New research challenges the deeply held notion that family relationships
can’t be dissolved and suggests that estrangement is not all that uncommon.
By CATHERINE SAINT LOUISDEC. 20, 2017
It’s the classic image of the holidays: Parents, siblings and their children gather around the family table to feast and catch up on one another’s lives. But it doesn’t always work that way.
After years of discontent, some adults choose to stop talking to their parents or returning home for family gatherings, and parents may disapprove of a child so intensely that he or she is no longer welcome home.
In the past five years, a clearer picture of estrangement has been emerging as more researchers have turned their attention to this kind of family rupture. Their findings challenge the deeply held notion that family relationships can’t be dissolved and suggest that estrangement is not all that uncommon.
Broadly speaking, estrangement is defined as one or more relatives intentionally choosing to end contact because of an ongoing negative relationship. (Relatives who go long stretches without a phone call because of external circumstances like a military deployment or incarceration don’t fit the bill.)
China Dropped Its One-Child Policy. So Why Aren’t Chinese Women Having More Babies?
In late 2015, when China eased its decades-long policy limiting most couples to having only one child, some heralded the change as a move toward greater reproductive freedom. But the government was only embarking on another grand experiment in population engineering: This time it was urging women — though only the right sort — to reproduce for China.
The authorities in Beijing seemed terrified that plummeting birthrates, an aging population and a shrinking labor force might undermine the results of years of double-digit growth rates, and threaten the political legitimacy of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.). So they began allowing most married couples to have two children. They hoped that the new policy would bring three million additional births a year through 2020 and add more than 30 million workers to the labor force by 2050.
But there has been no baby boom. Figures released last month show that the country’s birthrate fell by 3.5 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year. (The number of births had increased in 2016, the first year since the policy shift, though far less than the government had hoped.) According to official statistics, the number of children born to parents who already had one child did rise in 2017, but the number of first-child births dropped.
Why? Because a critical mass of women appears to be in no rush to have babies, particularly urban, educated women — just the category that the C.C.P. is counting on to produce and raise a new generation of skilled, knowledge-based workers.
While the one-child policy was in place, from 1979 to 2015, the government forced many women to have abortions or undergo other invasive birth-control procedures. Since its recent policy U-turn, it has deployed the same zeal to extol the glories of having more children — and the sooner, the better.
In China and India, men outnumber women by 70 million. Both nations are belatedly trying to come to grips with the policies that created this male-heavy generation
Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.
The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.
He was one of millions of Chinese seniors growing old alone. So he put himself up for adoption.
TIANJIN, China — Han Zicheng survived the Japanese invasion, the Chinese civil war and the cultural revolution, but he knew he could not endure the sorrow of living alone. On a chilly day last December, the 85-year-old Chinese grandfather gathered some scraps of white paper and wrote out a pitch in blue ink: “Looking for someone to adopt me.”
“Lonely old man in his 80s. Strong-bodied. Can shop, cook and take care of himself. No chronic illness. I retired from a scientific research institute in Tianjin, with a monthly pension of 6,000 RMB ($950) a month,” he wrote.
“I won’t go to a nursing home. My hope is that a kindhearted person or family will adopt me, nourish me through old age and bury my body when I’m dead.”
He taped a copy to a bus shelter in his busy neighborhood.
In 2012, the United Nations declared that October 11th, will be known as the International Day of the Girl. This day was not only established to recognize and address the needs and challenges girls face from all corners of the world, it also promotes the empowerment of their basic human rights. Often, those basic human rights are denied, due to war, conflict, oppression, and many other reasons.
In the next 10 years, 600 million girls will enter the workforce, a world constantly transformed by innovation, technology, and creativity. Nonetheless, today in 2018, nearly one young woman out of four is currently unemployed, uneducated, or both.
Many girls around the world have limited, and in some cases have no access to education, appropriate health services, healthy food, clean water, safe work, and basic living conditions. For some little girls, their conditions are even worse: they live in fear and are denied access to education, where they are forced to seek work at a very young age to provide for their family. For others, they are forced into marriage and motherhood at a very young age, while still being children themselves.
