My dad was lead body guard for President Park Chung Hee, earned a degree in Architecture, and could have made a decent life for himself in Korea. Yet, he came to America in 1971 with fifty dollars in his pocket, and ate only one bowl of rice a day. To save money, he lived in the basement storage room of the martial arts school and he said it reeked of sewer, body odor, and human feces. It also had gigantic rats that covered the ground and nipped at his body when he would take naps between his jobs teaching martial arts, working as a janitor, and laboring at the local factory. He did all this, so his future family could have a good life in America.
I have never seen my father cry, but last week when I was making him dinner, he broke down and sobbed uncontrollably while talking about the plight of my brother’s health. My whole family is having a hard time with the recent news of my brother, but my parents are taking it the worst…especially my dad.
As he wept, he kept expressing his sorrow about the family legacy ending. When his sister who lives in Korea, found out about my brother’s sickness, she called my dad and they both wailed about the inevitable family line that was going to die. They had so much hope in my brother because of his gender and were both inconsolable.
According to the 2011 Gallup poll, if Americans could have only one child, they would prefer that it be a boy rather than a girl, by a 40% to 28% margin, with the rest having no preference or no opinion on the matter. These attitudes are remarkably similar to the Gallup results in 1941, when Americans preferred a boy to a girl by a 38% to 24% margin.
The attitudes of American men drive the overall preference for a boy; in the current poll, conducted June 2011, men favor a boy over a girl by a 49% to 22% margin. American women do not have a proportionate preference for girls. Instead, women show essentially no preference either way: 31% say they would prefer a boy and 33% would prefer a girl.
Son preference is a global issue that has existed throughout history. In some societies today, son preference is so strong and sex-selective practices so common that, at the population level, the number of boys being born is much greater than the number of girls. This can be seen in South and East Asian countries like India, China, Hong Kong, and South Korea, also in Soviet Bloc countries like Armenia and Serbia.
India and China prefer sons because they are considered more valuable in the social and economical sense since inheritance and land rights are given to male heirs, and they contribute more to a family’s income through their job. Women are viewed as less valuable because they usually leave the family after marriage and require a large dowry.
The preference for boys over girls turns into a disaster when repeated across a society. Unnatural Selection takes an alarming look at the consequences of countries full of men: sex trafficking in Albania, mail-order brides in Vietnam, crime in “bachelor towns” in rural China. Also, a population that does not have enough nurses and teachers.
In the 21st century, females are equal and are suited for leadership roles that lead to innovation and economic growth. They excel in education and can help in workforce; 56% of college graduates are women in America and the percent is similar in China and India. In addition, because women have a more compassionate leadership style, are better at communication, and can cultivate collaboration that leads to innovation, they make high-quality leaders in the work place. In a recent study by psychologists at MIT and Carnegie Mellon, people were divided into teams and asked to complete intelligence tasks together. The IQ scores of participants had little affect on performance, but the number of women on a team, however, affected it a great deal and showed that the more women, the better.
Though many cultures still prefer males, it cannot be denied that girls are a strong investment. In Half the Sky, Sheryl WuDunn who coauthored the book with her husband Nicholas Kristoff says, “An important future indicator for a developing economy is its treatment of women…it is the best way to fight poverty and extremism.” If a country treats girls as equal and gives them opportunities to develop their talents, it has more brainpower to fill the needs of the country. Even World Bank agrees because when development dollars were invested in projects for girls and women, there was a 90% return. When dollars were spent for males, there was only a 30% return.
Growing up in an Asian home, I knew that my brother was given more attention because of his gender. They said that he was their retirement and invested more in his education, and gave him constant affirmation. I was reared to find a good husband with a decent income, so I could live comfortably and be a good mother. The saddest thing about individuals wanting sons over daughters is that it gives women the belief that they have little significance in the world. It did for me.
Girls have value and should be celebrated, supported, and encouraged by fathers and brothers who realize their unlimited potential; uncles and guy friends who value them. Daughters should feel they have voices that will be heard and possess the power to change the world. Since Jesus gave up His life to die on the cross, it should be a reminder how valuable each person is and this includes females!
On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family, but especially my daughter who I get to see grow each day. As she matures, I pray that she will:
- Be free to live beyond the restraints imposed by others. Free to be the girl, lady, and woman that she was created to be—the one who God made her to be. She was made for a purpose. Her life was not an accident, but she was made intentionally.
- Allow Christ to set her standard for living. Not culture, peers, or a cute guy at school. The opinions of others are the determining factor for doing things.
- Remember that she will disappoint people over and over. That is okay.
- Know that her life should not be spent gaining the approval of others.
- Never forget that her life was paid for through the death of Christ.
Letter to my daughter:
Don’t live life behind someone else. Your value is not based on someone’s accomplishments. You are valuable because you are loved, so live a life worthy of it. Also, don’t take second best because you are scared that something better will not come along. Never sell yourself short. Be willing to take risks, if God is leading your heart in that direction.
May you always know your value and perfect imperfections, and may it always make you cling closer to Him. Live your life and live it boldly because you were made with a purpose.