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Barbie Hsu Hsi-yuan, a famous actress from Taiwan, recently welcomed her second child, a baby boy, into the world. Like every other mother, she could not hide her overwhelming affection for her newborn by posting on her Sina Weibo account over how handsome her son is and saying she hopes he will become a physicist.
Up to this point the story seemed beautiful, but things started to turn sour not long after, when Barbie Hsu's sister, Dee Hsu, a well-loved host in Taiwan who has three daughters now, was asked by reporters whether she felt she was "defeated" by her sister and whether she wants a son.
As a single child, who is loved wholeheartedly by both my parents, I used to think that the era in which people treated women as inferior to men, particularly when it comes to their children, was long gone. Obviously I was too naive. People who prefer to have a boy are still common, and a great number of parents-to-be say that they hope for a boy, but a girl would be "fine."
I know a student from the countryside. She had always believed that it is quite normal for her parents to love her brother much more than her because she was a girl, until she went to college, where almost all her roommates are the only child in their families, and were petted and even spoiled through all their lives. However, after the poor girl shared this new finding to her family, her father's response was shocking "What a pity for those parents of your roommates, they don't have a son, they can never carry on their family name."
What's even worse than valuing boys and belittling girls is how people react to being challenged - "I just prefer to have a boy, so what? Everyone prefers to have a boy," as well as their impression that this is a perfectly OK attitude.
But it's not OK; it's a poisonous approach. The girls with male siblings are the bottom of the food chain in such patriarchal families. Their parents tend to care less about their daughters' education, career or living standards, while attaching greater importance to whether they can afford to buy a new house for their son, so that he can marry a girl he likes; and whether their daughter-in-law can give birth to their grandson, so that their family bloodline can be carried on. When their daughter gets married, they hope to get given as much as possible in order to save more money for their son.
Therefore, despite the fact that there might be many puzzles to solve over the preference for boys, it is important to firstly overcome the perception that everything is fine, and it is natural or traditional for everyone to prefer a boy. If we stick to the values of patriarchy, we make girls think they're second-best and perpetuate the stereotypes that keep ruining people's lives.
Patriarchy even pervades our language. In Chinese, when a woman marries a man, we call it "chujia," meaning she will leave her home and become a member of another family. Similar traditions are shared by many, though not all, cultures worldwide.
My mother told me the other day that the afternoon after my wedding, my father, the tough guy who has never shed a tear in front of me, cried. I was heartbroken when I heard it. Later, I hugged my father and told him, "come on, you will never lose me, and hey, you have another son now!" I know he cried because he loves me so much, and not because his clan was now one person smaller.
(The news is originally from the Global Times, the author is Li Aixin)