THE ENEMY WITHIN
I read a curious article in the Yahoo news (5/24/11) recently about a Canadian couple who was refusing to divulge the sex of their 4 month old child, hoping to allow the infant to develop without suffering a gender bias. Not long after, I came across a report that said 12 million girl fetuses had been aborted in India over the last thirty years. Largely the would-be offspring were from middle class families who were wealthy enough to afford ultra sounds to discover the unborn child’s gender.
After thinking about these two stories, William Styron’s novel, “Sophie’s Choice” came to mind. In his book, Sophie, a Polish woman interred in a German prison camp in World War II, must decide which of her children, a boy and a girl, will live and which will die. After suffering unimaginable agony, Sophie sacrifices her daughter.
(quote from “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath)
Though the novel and the two news stories seem worlds apart, what they share is an underlying assumption that the sexes are not equal. The Canadian couple wishes to protect their infant from a gender bias, thereby acknowledging a bias exists. In India that prejudice is blatant but Sophie is guilty of it, too.
This lingering suspicion that women are inferior is a seed implanted in our sex at the time of our birth, a belief that has persisted for hundreds if not thousands of years. Women have been demonized as witches, sylphs, and temptresses of the devil or protected from their weak natures by laws that treat them as children. After countless iterations of female inferiority in cultures and religious dogma, a form of self-loathing exists. The female eunuch will continue to survive as long as we women fail to hold ourselves accountable for the prejudice we bear against ourselves.