What’s in a name? you might ask. Well, in India, quite a bit, if you are a girl named “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean “unwanted” in Hindi. In a heartwarming CBSNEWS World article, 285 girls changed their names to reflect a new beginning in their lives.
It is hard to imagine, in our society, that parents could choose such a cruel name for their child. This reflects, I think, the sad social insistence in many countries on having male children.
It is known that in many cultures in the past, baby girls were buried in the sand, thrown into rivers, lakes, and seas, or left out in the wilderness to die of exposure and starvation, or be eaten by wild animals. Where this horrible concept that a female child is worthless came from is hard to understand. Ok, I get the idea that many cultures desired male children for the purposes of inheritance, protection, wage earning, and so on. Also, many of those same cultures required that the parents of a daughter pay a dowery when she married, which can be seen as a financial burden. Still, why was no thought given to the fact that females are needed for reproduction, or that a marriage of a daughter to a man from a good family could be a benefit? Then there is the most important reason of all to value daughters: that hey are humans begins just as worthy of love and caring as any male.
These misogynistic ideas have their roots in a major change in human social development.
In their book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá trace the origins of misogyny to the advent of agriculture, which “…changed everything about human society, from sexuality to politics to economics to health to diet to exercise patterns to work-versus-rest patterns. It introduced the notion of property into sexuality.” (Ryan and Jethá, 2010)
What we see here is the result of the male desire to secure a claim to property for himself and his offspring. In order for this to work, the woman becomes property as well. These attitudes have prevailed for close to 10,000 years even though there is really no longer any reason to treat woman as property.
We have made great strides toward sexual equality in the past 100 years or so, at least in the West. I hope that the cross pollination of cultures we have seen in the past couple of decades will have a positive influence on less enlightens cultures around the world. Until then, more girls will be shamefully labeled “unwanted”, both in practice as well as in name.
Ryan, Christopher and Jethá, Cacilda, 2010, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Harpers Collins