Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Deceptively Simple Question

"Are there more males or females in the world today?" As we transition to our next unit, "Women and Children/The American Family", we must look to the past to understand why today looks the way it does. Nicholas Kristof, and his wife/co-author, Sheryl Wudunn, have recently written a book, Half the Sky, about what they believe is the preeminent issue of the 21st century: the oppression, the abuse, and the murder of women worldwide.

Answer the question in the comments section of this post. Don't google it or head to a reference book. What we're interested in is your answer, and, more importantly, what makes you say it.

UPDATE: We're so pleased with the responses so far, but we'd like to resolve this question in the interests of moving on with the rest of our inquiry into this unit of study. Here is Nicholas Kristof's response to the question (emphasis added), as quoted in an interview on NPR's On the Media:
Almost everybody you ask says that there are more females, you know, because in the U.S. there are more females, in Europe there are more females. But worldwide there are actually more males, and that is because so many women have been discriminated against to death.

But there are somewhere around 100 million women who have vanished because of this kind of discrimination, and that’s more than all the men who were killed in all the wars of the 20th century; it’s far more than were killed in all the genocides. When you have that kind of oppression that just feels like a transcendent issue.

26 comments:

Drew said...

I think there are more females in the world than men. We've talked a little about this in biology this year, and one of the main reasons women have longer average life spans are because the majority of people in high risk jobs such as the armed forces and construction are males, so they have a greater risk of dying from their occupation.

Claire m said...

I think there are more men in the world than women. It seems like there are about equal amounts of men and women in developed countries, but in undeveloped countries I always hear more about women dying than men. In addition, because women are the humans who give birth, in undeveloped countries it is probably more likely for women to die in childbirth. So, because of the seemingly greater death of women in undeveloped countries I feel like there are more men in the world.

StoneA said...

I think there are more females because the majority of people dying in wars are male. Also, men usually are the ones with physically demanding jobs like farming and construction. In places where you need to farm your own food to survive men have to work into old age which becomes very taxing on the body and may cause them to have earlier deaths than the women in their area.

Caroline C said...

This is a tough question. I agree with Claire. I think there are more men in the world. I think I lean towards this answer just because of the phrase Mr. Bolos mentioned, "the oppression, the abuse, and the murder of women". It made me think of the tons of stories I've heard about the killings of innocent women in undeveloped countries. Also, Claire brought up a good point about women being the ones giving birth. This definitely has a factor in the morality rate of women because a lot of women die from childbirth. Now I want to google this!

MMarin said...

I think there are more women in the world than men. Partially, as Drew mentioned, because of male involvement in warfare. Additionally, men are more likely than women to be the victims/perpetrators of violence than women, and women have longer life spans.

We've also talked a bit in class about the bill proposed to give women more equal job rights not too long ago, which didn't pass, and it was mentioned that women in America aren't actually a minority, but are a majority. America may not be the best model for the rest of the world, however, especially considering countries like China may have very different male:female ratios.

If there are more women than men worldwide, I think that there are cultural mechanisms at work varying from country to country that allow the oppression of women to be possible despite them being a majority.

Molly Hunt said...

I agree with Marin, Andy, and Drew, although everyone's points have been very convincing. I'll bet there are more women then men. Like everyone else has said, women do live longer, many do not fight in wars, and in undeveloped countries, they are more likely to be tending to children rather than doing work in farms or factories. Although we've heard a ton of stories of men murdering women, men can murder men, and women have murdered men too.

nathans said...

I am going to have to say that there are more women in the world today. I am just going to guess that this next unit is highlighting the importance of women in society today and the change that they have undergone in history. If I look at it from a scientific perspective as everybody else has I would say there are still more women then men because there are more men dying in war and in the workplace and women generally speaking live safer lives.

Morgan L said...
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Morgan L said...

I just happened to be taking notes for psychology and we're on the unit of developmental science. One of the sections in the book is death and dying, and it talked about how the most difficult grievance is between spouses and women suffer this loss 5 times more than men. So since many men (or married men) seem to die younger then there would be more women. Everyone's answers make a lot of sense too I don't think I need to repeat it.

Zoe C. said...

I think there are more men in the world. I'm not exactly sure why I think this, though. I know that in the past, some cultures would actually kill their child if it was a girl, because what they really wanted was a boy. They wanted a boy partly because they thought them superior to girls, but also because with arranged marriages and dowries, girls were a financial burden to their families. For families that were poor, sometimes they couldn't afford a good dowry. But opposed to what others have been saying about men being mostly the ones to have worked in the fields and have the labor intensive jobs, I don't think that is completely true anymore. In parts of Africa, the men will either leave the family to go work in the city, or (and I know this is really sad) but will die (possibly from the AIDS epidemic). and then the women are forced to work all day in the fields and do all of the farming, plus take care of the family in addition. But I do think there are more men in the world.

Sarah. said...

Because you said "the oppression, the abuse, and the murder of women worldwide" I believe that there are more men in the world. I read Zoe's comment and girls have been killed in order to prevent overpopulation.

But, I guess I can't really be sure because I don't know the numbers. What I do know is that in places like the Congo, women are looked to as the head of the family. So, rape is used as a weapon of war to shame them, and to take away any kind of power they were given before. To strip them of their past.

