The story of a couple from China’s Shanxi Province who gave birth to eleven daughters and only stopped having children after finally birthing a son recently went viral on Chinese social media, sparking controversy about male preference in the Asian country.
The original story published by Chinese newspaper, The Paper, highlighted the dedication of 11 sisters to their baby brother, who recently got married. The women not only took care of all of the arrangements for their brother’s big day, but also chipped in enough money to buy him and his new bride a house, because their parents were too sick and poor to help him. However, the sisters’ generosity and the mystery of how the parents were able to have 12 children during China’s infamous One Child Policy sparked a heated debate online.
As it turns out, the parents never actually planned to have so many children, but they desperately wanted a son, and didn’t stop trying until they finally had young Gao Haozhen. The mother gave birth to the first daughter when she was only 20 years old, and kept having children for the next 27 years, in the hopes of finally birthing a son.
The story generated such a heated debate online, that Gao Yu, the oldest of the siblings, decided to speak to The Paper and clarify some things.
“My parents’ generation have some conventional ways of thinking. They just wanted a son,” the 49-year-old woman said, adding that she understands her parents, and that they genuinely tried to treat all of them equally. Regarding the One Child Policy, Gao Yu said that their parents paid a remarkable amount of money in fines just so they could keep trying for a son.
Yu also revealed that out of the 11 sisters, she was the only one who went to high-school, and that two of the other sisters didn’t get any formal education at all, due to the family’s poverty. This obviously caused a lot of questions about how the parents could afford to pay the fines for having too many children, but not send their girls to school.
That the sisters raised a wedding gift of 230,00 yuan ($34,000) to buy a house for their little brother and his pregnant bride only added fuel to the fire, as people saw it as more evidence of his privilege as a man in Chinese society. However, Gao Yu told The Paper that she and her sisters were never pressured to make this gesture, and only did it because they all love Gao Haozhen very much.
To his credit, the young groom himself admitted that he has always been spoiled and protected by his 11 sisters. He remembers that they rarely bought new clothes for themselves, opting instead to buy things for him, or that whenever he had to bring water to the family home, his older sisters would always do it on his behalf. Also, most of the girls started working when they were 7 or 8 years old, but not him.
The story got mixed reactions on social media, with some people claiming that it was clear proof of male preference and privilege in China, and others praising the parents for their perseverance and the 11 sisters for their dedication and love for their baby brother.