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 my favorite, 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.
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.
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.
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.