It's 2008, and I am in a casino in Las Vegas. I am not playing blackjack; I am working the employee break rooms to help elect the first female president of the United States. I am going from culinary worker to culinary worker, telling them, in English as well as in Spanish, why her beliefs, her plans, her experience, and her education should garner their votes. She is smart, she is qualified, she is female.
I am also a few weeks pregnant with my first child … and I am hoping it will be a boy.
Wait. Of course I hope the baby will be healthy. Of course that is most important above all. But with my next thought, I hope I have a boy first. Then "the pressure" will be off. The pressure that was coming from my mother, my husband, his family, people I don't even know. My father didn't stop until he got his son — it took him seven tries. Even the woman at the checkout stand ringing up my prenatal vitamins was wishing me luck in having a boy.
It somehow will prove my husband's masculinity that he can "make men," and even though I don't contribute the chromosome to determine sex, my body will have complied. Because often we are blamed for not being able to provide the son.
A couple of weeks go by, and at our three-month appointment, our OB-GYN asks us, "Do you want to know the sex?" We say yes, and we hold our breath. "It's a girl" … and I am disappointed. I missed her showing me the ovaries that determined her sex because I am looking at my husband and am feeling bummed. I feel like I have let him down. Yes, he was wishing for a boy. I know this even though he never said it aloud, and of course he wants a healthy baby too … but I see in his posture his shoulders falling for a quick second.
I thought the cultural bias favoring men was something unique to the Hispanic culture of machismo. Men are considered more important, considered to have more value and be better than women. Growing up in Mexico in the '90s meant that any girls who tried to join in on sports in recess were rejected by the boys. The girls rejected them, too. I was told that playing sports with the boys made me more of a tomboy, and if I wanted to sit with them, I had to stop. In junior high school, administrators would rank students monthly based on their grades and put a numerical list every month. When I was at the top of the list one month, the director came to the classroom to berate the boys and bemoan how this "half-American girl could possibly be getting better grades than the boys." My popularity was based on who I was dating, and I quickly learned that most of my value was based on looks and who I could be married to at some point. Maybe this is why my father kept on trying to have a son.
But then my husband, who is African American, also felt this way. And then I realized the majority of my friends, no matter their ethnicity, felt this way. A Gallup poll in 2011 showed if Americans were to have only one child, they would prefer it to be a boy rather than a girl 40 percent to 28 percent (which is up from 38 percent to 24 percent when polled in 1941). So 70 years later, the gender bias has grown stronger. Gender favoritism has no cultural barriers.