There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the roughly million and a half women that are “missing”—not because they went missing, but because they were never born in the first place. In Mara Hvistendahl’s recent Foreign Policy article (a spin-off of her new book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men), she claims that:
In India, where women have achieved political firsts still not reached in the United States, sex selection has become so intense that by 2020 an estimated 15 to 20 percent of men in northwest India will lack female counterparts.
Much of the back and forth in the blogosphere has to do with Hvistendahl’s contention that Western feminists and population control activists in the 60s and 70s had a hand in fostering the trend. But Rachael Larimore at Double X picked up an interesting thread slightly off the beaten bloggers’ path:
Contrary to what economists might think, a scarcity of women doesn’t increase their value in the way a scarcity of a material good does. It might make their families better off, but the women don’t directly benefit.
Larimore doesn’t have the first part quite right. To be sure, economics is based on the notion that the less there is of something or the harder it is to attain, the more value (monetary or otherwise) we place on it. Think four-leaf clovers and ferraris. It also seems to be true that, far from basking in newfound respect, the women who made it through the sex-selection gauntlet in places like China and Taiwan may be at increased risk of sex trafficking and bride buying. But that doesn’t mean that the value placed on them has stagnated as women have become scarcer. Sad as it is, the theft or purchase of a human being means that the being has some (and in this case likely rising) value. What the trend does highlight, as Larimore gets at in the next sentence, is that such worth doesn’t accrue to the women themselves. Like diamonds and other material goods, the value of a stolen woman ends up distributed among the thief, the merchant, and the consumer. Takes being “objectified” to a whole new level.
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