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In Pursuit of XY

In Pursuit of XY

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boy or girl?

This essay reflects on the societal obsession with having a boy child, particularly in the context of modernity and gender equality. The author, a practicing pediatrician, discusses the disappointment experienced when delivering the news of a baby girl and the continued pressure on women to bear sons.

As l move gingerly towards the door with the bundle in my hands, l have a strange feeling of deja vu… how many times have l been through this?! I know the whole routine by heart now…the guard calling out the name, the mad rush of people at the door, jostling for a peek, and always, always the same question… “ls it a boy?” Nothing changes, ever!

As a practicing pediatrician, attending deliveries is one of the rarer opportunities l get, to deliver what l consider ‘good news’. But the same old question fuelled by age old conventions kills my joy ever so often!

I cannot tell you all what sadistic pleasure l get from gleefully ‘delivering’ the news that “No, it isn’t. Congratulations, you have a baby girl!” And just that flicker of disappointment, often with a ripple effect, on so many of the faces surrounding me! What is it with society’s obsession with boys?!

I have come across families with 3 girls and a boy, 5 girls and a boy, even 8 girls and …yes, you guessed it, a boy! Why, why, why this desperation for a boy, a son?!

Many of you will smirk and snort and opine that such things do not happen these days anymore and if they do, then only in villages, amongst ‘backward’ classes etc. Sorry to burst your bubble, folks, this is happening even today, and hold your breath… amongst educated, ‘forward-thinking classes‘ too! Yes, the fascination for the XY chromosomes endures!

Psychologists and social researchers have put it all down to evolution …..the well-known need of humans to ensure the continuation of their bloodlines. That is all very fine, but to have a whole cricket team (women’s, of course!) or a football team simply in order to have a son?! Is it justified?

While the world is making great strides in modernity, with bra- burning feminists crying foul at the drop of a hat, such subtle misogynist acts continue unhindered.

Isn’t it unfair that when a boy is born after n number of girls, he becomes the cynosure of all eyes and is pampered to the high heavens and gets privileges that aren’t available to his sisters? Advantages based only on his gender?!

When that very boy becomes a grown up man and has only apathy towards his parents, little regard for their needs and happiness, isn’t that poetic justice?! I should very much think so!

I have come across families who would give up anything to keep treatment going only because it is a son’s life that they have to save. The same degree of obligation is not extended to a daughter in some.

This obsession with the male gender is across communities, castes and classes… and while most people would point fingers at the patriarchy, the men in the society for such bias, interestingly it is not always so. It is often the womenfolk of the house who are the behind-the-scenes actors in this drama!

The pressure to bear a ‘son’ many times comes from the mother-in-law, who cares not how many pregnancies her daughter-in-law has to go through in order to fulfil that! And each time she ‘fails’, all hell breaks loose….in addition to the extreme stress on the physical health of the poor lady, she has to put up with snide remarks and wrong accusations of her capabilities!

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All this, when it is a well-known and scientific fact that a woman has no hand in determining the gender of her child… for once the ‘true power’ lies with her man. Only (yes l have underlined it!) a man has the Y chromosome which is the real deal clincher (we women carry two X chromosomes… we don’t have a choice!) here!

If one looks around, there is much noise in today’s world about gender equality/inequality…but I feel the genders can never be equal psychosocially. Before you scream ‘misogyny’ in disbelief, let me remind you all that we, the bearers of two X chromosomes, one each from our father and mother, we women, are born nurturers. Tending to, and nurturing comes naturally to us. We are programmed so! A fact that millions of parents will vouch for l am sure. Daughters are never, never really far from them, irrespective of the physical distance between. A daughter carries her parents with her, deep in her psyche, deep in her heart wherever she goes, wherever she maybe.

Every mother will tell agree that her daughter does keep in touch with her and calls her regularly…. but the same cannot be said of sons in most cases. Again, evolutionary? Possibly. Biologists are of the opinion that men are hard-wired to be selfish, to be invested in their own unit… a way to keep the lineage going… and hence maybe relatively unattached to their roots… it is rare to find a grown up son in regular contact with his parents, or as much as a daughter is likely to be.

Whether it is our different predominant hormones or genetic material, the fact of the matter is that men and women can never be equals in certain respects. XY may have the physical edge, but XX wins hands down, any day, as far as emotional strength and depth are concerned! A daughter is a daughter all her life!

And yet they dare ask ” ls it a boy?”?!

 

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