I wanted a daughter so that must make me, my mother and my baby three generations of 1950s housewives

Gender selection is not a new concept.  There are old wives tales that date back to the beginning of time and span all countries from the Far East to the West.  From sexual positions and dietary considerations to consulting the alignment of the planets and stars, or the Chinese gender predictor – there are plenty of techniques to achieve the sex of your choice.  And they should all be taken with a grain (or a large heap) of salt.

You choose!  (results guaranteed in 50% of cases)

Not so if you go see Jeffrey Steinberg of the Fertility Institutes in Encino, California. In his lab, no part of the gender selection process is left to chance.  Fertilization takes place at the lab under controlled circumstances and the doctors get to work:

After fertilization and three days of incubation, an embryologist uses a laser to cut a hole through an embryo’s protective membrane and then picks out one of the eight cells. Fluorescent dyes allow the embryologist to see the chromosomes and determine whether the embryo is carrying the larger XX pair of chromosomes or the tinier XY. The remaining seven cells will go on to develop normally if the embryo is chosen and implanted in a client’s uterus.

What do you think?  Is this playing God or is it no more invasive than so many fertility procedures that have become common these days?

Whether or not you agree with the scientific technique, I take great issue with the slant of this article.  The author paints a picture of Americans of Caucasian, Chinese and Indian decent using gender selection in a way that solely perpetuates stereotypes.   If you want a girl, you will dress her in all pink and buy her every Barbie ever manufactured.  She will be passive, creative and gentle.  She will make the perfect homemaker.  If you want a boy, you will play sports with him and buy him the hottest new gaming device.  He will be dominant, smart and strong.  He will make the perfect provider.

The example used was this:

For Jennifer Merrill Thompson, the reasons were simple. “I’m not into sports. I’m not into violent games. I’m not into a lot of things boys represent and boys do,” she said. 

Ok, clearly she is generalizing, but she is one example, right?  Well, this was the conclusion drawn in the very next paragraph:

Interviews with several women from the forums at in-gender.com and genderdreaming.com yielded the same stories: a yearning for female bonding. Relationships with their own mothers that defined what kind of mother they wanted to be to a daughter. A desire to engage in stereotypical female activities that they thought would be impossible with a baby boy.

What?  How did we get to that last sentence?  It’s a huge leap from a “yearning for female bonding” to a “desire to engage in stereotypical female activities.”

When first trying to conceive, I myself yearned for a daughter.  I drew heavily from the bond I have with my own mother and very much wanted to continue that exchange with my hypothetical daughter.  However there is no pink in this picture.  My mother is a strong woman in every sense of the word.  She raised me to believe I could do anything I wanted.  I was a “tomboy” as a young child; playing, running, jumping, wearing hand-me-downs from my older male cousins and playing with their old matchbox cars.  Even as I got older and embraced my femininity, I still believed I had the strength – physical, mental and emotional – to match (and surpass) any male.  My daughter, in just her 18-months appears to be cut from the same cloth.   I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The daughter I’d always dreamed of

Gender preferences are normal and often reflect the relationships that molded us.  Our dreams of family are so intensely personal that they should not be judged or generalized.  If it was as simple as having a playmate to dress up with and pour some tea for, we’d all just have a wonderful doll collection.  At least they’d let you take a piss in peace.

14 thoughts on “I wanted a daughter so that must make me, my mother and my baby three generations of 1950s housewives

  1. The worst part of this for me is the lack of awareness and acknowledgement about what is going on. If you are going to play the stereotype game, that’s one thing, but to play without acknowledging or examine it makes me furious and afraid. As you know, my daughter is a maniac and my son is low key and cuddly. Both of them play with dolls and both like cars. Why is this so hard to fathom in our culture? Last night we all painted our nails. Purple. Simon loved it.

    Also the science gives me the creeps. But I have one of each so I’m not one to say but Jesus its a lot of work to get a gender.

  2. Articles like this drive me nuts. I wish I hadn’t even read it because the spin is so blatant and ridiculous. Generalizing on women who hope for a daughter ONLY so they can dress them in pink tutus and tiaras and roll them in glitter glue — what a crock and poor excuse for the hopes of women everywhere to teach their children empowerment and love whichever way they damn please. One thing about journalism as of the late is the non-stop division of complicated issues being transformed into black and white, one-side of the line (or the other), no critical thinking or deep discussion. Ugh!

  3. I guess my main concern with this technique is what happens to the embryos that are not of the desired gender? I’m guessing they are thrown away like so much trash. I kind of have a problem with that. It just feels wrong to me.

    Of course, it’s easy for me to say that. I wanted a boy, and that’s what I got. I would have been happy with another girl though. But I now have one of each gender. I don’t know what it’s like to desire one gender over the other so much that I’d be willing to spend that much money.

    • I wanted a daughter but not to this extent. It was a general preference and I did want to maximize my chances, but I wonder if it would have gotten there. In any event, I am not sure about the discarded embryos but that is an interesting point. I am always reluctant to judge those who use the technique but the description of this process seemed so invasive and excessive.

  4. You said it all for me right here – Our dreams of family are so intensely personal that they should not be judged or generalized. I feel like this is such a personal matter….I think that’s also why I have an issue with science coming in to play, paying someone to open an embryo…I think a lot of times, nature gets things right, we don’t need and should not always have control over everything.

    I will say, I have always wanted a girl and when I was first pregnant, we just had a feeling it was a girl, picked out girl names, etc. But we were not disappointed at the ultrasound and I feel like I have an amazing, intelligent, loving and wonderful little boy. What if I would have tried to do something to change that? I can’t imagine him not existing because I thought it would be nice to have a daughter. I’m not sure if that bothers me more than the stereotyping. Wow, what a heavy issue! I have to be ready when I come read your blog now days – haha! Great piece Carinn :)

  5. Articles like this drive me bonkers – who are these people? While I have some mild judgments about gender selection, I have a hard time believing the majority of those who pursue it do so because they want to perpetuate gender stereotypes. How the researchers could draw these conclusions is beyond me. What a great post – I love how you’re tackling these issues!

    • Your comment really drives home what I was thinking. The process itself is one thing (a whole huge debate really) but to assert that these people have such narrow views of gender roles is disgusting. And I’m just not buying it.

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