Reverse infanticide in America

Mommies are forking over big bucks to ensure double-x chromosomes in their progeny.

As appalled as I am by female infanticide around the world—which happens when people murder their infant daughters because they want boy babies instead—this news also has me sick to my stomach. Mothers are apparently spending thousands of dollars per pregnancy, trying to ensure that their baby ends up a girl rather than a boy.

In America, baby girls are sought after more than baby boys. The reasons why varies, but many moms are citing that they’re just “not into” the stuff that boys are into, such as sports and video games…which, as any sane person knows, is a pile of s***. My husband’s not into sports as much as I am; my daughter loves basketball and baseball. We all like video games, and my daughter won’t let you put her into a dress (unless a small bribe is involved); my mother will testify that the same was true for me growing up.

Why are we still stereotyping boys and girls like this in 2012? I know the toy industry thrives on it, selling millions of pink princess products and male-faced Lego products every year. The thing is, plenty of boys like the princess stuff, too—and my daughter prefers the Lego monsters and sets to the new “girl” sets they have this year, as do dozens of other girls I’ve spoken with.

Even if this stereotyping did not exist, do these moms not realize how they’re likely throwing the evolutionary charts off? This sex-selection industry—which I’d never even heard of until now—rakes in millions every year, with a procedure starting at about $800 per couple. The procedure is illegal in Canada, but of course it’s okay in America, where anything that harms you goes and the stupidest things are outlawed. Procedures that sort out sperm to help increase the likelihood of a double-x fertilization are perfectly legal here. So is a complete lack of conscience.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise since sex-selective abortions and pregnancy screening against girls has happened for so long in other countries, but we grow up thinking that “things are different in America!” Even though I’ve long abandoned that line of thought regarding plenty of issues we face, I guess I just thought the whole, “We just hope it’s healthy!” line rang true in this country. As with a lot of things, I thought wrong.

To tell you the truth, I wanted a girl, too—but I sure as hell wouldn’t resort to turkey basting genetic manipulation to get one.

Scientists Lets Colleagues Track IS DNA for Personalized Medicine

There has been a lot of talk in the genetics world over the past several years about personalized medicine. This is the concept that a doctor can take a look at your genetic structure and decide not only what ailments and diseases that you are at risk for, but also the best way to treat it.

It’s still in its infancy, but scientists do a variation of this when they type a tumor for chemotherapy treatment. A Stanford doctor let his colleagues map his complete genetic makeup and that of his mothers.

They then tracked him for more than a year constantly taking blood and studying hi to find more information about personalized medicine. Other than a few surprises such as his risk for type II diabetes and high cholesterol, there wasn’t new information that came from the investigation. The result of the study isn’t what makes it interesting, but that a scientist offered to experiment on himself is.

Scientists of old used to experiment on themselves all the time, often to disastrous results. Scientists often have confidence in their own abilities and theories, but they could all to go the toilet the second it’s introduced into the bloodstream.

Current scientific standards and government rules are designed to keep this type of self-experimentation from happening, but I guess this scientist and his colleagues missed that class. Luckily, there wasn’t anything that could have caused him harm, but what if he found out he was a risk for some horrible disease. Self-experimentation is a bad idea.

The Mystery of Genes

I've been interested in genetics for a long time. I grew up in a farming community and crafting better and more resistant corn came down to genetics. I leaned a little more about it college and a lot more when I worked at a Department of Energy national laboratory.

 

I learned that the human body is incredibly complex and that even the slightest change in a person's DNA can cause major effects to their body. It can also have a major effect on how the look. If I ever needed a reminder about that all I have to do is look at my children.

 

These boys are a mash-up of my wife and I. My wife is Hispanic and I am Caucasian – Scotch Irish to be more specific – and our children have traits of both. One has all the Hispanic features in his face, but has my pale Irish skin.

 

My other son is the spitting image of my side of the family, but has the temperament of my wife. (Don't tell her I said that.) All this was pre-programmed into them the second they were created. How much more miraculous and mysterious can you get. There is a lot of talk about designer babies and using genetics to make sure children have certain physical and emotional traits,

 

I my opinion that takes all the fun out of it. While I agree that if you can keep a child from having a debilitating disease or physical malformation, then genetically engineer away, but I would rather let chance and whatever creative force is out there in the universe decide if my son has blue eyes or brown.

My First Look At Genetics

"Today, children learn so much more about genetics and at an early age."

