It really is a man’s world, and it’s becoming more that way

If the state of world affairs seems a little heavy on the testosterone, it’s not just a figment of our imaginations.

According to a United Nations Statistics Division report, there are 57 million more men than women in the world today. And most of that ratio imbalance is in the under-50 age groups. Women, now, still outnumber men in the over-70 age group, although by less than they used to.

Those facts and figures led to a flurry of zippy one-liners in my mind, not all of them what you’d consider suitable for a family-friendly newspaper. I could just imagine all those “extra” young men pairing with the “extra” older women. In a spunky mood, I saw the statistics as amusing.

But wait a minute. Nature doesn’t work that way. How could there be such a gross imbalance? I decided to find out. And in doing so, all my ideas for a humorous topic wound up, as they say, on the cutting-room floor.

Much of the imbalance can be attributed to three main factors: China’s state-mandated one-child policy that began in the late 1970s, a preference for sons in India and sub-Saharan Africa, and a resurgence in femicide.

In many traditional Chinese cultures, when a daughter marries, she becomes part of her husband’s family. In this arrangement, she is then obligated to dedicate herself to his aging parents, leaving her own parents to find other caregivers or to fend for themselves. And sons are perceived as being able to produce and earn more than daughters, especially in rural areas.

The majority of Chinese children given over to foreign adoptions in the 1980s were girls. The majority of elective abortions in China are of females.

In many developing countries, sons are given preference when family resources are scarce. This casual neglect leads to poor health for daughters and early death. In some cases, girls are even sold in order to better support the boys.

But why? Because there are still nations in which only males can inherit and own property, where they automatically earn higher wages, and where the families of girls must pay handsome dowries when their daughters marry.

And finally, there’s the tragedy of femicide, which is the killing of women because they are women. This abhorrent practice is growing in Mexico, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

My intent to deliver some light-hearted prose on a single population statistic left me stunned. How can there be so much inhumanity in our humanity? How can we not be outraged?

It would appear that we have turned the circle of life into an inverted pyramid. We’re investing billions of dollars in medical research that allows the old to get even older, while the young are having fewer babies.

Some would argue that these trends represent nature’s desperate attempt at population control. They point out the possibility that we humans have taken so much from our living planet that the Earth is reining us in, weeding us out — diminishing us as a species.

Others attribute such atrocities and oppression to omnipotence rather than to humanity for allowing them to continue. I find it impossible to see how the mistreatment of women could ever be part of God’s will.

But setting aside the problems of developing nations far from our country’s borders, what about us? How are our demographics skewing? We are definitely top-heavy with aging baby boomers. And we have fewer young people to support and take care of them and to pay into our safety-net systems (Social Security, health care, economic growth and so on). I dug a little deeper into the world population data. Well, what do you know? It seems that the rest of the world is in the same boat. The whole of our living human population today is far older than it is young.

Who is going to care for all these old people? Or to put a finer point on it, who is going to want to? The exhausted young women or all those “extra” favored young men?

Now, I’m no math whiz, but it’s not all that difficult to see where this trend is heading. And it isn’t a pretty picture. We (and by “we,” I mean all sensible humans with the capacity for rational thought) appear to be way overdue for some serious attitude and cultural adjustments when it comes to how we regard our daughters — all of our daughters.

Krystyn Hartman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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