You would think that the arrival of a baby is an occasion for unalloyed joy. And it is — unless of course the newborn happens to be a girl.

I know from experience. Since the birth of my second daughter six weeks ago, I’ve had a steady stream of pity come my way.

And it comes from everywhere: the local café owner, Facebook, even customer service reps feel the need to commiserate. Both men and women, from those who already shoulder the seemingly onerous burden of having daughters to those who can only empathise from afar have weighed in on my sorry predicament .

The notes of sorrow are almost always well-intentioned and meant as a joke. But the regularity and ease in which they are made may indicate how little our attitudes about daughters have changed in, say, 4000 years.

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