In the February 27, 2009, issue of Science on page 1164 begins an article on Chinese government attempts to adjust the male/female birth ratio.  At this time, there are 120 boys born for every 100 girls.  Female foeticide has replaced female infanticide as the technique best designed to dispose of unwanted females.  Still, many baby girls are not taken to the doctor when they grow ill.  There are still quasilegal ways to dispose of children.

I hypothesize that female infanticide and foeticide are patrifocal societal tools used to maintain a patrifocal frame.  Males that don’t fit the male patrifocal ideal don’t achieve a wife and don’t pass on ideal genes.  Maintaining a high male/female birth ratio goes a long way toward encouraging long-term patrifocal societal stability.

“Bao and Li are one of four couples in their 600-person village to have espoused uxorilocal marriage, or living with the wife’s family.  Couples in some regions have opted for this lifestyle throughout Chinese history, but the practice is typically stigmatized.  By rewarding daring couples with land and public praise, Care for Girls aims to remove the stigma.  Bao says it worked:  “People don’t discriminate against you now.”  (Science, p. 1164)

The article goes on to describe attempts to adjust male/female ratios by intervening in the intransigent patrifocal social structure.

“The demographers realized that reversing the trend would require a major cultural shift.  Undermining the patrilineal order, they suspected, might do the trick.  With Marcus Feldman, Zhu and Li surveyed two counties in China where historically loose clan structure had led to a high percentage of men living with their wives’ families.  Both uxorilocal counties had a normal sex ratio at birth and low female child mortality.  Moreover, matrilineality seemed to provide the same benefits as patrilineality: ‘We found that daughters provided economic and emotional support to their parents equal to that of sons,’ Li says.” (Science, p. 1165)

Researchers in China have discovered that social structure is directly related to male/female birth ratios.  What other features may these unique, less patrilineal provinces reveal?  Perhaps there are additional advantages to relieving oneself of allegiance to a society heavily dependent on the concept that males are more valuable than females.  I suspect that there are positive economic repercussions.

The Chinese culture is unique in more ways than can be counted.  Whereas in the West until this last century matrifocal tendencies were demonized along with the serpent, a major symbol of the old goddess religions, in Asia the serpent was assimilated and deified.  In the East, matrifocal values were never totally repressed.  Asian spiritual paths revere the power of the female while seeking balance between the two hormonal archetypes.

The distance that the Chinese culture has to go to begin to respect the rights of women and arrive at a balance that provides bonuses to all may not be as far off as many think.  Though there are many societal habits to be adjusted, there is a spiritual infrastructure that allows for the emergence of the unique.  China is seeking profound industrial and commercial innovation and a primary position in the world’s economies.  By focusing on birth ratios as the symptom of a restraining frame of reference, the peoples of China may have a high quality source of information on how close they are coming to acquiring a useful reference for the new global economy.

Patrifocal societies may be both useful and beautiful in a world that requires and rewards stable societies that can survive over long periods of time.  Now that our global cultures are integrating, innovation is king.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then China’s new matrilineality may be the mother of innovation.


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