According to UN Women, this year alone, 12 million girls under 18 will be married, and 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 years old will become pregnant in developing regions.
Sadia is one of them. Living in Bangladesh, Sadia was forced into marriage at 14 years old. Sadia met her husband on the day of their wedding. She had never seen him before. Unfortunately, prior to getting married, while in 8th grade, Sadia was forced to quit school by her parents. She didn’t want to quit; she dreamt of becoming a teacher to give others the opportunity to learn! Every day, she looked forward to her mathematics class. While pregnant with her first child, Sadia witnessed her friends and brothers attend school and do their homework together. Heartbroken and terrified, Sadia put aside her dreams of becoming a mathematics teacher to raise her children and provide for her family.
Sadia’s story is a reality for many young girls and child brides around the world. While our world is shaping itself, we must not forget that many girls just like Sadia are forced to give up on their dreams.
On International Day of Girl, we encourage girls to claim their place. Girls are passionate and committed. They lead the way as volunteers, activists, authors, entrepreneurs, and students. More than ever, girls and young women follow their dreams, and fight to have access to education and a proper work environment.
“Yet, they persist, they succeed. Girls are innovating technology to solve global challenges, they are standing up for the environment, they are raising their voices against violence and they are preparing to run for office“ – UN Women.
Gender equality between boys and girls isn’t optional, it is necessary. Our future depends on it.
Why Accepting The West’s Deluge Of Unmarried Child-Bearing Entrenches Injustice
Choosing to have babies without a husband is not empowering in any degree. Not for the mother. Not for the child. Not for the community or the nation.
The good folks over at Axios posted a new article this week explaining how out-of-wedlock births became the new normal, and they conclude this is a good thing. These are smart people, but not on this one. It’s worth examining why, because it has much to do with women and children’s welfare.
First, their data on the demographics of unmarried child-bearing comes from a brand new report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) entitled “The Power of Choice.” Just in case you didn’t know, the UNPF informs us in their opening sentence: “CHOICE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. It can rapidly improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families and societies, and accelerate global development.”
Not necessarily. The benefit is not in the choice, but in what these women and girls choose. Choosing to have babies without a husband is not empowering in any degree. Not for the mother. Not for the child. Not for the community or the nation.
The complexity is more than cultural. It’s biological, too.
Two sexes have never been enough to describe human variety. Not in biblical times and not now. Before we knew much about biology, we made social rules to administer sexual diversity. The ancient Jewish rabbinical code known as the Tosefta, for example, sometimes treated people who had male and female parts (such as testes and a vagina) as women — they could not inherit property or serve as priests; at other times, as men — forbidding them to shave or be secluded with women. More brutally, the Romans, seeing people of mixed sex as a bad omen, might kill a person whose body and mind did not conform to a binary sexual classification.
Today, some governments seem to be following the Roman model, if not killing people who do not fit into one of two sex-labeled bins, then at least trying to deny their existence. This month, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary banned university-level gender studies programs, declaring that “people are born either male or female” and that it is unacceptable “to talk about socially constructed genders, rather than biological sexes.” Now the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services wants to follow suit by legally defining sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
This is wrong in so many ways, morally as well as scientifically. Others will explain the human damage wrought by such a ruling. I will stick to the biological error.
SOCIAL MEDIA HAS TURNED OUT TO BE THE PERFECT TOOL FOR NONBINARY PEOPLE TO FIND — AND MODEL — THEIR UNIQUE PLACES ON THE GENDER SPECTRUM.
A shift in technology emboldened Moore, too. In 2014, Facebook updated its site to include nonbinary gender identities and pronouns, adding more than 50 options for users who don’t identify as male or female, including agender, gender-questioning and intersex. It was a profound moment for Moore. “They had options I didn’t even know about,” Moore told me. That summer, Moore selected “nonbinary,” alerting their wider social spheres, including childhood friends and family members who also used the site. For Moore, it saved them some of the energy of having to explain their name and pronoun shift. Moore also clarified their gender pronouns on Instagram. “I wrote it into my profile to make it more explicit.” To some, the act might seem small, but for Moore, their identity “felt crystallized, and important.”
