Goodnight, Ladies

The Nite-Nite Light 2009 10 x 30 x 5 in. Wood, fabric, dolls, lights.

If your government-issued ID lists your sex as female, the plight for equality may be more tenuous than you believe.  You’re a pro at enduring modern-day patriarchy.  You’re armed with quips and comebacks that’ll put any chauvinist en garde.  You’ll make sure to look pretty and smell great doing it.  Meanwhile, your sisters are fighting to be born.

Years ago, I stumbled across a statistic from Indian economist Amartya Sen, estimating more that 100 million women are missing from the planet due to gender-selective infanticide – or gendercide.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is the purposeful destruction of female children, either by murder or abortion, because families would prefer to try for a boy.  The Economist covered the story last year, warning that the practice is even greater than Sen imagined and is increasing with advancing ultrasound technologies.

In contemporary society these practices occur mainly in China and India, where economic conditions or social policies, coupled with traditional mores, leave many couples favoring male progeny.  However gendercide is made possible by our collective attitudes.  It is not bound by geography, nor is it a new fad adopted with the advent of advanced pregnancy screening.  Gendercide happens everywhere and throughout history; wherever patriarchy is the dominant social system, preferred offspring have always come equipped with a dick.

Patriarchy is entirely dependent on female subordination.  Perhaps gendercide is the ultimate manifestation of that.  While we believe we’re moving towards a more egalitarian world, it’s undeniable that patriarchy remains firmly rooted in our societal attitudes and practices.  I hope gender equality is coming.  It will best take root in the most personal of ways, in our everyday choices about how one regards and treats women, but we are moving so… damn… slow.  Case in point – those 100 million women that never were.  I made this thinking of them.

Some photographs courtesy of Josi Anderson.

Comments 2

  1. deborah August 8, 2011

    Powerful piece of artwork on the topic of female infanticide, Jessie!.
    Another issue that makes me crazy is uxoricide: the murder of wives by their husbands. Think of the celebrated men who have gotten away with it: Carl Andre killed his wife Ana Mendieta, a fantastic artist, when she “fell” out a window. William Burroughs killed his wife by “accidentally” shooting her instead of the apple off her head. I never finished the piece I was going to do on the topic.

  2. The Ghost Horse August 28, 2011

    Thanks, Deborah. I’m familiar with the story of Burroughs and his wife, but not of Ana Mendieta. Thanks for turning me onto her work. I really want you to finish the piece you’ve started because I’m dying to know where you were headed with it.

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