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Million Dollar Baby

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With an ever widening range of technological and scientific advances available to us, it was only ever going to be a matter of time until being able to influence the gender of our babies was introduced.

Although still widely quite controversial there are many couples, and particularly future mothers, that see this as a blessing. These women are determined to have the gender of their choice; in most cases a baby girl. Lauren Cope ponders the importance of having the gender of your choice.

Recent Channel 4 documentary ‘4 Sons versus 4 Daughters’ showed us two families, one with four daughters and one with four sons. In a Wife-Swap-esque format, the families swapped children for a week, to experience the other gender and to see what they were missing out on. It was pleasant to see that although the father from the female environment enjoyed his male bonding time, he was more than happy to return to his four daughters (in part due to male ego, there was no ‘competition to be alpha male’ in his words). Similarly, the mother of the girls was more than happy to go back to them, despite enjoying a refreshing change of testosterone level. The one person who seemed to find the experience particularly insightful, if a little painful, was the mother of the boys. It became apparent quickly that she found missing out on girly clothes, decorations and shopping trips more than just as a nice change. This appears to be a common issue in mothers. There seems to be a need to share the maternal bond with a daughter; someone to dress up, to give them shopping advice when they’re older, to drink a glass of wine with and to buy the beautiful, girly Christmas and birthday presents for. Equally, is it as important for a father to be able to share that manly, sports, ‘lad’ bond with a son? From research it appears less common to have this need in a father. Despite this, the mother on this show was more than happy to return to her four sons, who she was clearly incredibly close to, saying that she ‘wouldn’t have it any other way’. The documentary ended on a thoughtful, but uplifting, note and I’m sure there were parents over the country who identified with it.

I then ventured on to watch a similar show, ‘8 Boys and Wanting a Girl’. The title is fairly self-explanatory; it concerned families who were so determined to have a daughter that they kept on having sons. One woman even shockingly complained that ‘I would compare not being able to have a girl, to someone who can’t have children’. This is, quite frankly, a disgusting and insensitive comment. Comparing having eight beautiful, healthy sons to someone that is unable to reproduce is sickening. Any reproductively challenged families would have their dreams made with a baby boy - they would, quite rightly, prioritise health and happiness over gender. In this show we saw the families going through medical procedures to improve the chances of them having a girl and not-so-medical ones; including ‘douching’ with lemon juice to make an acidic environment - apparently this is more likely to produce a girl. In one particularly horrifying scene, the cameras followed the expectant mother to her ultrasound appointment where the sex of the baby was revealed. On hearing that she was going to have another son, she was distraught and burst into tears. In a situation where the emotion is ninety-nine percent joy and elation, it was rather discomforting to see a mother sobbing. Although maybe harsh, I felt incredibly unsympathetic to her sorrow; just frustration and outrage. She went on to say how she would never ‘get over it’ and how she would feel the unhappiness every day. With eight beautiful sons and a loving husband, there aren’t words to describe this ungrateful, selfish nature.

Strangely, in these examples, the fathers of the families seemed to have a lack of patience for their wives, with one saying that he understood ‘the want to have a daughter, but not the unhappiness affecting the family’. This seems to suggest even more so that the need for a daughter is a strong, maternal bond. And, is this so wrong? I have to agree that I would personally like a daughter when I’m older. I can understand the need for that feminine bond. My mum is my best friend, so the thought of sharing that bond with my own daughter is something I would love to experience in life. It seems though, that when this need becomes something that makes you not appreciative for your other children, or takes over your life, it becomes a problem. These women often claim to have Gender Disappointment Syndrome. Personally, this appears to be another modern day ‘illness’ to excuse a negative trait; another ‘sex addiction’, if you will.

Whatever people’s opinions, it is an incredibly interesting issue that is both understandable and repulsive at the same time. We will see with the modernisation and more popular use of medical procedures to alter gender whether this develops. 

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