Several societies and cultures understand gender as more varied than just man or woman, but in the United States, a gender binary has been the norm. “In our cultural history, we’ve never had anything close to a third category, or even the notion that you could be in between categories,” said Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Risman, who recently published a book called “Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles With the Gender Structure,” contrasted her early research with what she is seeing now. Few of the people she interviewed for the book in 2012 and 2013 were openly using nongendered pronouns, if they even knew about them. Just four years later, she began researching nonbinary young adults because the landscape had changed so radically. “It was reflexive with their friends at school, social groups. Many colleges classes start out with ‘Name, major and preferred pronouns,’ ” Risman told me. In Risman’s experience, it used to take decades to introduce new ideas about sex, sexuality or gender, and even longer for them to trickle upstream into society. “What’s fascinating is how quickly the public conversation has led to legal changes,” Risman said. California and Washington, among others, now allow people to select “x” as their gender, instead of “male” or “female,” on identity documents. “And I am convinced that it has to do with — like everything else in society — the rapid flow of information.”
Hispanic Americans are having fewer babies, as are city-dwellers
IN SOME WAYS, the Atlantic Ocean seems unusually wide at the moment. Polls by the Pew Research Centre show that western Europeans take an increasingly dim view of America, and not just its president. On the other side of the ocean, conservatives think that a clinching argument against universal health care is to call it European. Yet in other, more intimate, ways the two continents appear to be converging. American families are increasingly hard to distinguish from European ones.
Soon after the great recession hit America, in 2007, the birth rate began to fall. Many people lost their jobs or their homes, which hardly put them in a procreative mood. But in the past few years the economy has bounced back—and births continue to drop. America’s total fertility rate, which can be thought of as the number of children the average woman will bear, has fallen from 2.12 to 1.77. It is now almost exactly the same as England’s rate, and well below that of France (see chart 1).
Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. The procedure will last around six hours, and I will be in recovery for at least three months. Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.
I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.) Dysphoria is notoriously difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it, like a flavor. Its official definition — the distress some transgender people feel at the incongruence between the gender they express and the gender they’ve been socially assigned — does little justice to the feeling.
Before the Claims of Crispr Babies, There Was China’s One-Child Policy
The Chinese government has a long history of using technology to control and manipulate reproduction.
When I first read about the discovery of Crispr — a cheap, easily deployed tool to modify DNA sequences — I had a hunch. Although I am neither a scientist nor a clairvoyant, I thought it highly likely that the first Crispr baby would be Chinese.
So it was with a sense of inevitability that I read this week’s claims by He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist based in Shenzhen, to have engineered the world’s first Crispr babies — twins.
China excels in most kinds of technology, but when it comes to gene editing and designer babies, it has an extra advantage: a population that has been conditioned to manipulating reproduction as a tool for progress. I’m referring, of course, to the three decades of family-planning rules known as the one-child policy.
Behind the science of what’s doable is the mind-set of what’s desirable. China’s unprecedented reproductive experiment, officially ended in 2015 although many restrictions continue, has created a people accustomed — in many cases, forcibly so — to controlling the number and gender of their offspring. The one-child policy was established ostensibly to curb population growth, but China’s leaders were not shy about exhorting the country’s people to reduce quantity to improve quality, shading the policy with eugenic undertones.
Can We Finally Stop Talking About ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ Brains?
Recent research is making it clearer than ever that the notion that sex determines the fundamentals of brain structure and behavior is a misconception.
In 2015, one of us, Daphna Joel, led an analysis of four large data sets of brain scans, and found that the sex differences you see overall between men’s and women’s brains aren’t neatly and consistently seen in individual brains. In other words, humans generally don’t have brains with mostly or exclusively “female-typical” features or “male-typical” features. Instead, what’s most common in both females and males are brains with “mosaics” of features, some of them more common in males and some more common in females.
