Rob Kardashian has been vocal about his desire for a son. (Photo: Getty Images)
By now the world, or at least the world of Kardashian fans, know that Rob Kardashian and fiancée Blac Chyna are expecting a daughter. In the series premiere of the couple’s new reality series Rob & Chyna, Kardashian shares with Scott Disick, the father Kourtney Kardashian’s three children, that — before he knew the gender of his future child — he had been hoping for a boy.
“You gotta carry on that name,” Kardashian tells Disick in the episode, explaining why he wants a son.
In a later confessional, Kardashian added, “I’m definitely hoping for a boy because I want to have the same relationship that I had with my father with my son. So that’s what I’m praying for.”
And it appears that Kardashian isn’t the only father, expectant or otherwise, who shows a preference for sons over daughters.
A recent story in The Economist’s 1843 Magazine outlines the social science data that indicates that men are more likely to marry or stay married to women with whom they had sons rather than daughters. Furthermore, additional data indicates that couples with sons are more likely to stay married than couples with daughters. Wait, there’s more! Every Gallup poll since 1941 has shown that Americans would prefer sons over daughters. In the most recent Gallup poll, from 2011, Americans indicated a preference for a boy rather than a girl, by a 40% to 28% margin (if they only had one child)
Throughout the Economist story, fathers shared their concerns about not being able to bond with daughters the same way they would be able to with sons. And indeed, data and studies support this, with time-diary data from 2003 to 2006 showing that American married fathers with a child between the ages of six and twelve spent 40 minutes per day more with sons than daughters, usually playing sports or watching TV.
“This is just more stark evidence of the fact that from the moment a gender is assigned to an infant — and sometimes, increasingly, to a fetus — from the moment an entity is gendered, that determines so much about how that person is going to be treated,” Juliet Williams, PhD, and a professor of gender studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, tells Yahoo Beauty.
She adds, “People continue to deny what’s hiding in plain sight: How insistently and relentlessly we sort human beings based on their gender and how it manifests in ways that are both obvious and in ways we would never have thought.”
Williams also says that prevalent cultural attitudes in which fathers show preference for sons over daughters is as discouraging for our boys as it is for our girls.
“There are a lot of sons out there who really want to have a talk with their dad and are having to settle for a father set on baseball games and other non-intimate settings that are the only places fathers believe bonding is possible….This is not allowing for self-expression, and that’s always a problem,” Williams says.
Williams says she is also disheartened by the data suggesting that women in unhappy marriages are more likely to stay in their marriage if they had a son, often motivated by the belief that it would be more detrimental for a son to grow up without a father than a daughter.
“This is invalidating to single parents who are disproportionately mothers and invalidating women who do the majority of child caretaking and raising,” says Williams. “It’s really sad to me that although mothers have performed this mothering role in our society for so long, there is still suspiciousness and fear that they can’t competently raise sons.”
Not surprisingly, parents feelings about their own children and gender are incredibly nuanced.
We spoke with a mid-30’s woman in the Midwest who is the mother a son and a daughter. She shared that, before becoming pregnant, she always hoped to have two children, one of each gender — and that she didn’t know until after she had her second child, her son, that her husband had very much hoped that their second would be a boy, too.
“It seemed ungrateful to hope for a specific gender when the biggest blessing was a healthy pregnancy and baby,” she says. “It was odd how we didn’t want to admit it to each other. I wasn’t worried he would judge me, but rather I was worried he would want the same, and then we would both be disappointed if we found out that we were not having a boy. And I didn’t want the first thought about the gender of my baby to be disappointment.”
That said, she also explains that she herself is “extremely, extremely close with my dad….My dad helped me with sports when I was little, took me to games, and did all of the “dad” things, but he also played My Little Pony or Barbie with me, read me bedtime stories of my choosing, and was just generally a very supportive, chill dad who encouraged me to speak my mind and share my thoughts with him. He was and is amazing, and does the same thing [with my daughter]. I don’t think he only tried to interact with me using means he thought only “girls” would enjoy. Rather, he tried to connect with me via activities that I as an individual enjoyed — and if they were stereotypically girl, that was fine.”
A Washington, DC-area father of both a son and a daughter shares that he had hoped “ever so slightly” for a boy with his first child — and yet is now “overjoyed” to have had a daughter as his oldest.
He also notes that he feels closer to his daughter than to his son. He says it might be that his daughter is older he has had more time spent with her or her more affectionate nature, but that while it isn’t to say that he doesn’t feel very connected to his son, he feels a slightly tighter bond with his daughter.
Art Markman, PhD, and a professor of psychology at the University of Texas-Austin tells Yahoo Beauty, “There are cultural stereotypes in the US that make it easier to parent boys than girls. There is a stereotype that girls are physically and emotionally more fragile than boys that influences some parents. In addition, social norms about sexuality in the teen years often lead parents to be more protective of girls than boys.”
“Gender is a fundamental and basic pillar of society,” explains Williams. “Transnationally, it has a historic reach in the way it saturates micro-interactions to large-scale ones, everything from intimate household interactions to the national debate over the significance of having the first woman president. We have divided the world we have into traditional disciplines in a way that gender is rendered invisible to social life….What we need is to have a critical mass of people understanding the saturation of gender in our society to help us understand what is needed to help us change the balance of power.”