Boy Babies: A Historical Bias
History is full of tales of monarchs who divorced their queens — or worse — for not producing a male heir. From kingdoms to commoners, when a woman gave birth to a boy, especially as her eldest, she was considered a “winner” in her village. Women who produced only girls or worse, no child, were seen as failures.
Historically, most cultures have favored male offspring for various reasons, most based in simple cultural bias. According to gender role theories, in prehistoric times, humans lived in small, nomadic groups, where the men, with more muscle and height, were primarily the hunters and warriors, while the women were tasked with raising children and gathering fruits and vegetables. These groups would follow the seasonal migration of their prey. An unbalanced tribe with only girls would have had many mouths to feed, but only gatherers to help. Adding to the imbalance was the practice that when young women partnered, they would have to join the men’s families. Women were considered property: when they moved away, her tribe lost support.
These reasons apparently underlie what first motivated couples to seek methods to sire male offspring.
Up through the Agrarian and Industrial ages, cultures continued to favor boys, as was reflected in their laws. Males generally tended the fields, or worked in the family business, or took over the throne. And sons were entitled ― by law and custom ― to inherit the farms, the land, the money, business, the throne, and to carry on the family name.
Similarly, in many cultures throughout history, families had to provide dowries — money, jewels, and property — to future husbands to take their daughters, who due to custom or law, could not inherit money or earn a living.
While laws have changed, today’s values still echo the past.