Daphna Joel and colleagues then applied the same kind of analysis to large data sets of psychological variables, to ask: Do sex differences in personality characteristics, attitudes, preferences, and behaviors add up in a consistent way to create two types of humans, each with its own set of psychological features? The answer, again, was no: As for brain structure, the differences created mosaics of feminine and masculine personality traits, attitudes, interests, and behaviors. For example, in the data set on 4,860 adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the variables on which young women and men differed the most included worry about weight, depression, delinquency, impulsivity, gambling, involvement in housework, engagement in sports, and a femininity score. So far, so gender normative. But: Not a single person had only feminine or only masculine scores on these variables. Rather, what was typical of both men and women (70 percent of them, to be exact) was a mosaic of feminine and masculine characteristics.
Can the state keep up with the rapid aging of such a large population?
Fewer babies were born in China last year than in 2017, and already fewer had been born in 2017 than in 2016. There were 15.23 million new births in 2018, down by more than 11 percent from the year before. The authorities had predicted that easing and then abolishing the one-child policy in the mid-2010s would trigger a baby boom; it’s been more like a baby bust.
No, these figures don’t mean that China’s population itself has started to decline. But they do mean that the population overall is aging, and fast. And they mean that the Chinese government can no longer manipulate fertility with blunt pro-natal policies; the reasons for the drop run too deep. Instead of futile, retrograde statist intervention in people’s reproductive choices, the authorities should undertake broad economic and social reforms to address the deep causes of the decline while mitigating the burdens of its worst effects.
Migration is inevitable. It has been happening for centuries. Whether by choice or by necessity, it will continue with every generation. We are intellectual beings. We strive to progress. Progress is a driver for migration. Stop progress, and migration will stop.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
In India, parents who migrate to cities often have no choice but to leave their children alone while they work at low-wage jobs. Now there’s some relief.
NEW DELHI — By midafternoon, Usha Devi’s one-bedroom home was a mess. Her infant daughter spilled water on the bed, and her toddler smeared food on the floor and picked up a knife as her 10-year-old thrust her homework under Ms. Devi’s nose. “I only get an hour for lunch,” Ms. Devi said, prioritizing her youngest and unbuttoning her blouse to breast-feed the baby.
This precious, chaotic hour is the only time during the day that Ms. Devi, who lives and works on a construction site at Narela, on the outskirts of New Delhi, can be with her children.
Millions of people like Ms. Devi, 33, are leaving their ancestral villages and migrating to urban India to take construction jobs as India’s cities continue to swell. Ms. Devi works as a sweeper for a government project that is building low-income housing for residents of Delhi’s slums.
Construction accounts for roughly 8 percent of India’s gross domestic product. But the economic pressures on these low-wage workers are disrupting age-old living patterns in villages, where grandparents and family members have traditionally cared for children while their parents worked on ancestral farms. In cities, parents who migrate from rural areas often have no choice but to leave their children alone while they work. The children of construction workers are often left to raise themselves and one another.
America’s Biggest Economic Challenge May Be Demographic Decline
Slower growth in the working-age population is a problem in much of the country. Could targeted immigration policy help solve it?
For many years, American economists have spoken of Japan and Western Europe as places where the slow grind of demographic change — masses of workers reaching retirement age, and smaller generations replacing them — has been a major drag on the economy.
But it is increasingly outdated to think of that as a problem for other countries. The deepest challenge for the United States economy may really be about demographics. And our understanding of the implications is only starting to catch up.
A new report from the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank funded in large part by tech investors and entrepreneurs, adds rich new detail, showing that parts of the United States are already grappling with Japanese-caliber demographic decline — 41 percent of American counties with a combined population of 38 million.
At the national level, slower growth in America’s working-age population is a major reason that mainstream forecasters now expect the economy to expand around 2 percent each year rather than the 3 percent common in the second half of the 20th century. As a matter of simple arithmetic, lower growth in the number of people working will almost certainly mean slower growth in economic output.
New research suggests that, in the very long run, size is a great advantage
Klaus Desmet of Southern Methodist University, Dávid Krisztián Nagy of crei, a research institute, and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg of Princeton University do just that. In a paper that last month won them the Robert Lucas prize, which recognises excellent research in political economy, they build a model that yokes economic performance to population size, within which they can run time forward by hundreds of years to watch the balance of economic power change. Long-run growth, they suggest, is driven by improvements in technology. And more populous countries should accumulate more innovation than smaller ones do because the return on developing a new technology is higher—there are more people to buy Edison’s light bulb and to enrich Edison, and therefore more incentive to invent the light bulb in the first place.