I remember when I was in high school we first started talking about genetics. It wasn’t anything special and it certainly didn’t get into any great detail, but it our first look at the fascinating world of genetics.

This was the early 1990s and the Human Genome Project was a dream and cloning was something you read about in science fiction novels. Our education on the subject consisted of talking about dominant and recessive traits.

I learned that my red hair and blue eyes were recessive and was taught about dominant and recessive using the Punnet square. We also learned a little about genetic problems such as the Super Male and other problems with chromosomes.

Looking back, it was all so basic. Genetics was still a science in its infancy and was only brought into the limelight after Michael Crichton published Jurassic Park. Everyone thought we were on the cusp of cloning dinosaurs in the lab and that everyone was going to have pet dinos in 10 years or they were going to be able to clone your dead cat.

Today, children learn so much more about genetics and at an early age. The science had advanced so much in a short period of time that it has become a normal part of life. While we still don’t have any pet dinosaurs, the world is changing. Everything is getting genetically engineered from our vegetables to our children. My guess is that day or a pet Compy isn’t too far off.

Genetics and Health Insurance

"Illinois was the first state to pass the bill that kept insurance companies from using genetic information against their customers"

The Human Genome Project sought to map the entire genetic structure of a person and at the time it was a lofty goal. When the mapping was complete and scientists were able to begin detecting genes that predisposed people to certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes, the insurance industry started to take notice.

A debate raged whether insurance companies should be able to exclude you or charge you a higher premium because you had the chance to contact a specific disease. Patients and doctors thought this should remain private because a predisposition does not mean they will get it.

Illinois was the first state to pass the bill that kept insurance companies from using genetic information against their customers. It took several years and two different revisions, but finally both Republicans and Democrats were able to agree. The insurance industry lobbied heavily against it, but could not overcome sheer morality and common sense.

Other states began to follow suite once Illinois made the precedent and soon the federal government was using the bill as a template for their own. While genetics can play an important part in helping people prepare for a possible disease, it is not the end-all-be-all. It gives people the chance to make changes to their lives to possibly prevent or minimize the disease’s impact.

If this had not happened, then I can only imagine the heartache and suffering it would have caused countless people. Humanity won a major battle when insurance agencies were struck from using genetic information.

Fostering a Sense of Worth in Our Daughters

It’s up to us to teach them that they are more than their bodies.

And it’s up to us to teach them that their bodies are beautiful, no matter what size or shape they come in—as well as that they can be or do anything, that they are not hot commodities but people with worthy dreams and interests, and that they are not playthings for the opposite sex, but their own individual selves. From birth, they will be told otherwise—from the media, from corporations trying to sell them things to make them accept traditional roles or change themselves, even from politicians who think they never should’ve been given the right to vote. Their worth, they will be drilled over and over again, is determined not by their character or deeds or simple existence as a sentient human being, but by what they look like—as well as how they serve men.

So how do we combat this when the battle has already begun even before pregnancy? Great question. Here are a few things that we do in our house with our six-year-old daughter.

  • Help them see that they can do anything! From field trips and talks with successful women to taking classes or teaching them everything from using tools to taekwondo to art to cooking, help them see that we, as mothers, can do anything, and so can they.
  • Read books and watch movies with strong female characters. Books like Grace for President and Violet the Pilot are wonderful picture books that inspire girls to follow their dreams and not listen to what others say about what they can and can’t do. Alternative fairy tales with leading females can be found here. Films such as My Neighbor Totoro and Ramona and Beezus help show girls that they can take adventures, be in charge, and lead their own lives. But we also need to push for more of these examples, since girls—while making up half of the population—are severely underrepresented in the media, particularly in these positive roles.
  • Stop the negative self-talk. We have to talk ourselves up not just for our own benefit, but for theirs as well. No more “I’m so fat,” or “I’m worthless.” We are worth so much! And you earned that fat by caring for others or otherwise, baby. Have pride in it—and if you want to lose it, fine, but don’t let it stop you from loving yourself and living your life. This is a hard lesson to learn, but it’s something that children pick up on so easily. Love yourself and your child will learn to do the same. I’ve recently taught my daughter to tell her that she loves herself in the mirror, which she thought was a lot of fun to do!

For even more ideas, be sure to visit the free Body Image Workshop at Pigtail Pals, as well as the other wonderful ideas at their blog.

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