Christian Living

wehispanics 09/22/09

Girls Better at Changing Diapers?

(Click here for Spanish) My friend Pedro Moreno, founder of the Father Daughter Alliance (FADA, www.fada.org ) recently established his organization in India, whose population (1.1 billion) is rapidly catching up to China’s (1.2 billion) as the world most populous country.  Yet, when it comes to children under 15 India is already ahead of China, boasting the largest population of children of any nation in history: approximately 312 million children.  Unlike China, which through its “one child policy” has achieved a reversal of its population growth through the wholesale abortion of girls, in India roughly half of all the children are female.  The problem in India is that parents keep their girls home from school from a very early age.  Pedro reports the following conversation he had with a group of fathers from the slums of New Delhi:

 “Would it be OK with you if we bring your daughter to school before your son, due to our limited resources?” They thought of it for a moment, and then they said “OK, that would be fine.”  Then I decided to really push the envelope and see what their view of girls is, so I said: “Now, if your girl is at school, and you have a baby at home, and the baby gets dirty, would you ask your son to clean the baby?”  My translator was hesitant to translate this question, but at my prodding he did.  The answer came back: “Well, boys like to play, girls are better at changing diapers”. 

He could have gotten that same answer from Peshawar to Patagonia, from Pyongyang to Port au Prince.  Throughout the underdeveloped world, the condition of females, young and old, is much worse than that of males of comparable age, because of the virtually universal bias in favor of males.  This age-old condition is well documented in history, with very few cultures escaping the pattern.  

I recall a casual conversation with a street vendor in El Salvador, in which she reported sadly, in front of her little daughter, about 4 years old, the misfortune of having had a girl, instead of a boy.  When I asked her why this was sad, she explained, with gestures and a tone which left no room to doubt, that having a boy, with all the advantages that connotes, would have been much preferable. 

Historically, Christianity, especially in its Reformed version, has steadily tended to improve, though not yet remedy, the cultural imbalance in favor of men.   Remember that in the U.S. women obtained the right to vote in 1920, and in Switzerland in 1950!  And the feminist movement has certainly achieved great gain, if at the cost of putting the family structure at risk.  In the U.S. the level of education of women has surpassed that of men, an enrollment in colleges heavily favors females today.

But, in the developing world women lag far behind in education when compared to their male counterparts.  They stay home to help with the domestic chores, or their younger siblings.  Education, especially beyond the third or fourth grade, is seen as unnecessary, a superfluous luxury which subsistence economies can hardly afford.  The anticipated life path of women in the vast majority of poor countries and communities does not require much education of them: they will marry, bear children, keep house and serve their husbands.

Even in our own Hispanic culture, girls are brought up to work, while boys play.  There is a heavy inequality in the way we treat them in childhood, which sows seeds that will bear fruit all of their lives.  The Gospel is, slowly but surely, lifting our men and women out of serfdom and into the wonderful freedom of the children of God.   But when it comes to the cultural bias that heavily favors men, in the Spanish-speaking world the Gospel has barely began to have its effect. 

Girls are not “better at changing diapers” than boys.  It is time we recognized our sinful pattern of laziness and male privilege, and took our place as men, like Jesus, by becoming servants of all. 

Please send us your comments to blog@joselgonzalez.com and please read my other articles on our Hispanic culture at www.semilla.org. See you next week…