Leaning against this force, however, is migration. Right now, the richest places are not the most populous. Should it become relatively easy to migrate, people will move from countries that are populous but poor to others that are rich. As migration swells the population of rich places, their long-run dominance is assured because of the link between population size and innovation.
But if there is very little migration, then the populous but poor countries will out-innovate the small but rich ones, and make their way up the income league table. The process is not quick; the authors reckon that convergence takes about 400 years. In practice, rich places tend not to allow much migration from poor ones. That could change, but assuming that it does not, the model delivers a striking forecast: half a millennium from now, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will have become great engines of productivity.
Singapore’s government struggles to promote procreation
The city-state has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world
Real love works”, a sign outside the entrance to Singapore’s marriage registry assures visitors. Inside, however, shelves of pamphlets imply that love needs a little help. One leaflet details generous housing benefits for newlyweds. Another recommends a list of subsidised marriage counsellors. A third gives advice on addressing marital differences (“Think win-win”) and family planning (“Make time for sexual intimacy”).
The registry gets fewer visitors than it did in the past. A third of Singaporeans aged 30-34 are not married, up from a fifth in 1980. That trend is matched by a decline in the number of babies. The fertility rate, a measure of how many children the average woman will have over her lifetime, fell to just 1.14 last year, among the lowest in the world. The city-state’s population of 4m would be falling were it not for a continual influx of immigrants.
Vatican Rejects Notion That Gender Identity Can Be Fluid
ROME — The Vatican on Monday flatly rejected what it cast as the notion that individuals can choose their gender, releasing its first extensive document on the issue as Western countries are increasingly wrestling with the social and legal implications of more fluid definitions of identity.
The document, issued by the Vatican department overseeing Catholic education, echoed past statements by Pope Francis. It argued that acceptance of flexible ideas of gender posed a threat to traditional families and ignored the natural differences between men and women.
It lamented “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies.”
The idea of gender moving along a spectrum was “nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants.”
Prescription drugs are saving lives in Africa, but ending them in America
The united nations is the world’s most important watcher of human tides. Its demographers have a good record of predicting global population change, although they have made mistakes about individual countries. So it is worth paying attention when the un revises its figures, as it does every few years. The latest bulletin is especially surprising.
Recent revisions have sent the projected global population upwards. The one released on June 17th cuts it back. The un now thinks the world will contain a little over 9.7bn people in 2050 and just under 10.9bn in 2100. The first figure is 37m lower than the un forecast two years ago. The latter is 309m lower—almost an America’s worth of people revised away.
Birth rates are falling faster than expected in some developing countries. In the late 1980s Kenya had a fertility rate of 6.5, implying a woman could expect to have that many children. Two years ago the un reckoned Kenya’s fertility rate would drop to 2.1 (the point at which the population sustains itself naturally) only in the late 2070s. Because of new data, it now thinks Kenya will reach that point a decade earlier. Uganda also looks less fecund. A smaller cut to India’s fertility rate has a big effect on the global population forecasts because India has so many people.
Rural areas bear the burden of Japan’s ageing, shrinking population
Half the country’s municipalities are expected to disappear by 2040
When Hisaaki Nakajima ran for mayor of Imabetsu, on the northernmost tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island, he said he had a vision of a town of 2,000 people. That may have sounded odd, given that Imabetsu had 2,700 inhabitants at the time (in 2017). But it is shrinking fast. Since Mr Nakajima took office, the population has declined by around 150, or some 6%. On a pleasant spring day the streets are almost empty; many buildings are disused. A big pachinko parlour at the entrance to the town lies in ruin.
Villages and towns across Japan have been shrinking for decades because of migration to big cities. Since 2011 the national population has been falling, too. Last year it shrank by 450,000. The two trends are emptying rural areas: whereas Japan as a whole is projected to lose 16% of its population between 2015 and 2045, the population of Aomori prefecture, where Imabetsu is located, will plunge 37%, reckons the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (nipssr), a think-tank in Tokyo (see chart).
