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My new role model

07 March 2011

Do we ever stop learning from others and is it okay to speak with a 24-year-old and come away with life-changing thoughts? I think by even asking that question I am demonstrating my age, ageism and complete disregard for Gen Y. But it's awkward admitting: someone young enough to be my daughter had some really great thoughts on life and lifestyle choices. And her reasons for making her sobering decisions took me by surprise by their maturity.

There I was, saying to this young woman (who'd confessed she was no longer interested in alcohol), but you're young, you're only 24, why make a decision not to drink anymore now?

Her reply, she'd rather monitor it now knowing that if she can do it now then she could do it for the rest of her life. Her rationale included, if you give yourself the excuse that you're 24 and that makes it fine, pretty soon you're 34, then 44, and you've been drinking your whole life. And when did alcoholism distinguish between ages? She'd known 15-year-old alcoholics and 50-year-old – it certainly didn't seem to wait til you were old or something.

It struck me as a very astute observation (I know, how condescending of me) and I can reliably inform you this was no 'Serious Sally' I was speaking with but someone most people would say had pretty serious rock-chic appeal.

I'm not so sure I'd get the same analysis from a guy in the same arena and age bracket.

So what does it say about cultures where the practice of 'gendercide' is rife? In countries such as China, Taiwan, India, parts of ex Soviet Russia, and even in some ethnic minority groups in America, there is (as The Economist put it in an article of March 4, 2010) a \"war on baby girls\", where \"technology, declining fertility and ancient prejudice are combining to unbalance societies\".

If you go online and type in 'gendercide' (gender selective mass killing, taken from the title of a book by Mary Anne Warren published in 1985) 40,300 results pop up, each as disturbing as the next.

One from Canberra Times journalist Virginia Haussegger, March 22, 2010, also exhorts us here in Australia not to be too complacent: \"What is it about girls that make them so utterly undesirable? And what is it about women that make them so utterly dispensable?

\"While the so-called crime of 'gendercide' appears predominately an Asian problem, don't for a minute think that Australia isn't also complicit in the continued negating of females – as if they don't matter.

\"In our own backyard – the Pacific region – it's not baby girls who are dying unnecessarily every day – it's mothers. A New Zealand report... provides alarming reading.

\"Some of the rates of maternal death among our closest neighbours are among the worst in the world.\"

No one is yet sure what all the implications of this sex skewing will be, but The Economist article goes on to paint the beginnings of a very unpleasant picture: \"Throughout human history, young men have been responsible for the vast preponderance of crime and violence – especially single men in countries where status and social acceptance depend on being married and having children, as it does in China and India. A rising population of frustrated single men spells trouble.

\"The crime rate has almost doubled in China during the past 20 years of rising sex ratios, with stories abounding of bride abduction, the trafficking of women, rape and prostitution. A study into whether these things were connected concluded that they were, and that higher sex ratios accounted for about one-seventh of the rise in crime. In India, too, there is a correlation between provincial crime rates and sex ratios.\"

As far as I can see, it's the ultimate in non-diversity. But there's light at the end of the tunnel. South Korea, a country caught up in the practice has begun to change the culture surrounding prizing boys above girls and there is evidence the ratios are approaching the 'norm' again: for every 100 girls between 103 and 106 boys are born. Boys are more likely to die in infancy.

It's all so depressing and then the NBCF (National Breast Cancer Foundation) reaffirmed my faith in the world with the launch in late October of Register4. Feeling better about the world, I did just that: registered to help fight and eradicate breast cancer. How? It's easy. Sign up and take part as much or as little as you wish but do nothing and before you know it you'll lose the advantage.