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Gender Bias in Society

Christina Lin 林钰婷

From ancient China to the present day, the most prevalent issue in society has been "favoring sons over daughters," and most family disputes arise from this. So, what exactly is "favoring sons over daughters"? Why does this way of thinking exist? And how should we deal with it?

Favoring sons over daughters refers to parents treating their children differently, favoring and spoiling their sons while neglecting and overlooking their daughters. They may even do extreme things. This is a feudal way of thinking that places more importance on boys and devalues girls.

"Nowadays, even if a girl is successful, what can she do? She still has to get married and have children, right? It's different for boys. They have to provide for their families, wives, and children. If they don't have a good job, how can they do that?"

This is a conversation between the grandmother and Shuxia in the recent popular TV drama "Our Days." In this drama, it is evident that the elderly in the 1980s were extremely partial to their sons over daughters, with the grandmother being a typical example. She not only says hurtful things but also favors her grandson more due to her biased thinking. She always hides snacks for her grandson to eat, using the excuse that "my grandson is sick and needs more care," but does not leave anything for her granddaughter. This reflects the most realistic problem in society at that time: favoring sons over daughters.

In daily life, many situations demonstrate favoring sons over daughters. The most common one is when there is only one glass of milk left at home, parents would give it to their younger son, ignoring their daughter and only comforting her by saying, "Your brother is younger, he should have it." More extreme parents who favor their sons would repeatedly demand money from their daughters when they grow up and start earning money, while their sons are doing nothing. They will give these funds to their sons and even verbally attack their daughters for being unreasonable. There are many examples of favoring sons over daughters in society.

So, why did the idea of favoring sons over daughters arise? Why has this idea persisted for so long?

According to historical records, in patrilineal society, men hunted as their primary labor and could obtain assets for their families through hunting, and making a living for their families. People at that time believed that men were naturally superior to women in physical strength and other physiological aspects. As a result, men gradually became inheritors and continuers, while women gradually became the men's followers. Therefore, during that period, the idea of favoring sons over daughters and male superiority.

“Having a son is widely welcomed, having a daughter is widely shamed. When a son grows up, he studies poetry and literature, while a daughter chases after chickens and dogs.”(Xie Ximeng)

This is a poem written by Xie Ximeng during the Northern Song Dynasty to congratulate Mei Yaochen on the birth of his daughter. Although it was written casually, it revealed the social atmosphere of favoring sons over daughters at that time. Having a son was a joyful event, but having a daughter was a subject of ridicule by others. It can be seen that the feudal thinking of favoring sons over daughters was highly restrictive at that time.

With the progress of time, many people have conducted research on the question of why the idea of favoring sons over daughters exists, and these are the reasons that they have come up with:

Many people believe that spending so much money to raise a daughter, only to marry her off in the end, is a waste because "a daughter who gets married is like pouring water out of a jug". This is why this idea gradually emerged.

Some people believe that boys have stronger genes and only boys can carry on the family line, inherit the family name, and achieve great things. Therefore, they believe that boys should be valued more, and girls are useless.

People believe that men have better resources in society, greater productivity, and more ability to create assets than girls. Everyone believes that women lack the willpower to succeed in the workplace, are emotionally unstable, and lack economic independence.

Because of all this, women are often criticized in society. According to the latest survey data from the Pew Research Center, 42% of women in the United States have experienced gender discrimination. On job search websites, we can see that many companies issue recruitment invitations, but most of these invitations say "only male" or "women excluded." According to the survey, 25% of women say that their salaries have always been lower than men's salaries, and some women earn less than half of what men earn. More women are also limited by companies' bias towards men, which restricts women's power. During interviews, women are often asked questions about marriage and children, while men do not have such restrictions. Even in the workplace, women are more vulnerable to discrimination than men.

Because of the bias towards men, many girls do not have their own true names, and their names are related to boys' and their families' expectations.

According to data statistics, as of October 24th, the searchable data on the national government service platform of a certain province in China showed that there are 11,104 women named "招弟" and "招娣". Most older generations give their daughters names such as "招娣" and "盼娣" with the hope of having a son in the family. The name "楠" of the female lead in the movie "Your Wedding" was originally intended for a boy because her family wanted a son. Gender bias exists everywhere, not just in one place.

Are women really so helpless? Can women not be independent and strong?

In a 2010 article titled "Saving Boys," it was mentioned that among the 3,871 new students admitted to Fudan University, there were 1,847 male students and 2,024 female students, which was the first time in Sudan's history that the proportion of female students exceeded male students. In 2007, female students accounted for about 55% of the new students admitted to Renmin University of China. As early as 2002, the number of female students at the China University of Political Science and Law had already exceeded that of male students. It is obvious that women have stronger learning abilities and explosive power than men, and women can also be stronger than men.

According to a report by MSCI, the proportion of female directors of listed companies in China increased from 13.0% in 2020 to 13.8% in 2021. Since the report was released in 2016, the proportion of female directors in listed companies in China has increased year by year, with an increase of more than five percentage points in five years. Moreover, the proportion of Chinese companies with female CEOs and CFOs has surpassed the international average. This is enough to prove that regardless of whether there is "male superiority and female inferiority" or gender discrimination in the workplace, women have the ability to achieve success.

How should we face gender bias towards males over females?

Don't be influenced by external factors, and don't be discouraged by the mindset of your upbringing. We must work harder, strive, overcome difficulties, and achieve everything through our own efforts. This way, we can prove ourselves without relying on others.

We must believe in ourselves, not doubt ourselves, and not care about the opinions of others. Only by loving ourselves, being ourselves, and respecting ourselves, can we be our best selves.

When facing verbal attacks due to gender discrimination, learn to shift our attention, find our inner self and release our emotions without hurting ourselves. Don't suppress our emotions.Have our own thoughts and awareness, work hard to improve ourselves, break away from this kind of life, learn some life skills, be independent and self-reliant, and don't give in.

The power of women is far stronger than stereotypes. Women can also make more contributions through their own efforts. In recent years, the number of women named "Zhaodai" and "Pandai" (names given to girls to express a preference for sons in Chinese culture) has gradually decreased, and the idea of gender discrimination is gradually disappearing. We hope that all girls will no longer be tortured by gender discrimination and that they can be themselves and radiate their unique charm!

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