Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The End of Men

That's the provocative title of an article in the July/August issue of the Atlantic.  After talking about the outcry  against sex-selection technology when it first came out, based on fear that in a patriarchal society everyone would choose to have boys, the article talks about the rapid change in how societies value women:
Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed. Cultural and economic changes always reinforce each other. And the global economy is evolving in a way that is eroding the historical preference for male children, worldwide. Over several centuries, South Korea, for instance, constructed one of the most rigid patriarchal societies in the world. Many wives who failed to produce male heirs were abused and treated as domestic servants; some families prayed to spirits to kill off girl children. Then, in the 1970s and ’80s, the government embraced an industrial revolution and encouraged women to enter the labor force. Women moved to the city and went to college. They advanced rapidly, from industrial jobs to clerical jobs to professional work. The traditional order began to crumble soon after. In 1990, the country’s laws were revised so that women could keep custody of their children after a divorce and inherit property. In 2005, the court ruled that women could register children under their own names. As recently as 1985, about half of all women in a national survey said they “must have a son.” That percentage fell slowly until 1991 and then plummeted to just over 15 percent by 2003. Male preference in South Korea “is over,” says Monica Das Gupta, a demographer and Asia expert at the World Bank. “It happened so fast. It’s hard to believe it, but it is.” The same shift is now beginning in other rapidly industrializing countries such as India and China.

Up to a point, the reasons behind this shift are obvious. As thinking and communicating have come to eclipse physical strength and stamina as the keys to economic success, those societies that take advantage of the talents of all their adults, not just half of them, have pulled away from the rest. And because geopolitics and global culture are, ultimately, Darwinian, other societies either follow suit or end up marginalized.
Very interesting article, and the mention of South Korea, China and India make it blog fodder here!

1 comment:

OmegaMom said...

Well, that male preference may be "over" according to them, but the statistics show a huge surplus of males in China. I'll take it with the same huge grain of salt I'm taking the "postracial America" theme that's being promoted lately (the one that's accompanied by a hellacious amount of race-baiting).