I’m 20. I Have 32 Half Siblings. This Is My Family Portrait.
IT WAS NEVER A SECRET in my house that I was conceived with the help of an anonymous sperm donor. For a majority of my childhood, I never really thought about him. But when I was around 11, I went through a period of having questions. My parents — I have two mothers — gave me a photo copy of a questionnaire that was sent to them from the sperm bank they used, California Cryobank. The donor filled it out in 1996, two years before I was born.
I remember carrying the form with me in my backpack, taking it to school and studying it occasionally when I remembered I had it. There was this sense of touch — this person had used his hand to answer these questions; I could see where he had crossed things out. It wasn’t that I was so desperate to imagine who he was; it was enough to have proof that he was real, entangled with who I am and yet, as that document showed, totally separate. The form made him concrete, if inscrutable. It also gave me the sense that there was this larger world, this process and this bureaucracy that my existence was built upon. It was a way to help me understand myself.
I knew a lot of other children whose parents had used donors to conceive because every summer we went to a camp for same-sex families. Last summer, news traveled through the community that two kids from two families who attended the camp for years had independently gone on to a registry for family members trying to connect with donors or donor siblings. The two discovered that they shared a donor — that they were half siblings.
Until that moment, it had not really occurred to me — or my mothers, even though one is an ObGyn — that I might have half siblings out there. It makes no sense that we didn’t think about that, because my parents deliberately chose a donor whose sperm had successfully produced at least one live birth, whose sperm had, in a sense, “worked.” I think they were just so focused on thinking about the new family they were creating that they never stopped to think about the implications of the huge, inadvertent social experiment they were joining.
Countries expected to grow the most in the next 20 years
The world's population of more than 7 billion people is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 0.83% over the next 20 years. The 50 fastest-growing countries in population over the next 20 years are all growing at more than double that rate, with the top country expecting a population surge of 3.5%.
To determine the 50 fastest-growing countries in the next 20 years, Stacker looked to the United Nations' World Population Prospects 2019 to rank countries by the average annual rate of population change from 2020 to 2040. Estimates are based on all available sources of data on population size and levels of fertility, mortality, and international migration for 235 distinct countries or areas comprising the total population of the world.
Common themes among the 50 countries on the list are high levels of poverty leading to high levels of fertility. Cultural prevalence toward large families was also a common factor contributing to rapid population growth.
Syria is among the outliers, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, where much of the impending population growth can be attributed to refugees returning home after years of civil war. Forty-one of the countries are on the continent of Africa, six in the Middle East, two in the South Pacific and one, French Guiana, in South America.
Size didn't matter when it came to population growth, with Africa's smallest mainland nation, Gambia; second-smallest island nation, Sao Tome and Principe; and four of the continent's five largest nations represented.
The CIA World Factbook provides an updated breakdown of each country in a variety of categories, including economic and social factors, while World Bank Group aims to end poverty through funding for many of these developing countries.
Read on to discover Stacker's list of the top 50 fastest-growing countries over the next 20 years
A Prosperous China Says ‘Men Preferred,’ and Women Lose
TIANJIN, China — Bella Wang barely noticed the section on the application inquiring whether she was married or had children. Employers in China routinely ask women such questions, and she had encountered them before in job interviews.
It was a surprise, though, after she accepted a position as a manager at the company, a big language-training business in the northern city of Tianjin, when she was told the job came with a condition.
As a married woman without children, she would have to sign a “special agreement” promising not to get pregnant for two years. If she broke that promise, the company said, she could be fired, without compensation.
Ms. Wang, 32, fluent in English with a degree in international trade, was outraged — but she signed.
Such agreements are illegal but increasingly common in China, where discrimination against women is on the rise. From the womb to the workplace, from the political arena to the home, women in China are losing ground at every turn.
Driving this regression in women’s status is a looming aging crisis, and the relaxing of the draconian “one-child” birth restrictions that contributed to the graying population. The Communist Party now wants to try to stimulate a baby boom.
But instead of making it easier for women to both work and have children, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has led a resurgence in traditional gender roles that has increasingly pushed women back into the home.
