Women in Comparative Societies
Valerie M. Hudson and
Andrea M. den Boer
What are the authors trying to explain?
What historical trends regarding infanticide do they uncover?
Under what conditions has infanticide taken place?
In short, they argue that
1) Human security depends upon environmental security (availability of life sustaining resources and freedom from threat, invasion)
2) Therefore, scarcity is the chief catalyst for both social competition and social conflict.
3) When life sustaining resources are scarce, the group members that seem most expendable, or able to contribute least to group security are often sacrificed.
4) Women themselves have often been construed as a resource to be denied competing groups, i.e., murdered rather than turned over to competitors
to preserve group or family social boundaries and resource exclusivity.
When does sex selective infanticide take place? Why is there a consistent preference for boys?
As a response to military invasion
In chronically fragile subsistence system
When (it is assumed that) sons are better able to provide physical defense of resource accumulation, and when sons are the primary creators of additional accumulation in societies centered around hunting
Sons are capable of producing more children than daughters.
Are there exceptions to the preference for boys? Under what kinds of circumstances might a preference for girls?
families choose their daughter’s husbands from families of higher social status.
When the marriage of daughters would be too costly or socially threatening, families pull them out of the marriage market mostly by engaging in female infanticide.
In many cases, female infanticide’s persistence has been further guaranteed by religious sanction that evolves over time and by the imperatives that hypergyny forces on households of different social rank.
Chapter 2: Offspring Sex Selection in Historical Perspective: From Infanticide to Sex-Selective Abortion and the Problem of “Missing Females”
Non-Sex-Related Selection Practices Among Animals:
Some animals eat their young after birth
Infanticide for the purpose of maintaining order in social hierarchies has been documented in apes and monkeys
Abortion also found in some animal species
Ex. Stallions often kick mares impregnated by previous stallion of the herd to induce abortion
Pregnant female mice exposed to pheromones of new male spontaneously abort
What, if any thing, do these examples tell us about possible causes of infanticide and abortion among humans?
Abortion and infanticide in human history:
Infanticide and abortion have been commonly practiced in societies all over the world throughout history. There have been six non-sex-related reasons why people have committed infanticide:
Historically, therefore, infant life was generally considered of little value. (Even in Christian societies)
female offspring has been undervalued in most regions of the world.
The most common reason for son preference is economic
Male labor which is valued higher than female labor.
High levels of son preference are associated with low female employment opportunities and low levels of female education.
Also, cultural practices such as dowry payments for brides and the roles of men in religious rites increase the desire for sons.
for sons is found
all over the world, but is most noticeable in
Son preference is measured by high sex ratios at birth, in early childhood, and in the overall population.
Sex-selective ratios are also measured by differences in male and female mortality rates.
High birth sex ratios are attributed to the use of sex-selective technology for abortion of females and these are the most common method.
**Females can also have unequal access to health care and nutrition, which is also a form of infanticide.
estimates, the number of missing females is greater than 90 million.