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Jewish World Review August 9, 1999 /27 Av 5759

Suzanne Fields

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Chauvinist sows -- oink oink -- THE NEW TECHNOLOGISTS can do what neither husband or wife can do. They can determine the sex of your baby. It's not foolproof and it's not available to every mom who wants to choose.

But at a high-tech lab in Fairfax, Va. doctors can get a woman pregnant with the sex of the baby she wants.

It's a technique first used in cows, but it's controversial among medical ethicists who debate whether the procedure should be applied to humans. Aside from whether it's right or wrong, what surprised the scientists at the clinic is that American women overwhelmingly want girls.

The lab, which uses a process called Microsort, reports that of the first 111 attempts, 83 were for girls and 28 were for boys. This certainly runs counter to the wishes of most women (and men) in the rest of the world.

"Women are the driving force, and women want daughters,'' says Ronald J. Ericsson (CQ), who invented another method for sex selection used in fertility clinics in other parts of the United States. "(Women) used to call and there would be this qualification: `I love my two boys to death but...,' '' he told reporter Lisa Belkin, a mother of two sons, in the New York Times Magazine. "Now ...there's no apology.''

Although the Fairfax lab began by trying to "create'' girls, a strain of feminism is also at work. You could call it "female chauvinism.''

For those who don't remember the 1960s, "male chauvinism'' was a phrase coined by feminists who worked with men in leftist political groups, who tired of making coffee while men made policy. They protested that male attitudes, language and strategies toward women grew out of a sense of male superiority.

In the '90s, we've entered a phase of "female chauvinism.'' You see -- and hear -- female chauvinists everywhere -- in movies, novels, on television and worst of all, in real life.

The 1991 movie "Thelma and Louise'' was the cutting edge for female chauvinists. Susan Sarandon and Gena Davis depict two women who go on a rampage against the opposite sex. Except for a male cop, no decent man is depicted in the film. In a scene where one of the women shoots and kills a would-be rapist, women in audiences across America applauded wildly. The two heroines finally decide to drive off a cliff: It's better to be dead than to wed.

"Thelma and Louise'' has been reincarnated in "Runaway Bride,'' starring Julia Roberts, whose smile could launch a thousand ships. But instead she uses it to snare men. She doesn't kill her male quarry. Nothing as simple as that. The runaway bride emasculates four bridegrooms by jilting them at the altar. Richard Gere, the hero, forces a traditional happy heterosexual ending that is about as logical as Richard Gere marrying Thelma and Louise.

Female chauvinism thrives on television, too. In a shocking scene from "Sex and the City,'' the popular HBO sitcom about single women in Manhattan, it takes on a particularly nasty twist. When a rich man in his '70s gets out of the bed of a beautiful young blond, the camera focuses mercilessly on his lumpy, sagging bare bottom which the bunny observes with disgust and repulsion. This is two-for-one female chauvinism: sexism and ageism.

Such meanness does not go undetected by men. The word "misandry'' (hatred of men), in fact, is insinuating its way into a male vocabulary as a form of protest. The National Organization for Men argues that misandrists always focus on men as violent and abusive and this is having deleterious effects on men's sense of self. (A lot of confident men heartily disagree, of course.)

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"Spinster lit'' -- angry novels about single women -- often celebrate misandrists. Sometimes, in fact, the only good man is a sensitive, artistic, out-of-reach homosexual.

Anthropologist Lionel Tiger has written a book about the degeneration of the postmodern man, which he aptly calls "The Decline of Males.'' He describes an advertisement in the window of a cosmetics store: a woman, holding up a small mammal, says, "Why test on poor defenseless little animals when they could use my husband?''

As we debate the ethics of choosing the sex of a child in a brave new world, we might contemplate the disaster if far more girl babies are born, creating a gender gap that would ruin thousands and thousands of Valentine Days. A chauvinist sow is no better than a chauvinist boar, after all.


©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate