Word of the Day: Primogeniture!
I don’t understand the American obsession with British royalty. I mean, Princess Kate gets pregnant and we go gaga on this side of the pond. Sending American news anchors to report live from Buckingham Palace on the status of the princess’ morning sickness? Really?
After all, once upon a time didn’t we fight a war to rid ourselves of the British monarchy?!?
But I digress…
It’s not often that we read about male privilege being codified, but that’s been the reality over the centuries in Great Britain and in other countries as well. Denmark? Yep. Japan? Yep. Spain. Sure.
It’s called primogeniture, the right of inheritance according to birth order. Historically, the law of primogeniture has demanded that female heirs are excluded (or bypassed) from inheritance in favor or their younger brothers. Primogeniture has been the law of the Commonwealth in Britain for generations, and women, like Elizabeth, would ascend to the crown only in the absence of a male heir.
Now, finally, it appears that English primogeniture has run its course. As that tiny baby (Or is it twins? News at eleven!) begins to grow, British Parliament is working to officially change the law so that whether it’s a boy or a girl this future heir will one day become king OR queen.
It’s about time.
And yet here’s the thing: lots of people think that boy babies are more important than girl babies.
This is certainly true globally. This heartbreaking article, “It’s a Girl: The Three Deadliest Words in the World,” chronicles the global “gendercide” underway in many countries in the world. Here’s an excerpt:
“The statistics are sickening. The UN reports approximately 200 million girls in the world today are ‘missing’. India and China are said to eliminate more female infants than the number of girls born in the US each year. Lianyungang in China has the worst infant gender ratio on record with 163 boys born for every 100 girls. Taiwan, South Korea and Pakistan are also countries in which unwanted female babies are aborted, killed or abandoned.”
It’s a tragedy, but it’s one thing to see this brand of male privilege in far-flung places. What about closer to home?
Here it’s subtler of course, expressed more in how soon-to-be parents talk about their preference for a boy, or maybe in the slight sigh of relief when the doctor announces their new son. In fact, according to this Gallup poll, if they can only have one child, 40% of Americans say they would want a boy while only 28% would want a girl.
Why do you think this is?
Could it be that because in general our social convention preserves the family/last name though the husband the birth of a male child is seen as a guarantee that a name will perpetuate into the next generation?
Could it be because there’s a word on the street that tells young parents that boys are easier to parent than girls?
Could it be that because of the reality that we live in a society that favors men, we know that our boy children will have it just a bit easier than our girls?
And/or could it just be that as a culture we fundamentally have this internal bias that says that boys intrinsically have more value?
In the Dixon house, our son Josh is our firstborn, and over the years we’ve given him three little sisters. Our girls are perhaps a bit too empowered and I can’t remember the last time Josh got his way.
Come to think of it, maybe Josh should move to England?
What about you? How have you seen some version of primogeniture in our world? In your world?
When we had our third child (first boy), I lost track of how many people told me, “Yay! You finally got your boy!” As if I’d finally succeeded as a parent. As if I was disappointed with my two girls. As if a third girl would have been a let down.