Making PMS History

Chinese girls, a vanishing breed


I confess: that title intentionally misleads.

There’s no way to make PMS vanish totally in a population of healthy girls and women. Where there is menstruation, there will be some women whose pre-period lives tend to be fraught with hormonal angst. Remedies and hormonal influences are all over the internet, as are suggestions that PMS is all in one’s mind and not really such a big deal, is it? – these largely from men who happen not to be married to a woman who suffers from PMS.

The Nazis (and others) had an effective preventive for PMS, though: hunger. Where women (imprisoned or not — see, for example, the longitudinal research on Dutch women who suffered from such malnutrition during WWII that the knock-on effects can be seen in their grandchildren’s small size and poorer health) had little to eat, where they routinely expended more calories than they absorbed and thus lost kilos of body weight, they often stopped menstruating. No menstruation, no PMS.

Of course, no babies, either.

There’s another way to largely eliminate PMS. That’s to eliminate the people prone to it. Which is what’s happening in China and India, and is spreading through much of Asia, where the trend is to get an ultrasound image of the fetus carried in a woman’s belly in order to determine its sex . . . and then, if looks female, to at least consider aborting, even if the fetus in every other respect looks healthy.

Are there false attributions? Do some male fetuses with what’s called a “shy” penis get taken for girls and thus eliminated? You bet they do, to the parents’ grief.

Those “mistakes” may end, as blood tests with greater accuracy replace the ultrasound machines that travel with doctors and nurses across rural India, giving even the poor access to the choice that fashion-conscious urban Indians have had for years. Because in India – unlike China with its wavering one-child policy – sex-specific abortion is largely the result of two factors: the Asian preference for boys (even stronger in the Hindu population, with its male-specific religious duties and tradition of cutting off married women from their birth families), plus the tradition of dowry paid by a bride’s family to a groom’s.

If dowry (which was made illegal in India in 1961, but continues in various forms) were entirely eliminated, daughters would not be regarded as an automatic economic burden. Yet sex-specific abortion did not begin in poor families, which have always dealt harshly with unwanted girls: leaving them in wasteland, failing to nourish them, allowing them to die rather than seek medical care. These abortions began in the wealthiest parts of India, in families that could well afford to raise girls. It’s a mark of the ubiquitousness of the practice that the wealthy, extended Patel family (in the Indian state of Gujarat) has announced its rejection of ultrasound and sex-specific abortion, in an attempt to model for others. Research indicates that sex-specific abortions among British and American women of Indian descent are on the rise, especially where the married couple already has a daughter or two – and these are people who pay little or no dowry as their girls marry.

Eliminating girls and women simply because of their sex is an effective way to reduce or eradicate PMS. But as the Chinese proverb has it, “Women hold up half the sky”.

So I’ll be Henny Penny, and look upward, and declare with all seriousness that we really ought to take cover, because truly, though metaphorically, the sky is falling. A continent with too few women must have, by definition, too many men for its own health . . . and that of the rest of the world.


1 Comment

Filed under China, Dowry, Family, Health, India, Law, Misogyny, One-child policy, PMS, Politics, Science

One response to “Making PMS History

  1. Daisy

    They need to make the dowry go from the male’s parents to the females parents

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