Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Fred Phelps Award Rides Again!

As I've said before, when I'm online I often tend to find little articles that pique my interest out of nowhere, things that I've never really paid attention to. But this article I found through Yahoo's homepage as I was clearing out my email hit my outrage button in a real hurry. In so many words, Science writer Mara Hvistendahl has blamed Western governments and businesses for the shortage of females in Asia, for importing the technology to determine the sex of an infant while still in the womb and to abort the child, with no understanding of possible repercussions.

Before you go thinking, 'What the fuck is Joe smoking?', listen to some statistics first. Gender imbalances in Asia are real, have been real for a very long time, and are getting worse, with ratios of men to women in some countries as high as 121 men for every 100 women. Why? Well, in many Asian societies giving birth to daughters is no cause for celebration - in fact, historically it's often led to infanticide. That's because traditionally women have never been allowed roles outside of the household (like getting an education and having a job), and that marrying off one's daughters can be an expensive business, from paying of dowries to a groom's family to paying for the actual ceremonies themselves, which can be quite lavish in some places. This has often led to poorer families simply disposing of newborn female infants, either abandoning them at orphanages and monasteries, or killing them outright. And while society and culture have changed and gender-equity is becoming more more and more the norm, the practices still exist. Female infanticide was outlawed in Asian countries decades ago, though enforcement since can has often been quite lax, as old ways die hard.

That said, I found Hvistendahl's accusations to be at best, tasteless. Apparently she suffers from severe guilt over what's known as "white man's burden", or "cultural imperialism". In short, her accusation is based on the principle that the Western world imposes its will upon cultures and structures elsewhere in the developing world, demolishing them and forcing native peoples to adopt Western customs and mores against their will. It is a very real thing though, and saying otherwise would be total bullshit. But this gender bias is older than any of us, and sadly is not going away any time soon, not so long as Asian cultures continue to prize sons over daughters to the point of selective infanticide, whether it is pre- or post-natal. Technology did not change the cultural standard, it only changed the time frame. It's still wrong no matter how you slice it, but laying blame at Western governments and businesses for the latest version of a cultural practice that has been around far longer than any Western government or business - no matter how wrong the practice may be in our eyes - is simply ludicrous.

Therefore, the latest winner of the Fred Phelps Award for Dumbest Humanoid On The Planet goes to Mara Hvistendahl, for her misguided guilt-trip upon Western society as a whole. For while she illuminates a serious problem, her choice of villain leaves much to be desired, and seems in my opinion an easy way out, blaming someone only partially related to the problem at hand, rather than to actually lay blame where it is most needed - the societal and cultural forces that are the root cause of the problem.

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