional necessity/want not related to patriarchy.

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