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Proud to be a Disappointment

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Last weekend, the New York Times published an article titled “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” examining the not-so-subtle gender preference that Americans have expressed via their web searches in the past decade. Data collected by Google since 2004 has revealed that Americans are twice as likely to Google “Is my daughter: overweight, depressed or ugly?” than to do the same for their sons. In fact, the most common parental Google queries about their male offspring are “Is my son: a genius, a leader or happy?”

Essentially, Americans are more likely to associate their sons with positive concerns, such as their intelligence or well-being, while American daughters continue to be subjected to the usual stereotypes surrounding their appearance and emotional “instability.” Technology has been able to record evidence of modern gender preference — this time committed by “supportive and concerned” parents sitting behind a computer screen.

Upon reading this article, I couldn’t help but consider my own experiences as the third daughter in a family of four girls, and I found these statistics not only unsurprising, but also disturbingly accurate. For as long as I can remember, my family has encountered gendered prejudice walking into restaurants, in school, at the doctor’s office and even in church. We are constantly bombarded with the same ignorant comments regarding our gender: “Aren’t there any boys?” or “Your parents never wanted a son?” The absurdity of these questions lies not only in the obviousness that my sisters and I are girls (we keep our imaginary brother locked in the basement), but that my parents could somehow control the sex of their children.

Countless times I have sat quietly by, humiliated and offended, while random strangers went on and on about the “challenges” of raising daughters and how they pitied my “unfortunate” father. Each and every one had the same condescending remarks on what a shame it is that my sisters and I can’t carry on the family name or how we will never be able to play in the NFL or that “four girls equals a lot of trouble!” Naturally, I have a lot of hostility towards such obtuse comments. What is the NFL compared to earning a college degree? Is it not possible for a woman to keep her maiden name once she is married? Could a son demonstrate better behavior than me? Surely my sisters and I couldn’t be so much of a disappointment that the “shortcoming” between our legs still overshadowed our accomplishments? It was at an early age I realized my sisters and I lived in a very different world than I thought we did. We, as daughters, will struggle for our entire lives to be accepted by a society who is openly disappointed in us.

I can’t help but wonder if my sisters and I would invoke the same reaction if we were four strapping sons rather than dainty daughters. The suggestion that my sisters and I are more difficult than sons is far more than simply insulting; it is outdated, bigoted and narrow. Unfortunately, these remarks span the breadth of social, economic and educational levels — doctors, lawyers, accountants, educators and even “well-meaning” friends and relatives have relayed opinions about my predominately female family.

Although some of these comments may be teasing and good-natured, their foundation lies in a much deeper established opinion of women. Even in today’s “modern” and “equal” society, daughters are still viewed as deadweight. In fact, Google reported that American parents sought for advice on how to conceive a boy 10 percent more often than on how to conceive a girl.

How Google is supposed to control the sex of an embryo, or know if your son or daughter is overweight is difficult to say — perhaps Americans should be reevaluating their parenting techniques.

I wish I could say that the statistics released by Google shocked me or offended me or even inspired others to make great changes in the way they speak, act and think.

However, they only affirmed something I’ve understood for a long time. I know that most people who saw these numbers went on with their day and continued to make ignorant assumptions they view as harmless.

Ironically, if our society changed the way they treated women, perhaps the frequency of “concerned” Google searches about female emotional stability or appearance would subside. It’s a vicious and perpetual cycle of unfair sexism that I refuse to be a part of.

So, instead of being submissive in a world prejudiced against daughters, I choose to be proud of my femininity, and I encourage all other daughters to become adamant about being treated the same as a man — and more specifically, the same as a son.

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