“When the state policymakers needed women’s hands, they sent them to do labor,” said Wang Zheng, professor of women’s studies and history at the University of Michigan. “Now they want to push women into marriage and have a bunch of babies.”
With “fertility preservation,” I thought I could have children on my own timeline. I was wrong.
Nine months after we tied the knot, I froze my eggs, and in my haste, I neglected to read the fine print. It was 2013, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine had announced just the year before that the procedure was no longer experimental.
I hadn’t known that their ethics committee had issued an opinion warning that egg freezing “may give women and couples false security about their ability to have children in the future.”
My doctor didn’t tell me this, nor did I ask. I had faith that he would inform me of anything I needed to know. I had faith that I could have a baby when the time came.
Every article I read mentioned egg freezing as an insurance policy, a backup plan. It felt like a guarantee. In 2014, Facebook and Apple made headlines when they announced they would offer egg freezing as a workplace benefit.
The thinking seemed to go like this: If women were spending their fertile years chained to their desks, the least employers could do was offer a chance at motherhood once their careers had taken off. But hardly anyone seemed to be asking the critical question: Does egg freezing actually work?
When I froze my eggs, I didn’t understand that “fertility preservation” (as many doctors laughably call it) has only a 2 to 4 percent success rate per thawed egg, according to my clinic, meaning more likely than not, my eggs would fail me.
Almost 7,300 women froze their eggs in 2016 and the market continues to soar. In 2019, that number has jumped to more than 10,000 women in the United States alone, according to FertilityIQ, a Yelp-like website for fertility clinics. As demand skyrockets, egg freezing companies such as Kindbody, Extend Fertility and Future Family are popping up, backed by millions in capital, creating an endless feedback loop. The more money is invested, the more marketing dollars are thrown at selling women on the procedure.
Yet so few women have tried to use their frozen eggs that success rates are unclear. What will happen when they try to do so, only to realize that the promise of fertility on their own timeline was always too good to be true?
Craving Freedom, Japan’s Women Opt Out of Marriage
The percentage of women who work in Japan is higher than ever, yet cultural norms have not caught up. More and more, women are rejecting the double standard.
Not so long ago, Japanese women who remained unmarried after the age of 25 were referred to as “Christmas cake,” a slur comparing them to old holiday pastries that cannot be sold after Dec. 25.
Today, such outright insults have faded as a growing number of Japanese women are postponing or forgoing marriage, rejecting the traditional path that leads to what many now regard as a life of domestic drudgery.
The percentage of women who work in Japan is higher than ever, yet cultural norms have not caught up: Japanese wives and mothers are still typically expected to bear the brunt of the housework, child care and help for their aging relatives, a factor that stymies many of their careers.
Fed up with the double standard, Japanese women are increasingly opting out of marriage altogether, focusing on their work and newfound freedoms, but also alarming politicians preoccupied with trying to reverse Japan’s declining population.
As recently as the mid-1990s, only one in 20 women in Japan had never been married by the time they turned 50, according to government census figures. But by 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, that had changed drastically, with one in seven women remaining unmarried by that age.
And for women ages 35 to 39, the percentage was even higher: Nearly a quarter had never been married, compared with only about 10 percent two decades earlier.
But their chance of survival still depends on where they are born.
Two decades ago, nearly 10 million children did not live to see a 5th birthday.
By 2017, that number — about 1 in every 16 children — was nearly cut in half, even as the world’s population increased by more than a billion people.
The sharp decline in childhood mortality reflects work by governments and international aid groups to fight child poverty and the diseases that are most lethal to poor children: neonatal disorders, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. But the results are also highly imbalanced. In some places, children’s health has improved drastically. In others, many still die very early.
From 2000 to 2017, all but one of the 97 low-to-middle-income countries that account for the vast majority of deaths of young children lowered their child mortality rates, according to a report released Tuesday by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with a research team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, led by Stephen Lim, the institute’s senior director of science and engineering.
The data reveal a wide disparity of outcomes in early child mortality both across countries and within them. The researchers project that if current rates of progress continue, nearly two-thirds of children in the poorest countries will still live in districts that won’t meet United Nations development goals by 2030.