The conflict has become a war against women, so even if they're left alive, they're considered nothing to their community.

In Darfur, rape isn't even a word in the Sharia (Islamic Law) and the closest word to it involves an allusion to "rape" which is punishable by death.

So, to answer your question, there are more males in this world (even if there aren't) because males have the power to take away what's by some considered to be a women's role in society and life.

Cleo and Leo said...

I think I remember reading once that more female embryos survive than male embryos, and also women have more longevity. As a grandmother, mother, wife, daughter, and niece, I have heard anecdotaly (sp??) that women have psychological and physical survival skills that men do not possess. It is something I have observed in my long life, too.

Madelaine C said...

I would guess that there are more women in today's world. I've heard that women generally live longer than men. I agree with the point that Molly made about women in rural areas. Generally, their domestic roles in society are safer than the men who are fighting wars. I also agree with Cleo and Leos's comment that women have certain psychological survival skills. Last year I did a project about the the Seizure of Leningrad in World War II. During the 900 day blockade of the city, most survivors were women. This was because they had maternal responsibilities whereas the men gave up because there was no way for them to fight back against the blockade

Ruchi said...

I definitely think that there are more women in the world today than men. All of those who argued my point above made great points; women generally live safer lives than men because that's the way society molds us to live them.

One of the statements on the Childhood Opinionnaire that we filled out in class today was "Boys are naturally more curious and mischievous than girls." While I disagreed with the statement, I agree 100% with the idea that society very often pressures boys and girls to believe that this is true. Boys grow up to believe that they should be the ones to go out of their way to do crazy things- get themselves killed in some cases.

Another statement on the Opinionnaire was "Girls are more psychologically aware than boys." Again, I disagreed with the statement when relating to children, but I also think that as women grow older, they primarily become more focused on the psychological aspects of life, whereas men focus on the physical.

Maybe this is a weird point to make, but society's focus on men being outgoing and physical, while the women remain psychological and reserved could have a pretty large effect on how many of us survive. Women may have a longer life span due to the "ideal" (by society's standards) toned-down and rational nature of our thoughts.

DPark said...

At first, I was thinking about China and its horrible misogynistic policies toward women and how that led to the deaths of many infant girls. But then I "zoomed out" and thought about wars and how men usually made up armies and how men die for their countries. Based off of that, I believe there are more women in the world than men.

J.D. M. said...

I remember asking the same question to my science teacher in eigth grade. She said that when a child is conceived, the Y and X chromosomes, which determine whether the child is to be a boy or girl, move at faster speeds towards the egg. That of a boy is faster. (I'm no Biologist myself, but this is the general idea). Consequently, there are more males born then females. Females have shown the tendency to live longer then males. Males are also putting themself at risk, whether it be through riskier jobs, or serving their country in the armed forces. So it seems to balance out- more males are born, but they die quicker, and in higher frequence then females.

Anna H. said...

Growing up I guess I always assumed that there were the same amount of men and women in the world. Then my freshman year we learned (if i remember correctly) that there is a slightly greater chance for a baby to be a girl than a guy. But that is only at birth, throughout time women are more often murdered (again I think, I don't know) but then again men are traditionally the ones sent off to war which increases their mortality rate. But then again in countries like China, baby boys are favored over baby girls and those baby girls are often abandoned and killed so the family can try again to have a boy baby. All in all, I think I'm going to answer the question as saying, there are generally the same amount of men and women in the world

Sam H said...

My guess is about equal. Men die younger because they fight in wars. Women, on the other side, are considered less desirable and are therefore given less attention and safety. It is sad, but, for instance, families in china that are only allowed two children slaughter their daughters and get two boys. I think that in America there are more women because they have a longer life expectancy, but the same sort of protections as boys in place from unloving parents.

Drew said...

After reading the updated post with the answer, I can only say I'm really shocked. Not that there are more men than women in the world, but the amount of discrimination going on throughout the world. With all the attention that is paid to people dying in wars and genocides, its amazing how little is paid to those "vanishing" from discrimination. I also found it very interesting that the interview used the word "vanished" instead of killed or murdered. When someone is killed, they have a funeral service and are remembered. But when someone vanishes, its like they were never there, and no one is remembers them. The fact that they would use "vanished" instead of murdered tells a lot about the state of women discriminated against, in that they are not given near as much attention as those "murdered" in wars and genocides.

Anna H. said...

I was also shocked by this. Not because of the fact there are more men than women in the world, but by the fact that the number of women vanishing is something widely unknown. 100 million is a huge number, much more than the Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. I have studied about the Holocaust in every history class I have taken and yet this is the first time my class has dedicated an entire unit to the vanished women.

Anna H. said...
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Anna H. said...
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Anna H. said...
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T King said...

This revelation was very surprising to me, I too thought there were more women in the world than men. But also the statistic that 100 million women have vanished due to discrimination and violence is horrifying and schocking to me.

Nick S. said...

I was surprised to find out that there are more men in the world than women. Especially for the reason, because women have been "discriminated against to death." But does this mean that perhaps more women are born than men?

Natalie W said...

I was also suprised to hear that there are more men in the world than women. I'm appauled that the number of men dying in perilous jobs is balanced out by the number of women who are "discriminated to death".