Yes, the title of today’s blog is a tad off color, but I wanted to write about a conversation that I had with a coworker the other day. I should first provide a little background information. Although I’m American, I live and work in China. And although many of my coworkers are also from the West, I have lots and lots of Chinese coworkers too. Which is great, because it gives me the opportunity to peer into a world that’s very unlike the one I know.
So, I have a coworker named Lisa (that’s not really her name, it’s the English name she picked for herself since Westerners have trouble remembering Chinese names) (or distinguishing between them because everybody is named Li or Wei or Ma), and Lisa is a lovely youngish Chinese woman. Coming back from summer vacation, news spread that Lisa had gotten knocked up over the summer. When I saw her in the office, I thought I would congratulate her.
“Say, I heard you’re pregnant,” I said. “Congratulations!”
“Thanks!” she said, with a big I-just-got-pregnant-and-I-like-the-attention smile on her face.
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“I don’t know,” Lisa said. “In China, they don’t tell you.”
“Oh,” I said, “that’s cool. It adds a bit of mystery, right? It’s like a big surprise!”
“Well, actually,” she said, “they don’t tell you because they’re afraid people would abort the baby if it’s a girl.”
That threw me for a loop. I hadn’t considered that at all. It was far darker than the fun ‘surprise’ angle I’d assumed was the rationale for keeping the gender secret. But it made sense. This is a country with a one-child only policy, so I suppose there would be a real danger in telling the parents the baby’s gender. I looked this up later on Google and learned the term ‘gendercide,’ and I also learned that this isn’t just a China problem, and that gender-based abortion happens worldwide.
Which struck me as crazy, mostly because I’d never heard about this before and also because I personally would much prefer to have a girl baby if I accidently impregnated my girlfriend. Going back to that conversation with Lisa, I don’t think I asked her any other questions because my mind was blown. I nodded and walked away and felt icky.
After thinking about it for awhile, I decided that if I was a doctor, I’d just tell everyone they’d be having a boy. And then I’d bring a video camera into the birthing room and tape the fathers’ reactions to their surprise daughters’ arrivals. And then I’d put the videos on YouTube.
Which is blocked in China, but still, it’s nice to dream.