ONE IN FIVE girls marries before reaching adulthood. One in twenty is wed before her fifteenth birthday. In Indonesia, which has the eighth-highest number of child brides in the world according to the UN, the phenomenon should soon be a thing of the past. This month the country’s parliament raised the minimum age at which girls can marry from 16 to 19. Legislators were spurred to act after the Constitutional Court ruled in December that it was discriminatory to mandate a lower minimum age of marriage for girls than for boys.
This is good news. But on this measure, Indonesia is by no means the worst offender. According to UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency, 14% of Indonesian women marry before they reach 18 years old. In Bangladesh the figure is 59%; in Niger it is 76%. Nineteen of the 20 countries where child marriage is most prevalent are in Africa (see map).
Families marry off their daughters at a young age in an attempt to make their lives more stable and secure. The conditions that tend to be associated with the practice include rigid gender norms, conflict and poverty. Education is perhaps the most important factor. A study of 15 countries by the World Bank found that girls without schooling are three times more likely to be married by age 18 than those with secondary education. But in many cultures, education for girls comes second to marriage and its associated duties.
A modest proposal indeed: Academia considers cannibalism
The thought-leaders and philosophers of the Western world have recently turned their attention to a rather radical method of reducing our carbon footprint and self-regulating the Earth’s population.Ever since we diverged from our chimpanzee cousins five million years ago, human beings have picked up a diverse skillset. We sharpened rocks into axes, mastered fire, built civilizations and came up with the atomic bomb. It’s been a rocky couple of eons, but one thing we’ve managed to completely leave behind is the ultimate taboo: cannibalism.
Academics, however, are unconstrained by nasty ‘social constructs’ like morality, ethics and ‘not eating your grandmother.’ Far away from the real world, professors steeped in postmodernism – a doctrine that reigns supreme in social science departments and rejects notions of objective reality – have been suggesting for some time that we embrace our inner beast and break the taboo.
“Cannibalism occurs in every class of vertebrates,” wrote American Museum of Natural History researcher Bill Schutt in ‘Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History.’ After discussing which wine pairs best with human placenta, Schutt mused whether one day food shortages and overcrowding might lead us to eat our own. The New York Times, incidentally, called the book “refreshing.” Additionally, researchers at UC San Diego declared in 2017 that as cannibalism helps limit the spread of disease in some species, it could benefit us too.
“We are flipping the paradigm, with regards to cannibalism,” the researchers said, with an accompanying press release from the university declaring “For some populations, cannibalism may be just what the doctor ordered.”
While actual scientists research the nitty-gritty of eating corpses, social scientists busy themselves pondering its cultural significance. Last year, a conference was held at the University of Warwick, entitled “Bites Here and There,” where such topics as “Help Yourself: Autophagy as Response to Global Crises,”“Cannibalism and Intimacy,” and “‘Ethical’ Foodways: Justifying Cannibalism in Contemporary Speculative Fiction” were discussed.
Despite persuading their test subjects with several moral and ethical arguments in favor of cannibalism, the authors of one research paper packed it in when they found that, no matter what the circumstances, these subjects refused to eat human flesh. However, they did offer a ray of hope for aspiring autophagists, noting that while chowing down on corpses disgusts us “for now,” we should “be able to adapt to human flesh if need be.”
It’s easy to mock the notions of academics, who are after all paid to think up abstract ideas and publish impenetrable research papers. But their ideas tend to percolate down into mainstream media, and from there into our culture.
At the risk of making a massive generalization, people buy edible insects for only two reasons: curiosity and virtue signaling. “Look at me!” they can say. “I’m ahead of the curve. I’m part of the solution, not the problem.” The customer base for edible insects likely overlaps significantly with the soulless millenials who pay good money to consume trendy soy-slop from companies like Huel and Soylent in place of solid food.
And so it may well go with cannibalism. Whether the taboo is broken by the slow and steady work of academics, or bucked by one forward-thinking influencer, once man-flesh enters the mainstream it might not be long before thousands are lining up for their first bite. And who knows, maybe they’ll even ask for seconds.
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