Imagine that you are one-half of a young couple expecting your first child in a fast-growing, poor country. You are part of the new middle class; your income is rising; you want a small family. But traditional mores hold sway around you, most important in the preference for sons over daughters. Perhaps hard physical labour is still needed for the family to make its living. Perhaps only sons may inherit land. Perhaps a daughter is deemed to join another family on marriage and you want someone to care for you when you are old. Perhaps she needs a dowry.

Now imagine that you have had an ultrasound scan; it costs $12, but you can afford that. The scan says the unborn child is a girl. You yourself would prefer a boy; the rest of your family clamours for one. You would never dream of killing a baby daughter, as they do out in the villages. But abortion seems different. What do you do?

For millions of couples, the answer is: abort the daughter, trey for a son. In china and northern India more than 120 boys are being born for every 100 girls. Nature dictates, that slightly more males are born than females to offset boy’s greater susceptibility to infant disease. But nothing on this scale.

For those who oppose abortion, this is mass murder. For those such as this newspaper, who think abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”(to use Bill Clinton’s phrase), a lot depends on the circumstance, but the cumulative consequence for societies of such individual actions is catastrophic. China alone stands to have as many unmarried young men-“bare branches”, as they are known-as the entire population of young men in America. In any country rootless young males spell trouble; in Asia societies, where marriage and children are recognised routes into society, single men are almost like outlaws. Crime rates, bride trafficking, sexual violence, even female suicide rates are all rising and will rise further as the lopsided generations reach their maturity.

It is no exaggeration to call this gendercide. Women are missing in their millions-aborted, killed, neglected to death. In 1990 an Indian economist, Amartya Sen, put the number at 100m; the toll is higher now. The crumb of comfort is that countries can mitigate the hurt, and that one, South Korea, has shown the worst can be avoided. Other need to learn from it if they are to stop the carnage. (…)

All the countries need to raise the value of girls. They should encourage female education; abolish laws and customs that prevent daughters inheriting property; make examples of hospitals and clinics with impossible sex ratios; get women engaged in public life-using everything from television newsreaders to women traffic police. Mao Zedong said “women hold up half the sky”. The world needs to do more to prevent gendercide that will have the sky crashing down.

Artículo completo en The Economist.

Sí, el sexismo sigue muy vivo en este mundo.

Blah, blah, whatever.

For a long time there has been a general assumption that women talk more than men and are better at talking than men are(…)

Scientist at Arizona University then decided to try to prove or disprove the claim by studying the daily utterances of nearly four hundred people. Matthias Mehl, the lead researcher, commented that the claims that women speak three times as much as men appeared to have achieved the status of a cultural myth, having been so widely reported in so many different media. Yet this study showed conclusively that there was no statistically significant difference between men and women in the amount they talked. Women used a little more than 16,000 words a day on average, and men a little less, but the difference was insignificant.

Mark Liberman also investigated Brizendine’s claim that girls speak more quickly than boys. He found that the only evidence she cited in support of the claim that girls speak at 250 words per minute as against 125 words per minute for boys was a paper that had no findings in it at all about speech rates broken down by gender. The only research that has been carried out into different speech rates among men and women has found small differences in the opposite direction, finding that men speak slightly faster than women. One paper that Liberman and his colleagues presented in 2006 found that: “Males tend to speak faster than females… The difference between them is, however, very small, only about 4 to 5 words or characters per minute (2%), though it is statistically significant. (…)

If it is wrong to believe that men and women communicate so differently, then why do so many people buy into this myth? Why do millions of people buy Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and so (relatively) few a debunking book like Deborah Cameron’s excellent The Myth of Mars and Venus? I think that the resilience of the myth of men and women’s differing communication rests on the fact that it foregrounds something we all feel to be true: that we are often misunderstood. Many of us long for the perfect partner, who can understand everything without being told; many of us are disappointed by reality. Many of us find that we are blocked, whether in our working life or our home life, from achieving the transparent communication we desire. It is easy, therefore, to look at the communication problems described by writers such as John Gray or Deborah Tannen and to nod in agreement. If we are honest, however, we would acknowledge that the problems men and women face when they talk to one another do not always run along the lines of the grunting male and the chattering female. We are more individual, more variable, more subtle, than that narrative will ever allow.

Natasha Walter, Living Dolls. The return of sexism.

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