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Maleomania*: A Society’s Obsession with Sons

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 9, 2009

female-feticideDo you not wonder why people prefer to birth a son to a daughter? They do not mind the ‘risk’ even after a spate of failures of having normal beautiful baby girls. They would go for another one. I have seen people go up to an eighth child with the motive of having at least one son.(Probability of having eight girls in a row is just 1/ 256.  The probability of having a boy in 8th attempt is 1/2. So, its worth the try!!)

Education and technology have only made us more sophisticated in implementing our choice. Sex ratios in many parts of the country are disturbing. The trend of masculinity is  increasing over the years. Truely in the words of Malcolm Muggeridge, we have educated ourselves into imbecility .

Why are we son-crazy? Interactions with people revealed the following themes in their thought which guides them to perfer a son. I have combined them up and made a single arguement for case of a son.

Son’s carry our family name forward. Their acheivements make the family proud. They would take care of us when we age. They are ‘ours’. They inherit our status and provide us with it later. Daughters on the other hand are ‘property of someother household’ . We are temporary care givers only. The day she is born, our trouble starts. We should protect her in her youth from the roadside rowdies. We should teach her all the home making skills, which would be used in some other home. We also spend some money to get her educated. If she gets a job and works, who enjoys her income? Do we get back the money spent on her education.Is there a discount on marriage expenses if our daugher is educated?The more she acheives, more the trouble in store.We will have to struggle to find a equally able person who is  of our level. Getting her married is a big liability in addition to the dowry that we will have to pay. In the end she will anyway go off to some other house. She cannot take care of us. So what is the point in having a daughter, if a choice is given?

Researchers have found that the female to male sex ratio varied inversely by caste-rank, rose as one moved from the North to the East and then to the South, was lower for Hindus than Muslims, and was lower for the northern Indo-Aryan rather than the southern Dravidian speaking peoples. They argue that these systematic patterns in the data are largely explained by variations in the institution of family, kinship and inheritance.

Take for example inheritance. Sons inherit property. One brings a girl from some other family of equal standing as a daughter-in-law. What is there as for their ‘self-interest’? They could have managed household things with servants. The girl  is from respectable family which has property of its own. All that property goes to her brothers. So, Let ‘them’ spend money on the marriage and ‘give’ gifts according to their might. Just in case they do not ‘love’ their daughter enough, one would ensure ‘justice’ by demanding a dowry. This system was self sustaining. Girls were randomly and therefore equally born in all families. Families had to give and take stuff.

Statistically speaking, if the size of sample increases items get balanced equally. In smaller samples there can be ‘runs’ of a single item. In those days, when people had many children it did not matter if it was a girl or boy. Probablistically, they would eventually get evened out. Now when people have fewer children, they do not want the ‘run’ of girls. They might want to manipulate and have a boy instead. Therefore the extra pressure on masculinity if there have been female births in the family before.

There is a lag phase in the society in seeing an ‘educated woman’ as an asset. I have seen Punjab-Haryana (guilty area) parents searching for a doctor bride for their doctor son, without expecting any dowry. These are the people who recognize the duck which lays golden eggs. Such ducks dont need make up! Alas, such people are far fewer. For many people the present value of money is more important than speculation of future income.

We expect law to make a difference.  There are laws to curb dowry and laws on equal inheritance. How would Anti-dowry law curb giving and taking dowry, if that is seen as the cultural norm and that is the way inheritance was transferred for generations? Law in a sense is like a mirror, which shows that your face is dirty, it does not offer the cleansing milk to clean it. Of course, law does its job or else we would be living in a delusion that all is well with our ‘cultured’ society. In a way law has ’empowered’ women in such that they can get stuff two times. First get dowry/gift/ expenses at the time of marriage and then on a later day get the inheritance that they are entitled to from whatever is remaining!

The discussion here was at a macro level. I really do not know if this explains the society’s obsession to have sons. I have few thoughts at a micro level of a family and found that if not psychopathological, ‘maleomania’ may not even be useful. My next post titled “Family’s (poor) BCG analysis of children : Sons as ‘Stars’ & Daughters as ‘Dogs'” would focus on that.


1.Veghese J et al. Beyond the numbers. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1, 115-125 (2008)

2.Tanika Chakrobarthy, Sukkoo Kim. Caste, Kinship and Sex Ratios in India. NBER Working Paper No. 13828. March 2008

Photo courtesy

1. Swathi Soren (Found in


* Maleomania- Obsessive preference to have a male child ( a new word). Wanted to coin a proper Greek word- Andromania. When I searched for it, I found it was used in psychiatry! that too in a totally different context !


5 Responses to “Maleomania*: A Society’s Obsession with Sons”

  1. RPR said

    Interesting, to say the least.

    From a sociobiology point of view, this creates an even greater pool of men who are lacking mates (or will lack them in future) – the implications of this (“mateomania”?) will be interesting to see.

    From a purely social point of view, one has to wonder what is causing this inequality. If birth rates are equal, this distribution is unlikely given a sample size as large as the population of India – there’s something going wrong, and it won’t be pleasant to find out.

  2. […] Maleomania*: A Society’s Obsession with Sons […]

  3. A.M.N said

    Wow! That’s a lot of serious reading! Just to lighten up the mood 😀

    Why Men Don’t Write
    > Advice Columns

    > Dear Walter,
    > I hope you can help me here. The other day, I set off for
    > work leaving my husband in the house watching the TV as
    > usual. I hadn’t driven more than a mile down the road
    > when the engine conked out and the car shuddered to a halt.
    > I walked back home to get my husband’s help. When I got
    > home I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was in our bedroom
    > with the neighbour’s daughter. I am 41, my husband is
    > 44, and the neighbour’s daughter is 22.
    > We have been married for ten years. When I confronted
    > him, he broke down and admitted that they had been having an
    > affair for the past six months. I told him to stop or I
    > would leave him. He was let go from his job six months ago
    > and he says he has been feeling increasingly depressed and
    > worthless. I love him very much, but ever since I gave him
    > the ultimatum he has become increasingly distant. He
    > won’t go to counselling and I’m afraid I can’t
    > get through to him anymore.
    > Can you please help?
    > Sincerely,
    > Sheila
    > ******************************
    > Dear Sheila:
    > A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be
    > caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Start by
    > checking that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it is
    > clear, check the vacuum pipes and hoses on the intake
    > manifold and also check all grounding wires. If none of
    > these approaches solves the problem, it could be that the
    > fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to
    > the injectors.
    > I hope this helps,
    > Walter

  4. […] Maleomania*: A Society’s Obsession with Sons […]

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