Welcome to the world, 7,000,000,000th citizen

The UN estimated that today we would welcome our 7 billionth (is that how you write it?) citizen today.

Of course, it’s completely impossible to know if it is exactly today, and if so, which baby is the 7 billionth, but coincidentally, they celebrated the birth of this citizen both in the Philippines and in India, and both were girls lucky enough to be born at all (considering recent post about prenatal elimination of female foetuses).

Welcome, Danica May and Nargis, and those approximately 489.998 other babies, born today! And those 490,000 born tomorrow too, etc. And I hope your mother will survive your birth, approximately 1500 did not, today. And I hope you will make it past your 5th birthday: 49,000 (forty nine thousand) of you will not.

I hope we can make it a better world for you. And that indeed all of you will be citizens with equal rights and opportunities.

Who’s the fairest of them all?

In his amusing book Sum, neuroscientist David Eagleman imagines a female god who makes the afterlife unpleasant by introducing equality; no one is happy unless they can look down on others.

If that is true of us, the following chart should add a bit of brightness to almost all our non-US readers. (SW, I am sorry!). Tapping on the chart seems to make a larger version appear on a separate page.

For a recent discussion of the chart, see Charles Blow’s article in the NY Times.

Gender dynamics in the Obama administration

A couple tidbits from the Suskind book. From The New Yorker:

During the early months of Obama’s Presidency—“Confidence Men” covers the first two years—his White House, Suskind says, was a testosterone-fuelled boys’ club where important female staffers and agency heads felt bullied and ignored by their male colleagues. “Friction over the role of women in the Obama White House grew so intense,” the Washington Post wrote, summarizing Suskind, that the President “was forced to take steps to reassure senior women on his staff that he valued their presence and input.”

But the really astounding bit is cited in this article in Mother Jones. Turns out Larry Summers was, on at least one occasion, more insightful about gender than Obama.

Many thanks to Bijan and Mr Jender. Sorry for delayed posting.


Suppose you organise society so that only men are allowed to work outside the home. Women are confined inside to be childrearers and housekeepers. Since women cannot work, their chances for survival depend on being supported first by their parents, and then a husband. Parents must pay for a man to take their daughter off their hands. Suppose also that there is no welfare system, so parents must rely on their children to support them in their old age. If you were a parent, you’d inevitably prefer a son, who would receive a dowry when he marries, and take care of you when you’re too old to work. Daughters are of no use to you, and a drain on your already meagre resources. It would be no surprise if you aborted/killed any baby girls. Others take the same line as you, and so the ratio of men to women becomes skewed. Now what happens when your son(s) try to find a wife? There aren’t enough women to go round. So what should one do? There are various solutions. You could arrange a wife for one son, who will then be shared amongst many brothers. Or you could kidnap a woman to be a wife for your son(s). Or you could buy a kidnapped woman, sometimes at an open auction. Since women are viewed as inferior beings in your society – you killed your baby girls, remember? – the women shared and bought will be yours to treat as possessions. Welcome to rural India.

More from Al Jazeera.