Thursday, March 4, 2010

I only have one question

I'm not sure if the goal of this post was to somehow prove that there is no male disposability at work in times of disaster but I have a question. We'll get to that in a bit.

The writer uses the factor of time and references a study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to show that when disaster strikes the less time there is to make the sacrificial choice the less likely self sacrifice will lose out to self preservation. The sinking of two ships are compared.

The Titanic:
The Titanic took three hours to sink. As crises go, that's quite a long time -- long enough to make for a more than three-hour-long Hollywood epic. For the most part, it didn't force the passengers to make split-second decisions about their own survival. I mean, the band played on, for chrissake.
and The Lusitania:
Three years later, though, when the Lusitania sank off Ireland, a very different scenario played out: It took just 18 minutes for the ship to go down, and it was every man for himself. The 639 survivors were largely healthy young men and women who were best able to fend for themselves.
Now at face value there appears to be a point that when time is short people are less likely to make the ultimate sacrifice. Here's my question.

Why is it that men are still expected to make that ultimate sacrifice for women and children?

I don't know about the Lusitania but on the Titanic the practice of women and children first was heavily enforced. And by enforced I mean that some crew members that were in charge of filling and deploying the lifeboats actively pushed men to the side to get women and children on first and there were some crew (according a documentary I saw in the History channel about 2 weeks ago) that actually practiced women and children ONLY. Yes on the Titanic there were crew that actively turned away men (with the help of a gun in some cases) in order to get more women and children on board. Chivialry at the barrel of a gun.

Now some will try to divert away from the gender divide by saying it was about class and not gender. Look at the breakdown of survival rates. While it is true that the survival rates dropped as you go from third to first class I still think the more chilling part is that.:
Overall, only 20 percent of the men survived, compared to nearly 75 percent of the women.
That means when looking at class:
Out of every 100 First Class people about 60 survived.
Out of every 100 Second Class people about 41 survived.
Out of every 100 Third Class people about 24 survived.

By gender:
Out of every 100 Women about 75 survived.
Out of every 100 Men about 20 survived.

So even though the Titanic took a lot longer to go down there is still the expectation that men should give up their chance at survival to women and children. Meaning that men are and men alone are expected to ignore their own self preservation instincts. And not only that but failure to do so could lead to ridicule.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The issue of the men vs women and their survival rates is one of its own, and a disturbing one at that, but can we separate it from that of the children?

I think we can all get behind "children with one parent of either gender" first (or at least I hope we can).

As far as the issue of the Titanic, chivalry at the barrel of a gun, and survival rates--it's awful, as much of chivalry was--for both genders (can you imagine having to leave your husband being on that godforsaken ship and get on a lifeboat with your small children? holy christ...). Honestly, though, when I think of "male disposability" and that period of time I don't think of the Titanic, I think of trench warfare...

Danny said...

War is definitely one of the biggest and most timeless examples of male disposability its just that this was sparked by watching a documentary on the Titanic recently and seeing a few other posts on it.

My problem with the women and children first thing is that it equates women with children, those who really cannot fend for themselves and should not be expected to fend for themselves and dictates that merely having a womb makes a woman more important than a man. One justification for women and children first is that since women bear children they should get priority. Yet despite this older women, whose child bearing days are long past, still get priority over young men. If you want to get down to the pure survival of the race argument wouldn't a young man have more to contribute to future generations than an old woman?

womanistmusings said...

How can you even use war as a symbol of male disposablity. Men have started the majority of the wars on this planet and therefore they should be the ones fighting it.

Danny said...

Really? How many wars has your unhusband started? How many wars have any of your male relatives started? If the mostly male government of Canada suddenly went to war does that mean that simply sharing gender with them means your unhusband deserves to be sent off to war and that you, as a woman, should therefore not be expected to go off to fight?

Simple. The few men at the top that are starting the wars are not the ones being sent off to die. And while women may have been kept from fighting there were plenty that had not problem sending men off to die in war.

I'm sure you would agree that women are capable of committing sexism against each other. Is it that hard to believe that men can do the same?

Suvorov said...

womanistmusings i suppose that means that if a war was started by a woman you would have no problem sending young daughters to fight to their death instead of the men. I guess nobody told the young men who gave their lives in wars started by women like Queen Elizabeth, Catharine the Great, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Zenobia of Palmyra, Aefelflaed, Matilda of Tuscany, Lakshmibai , Margaret Thatcher and the like that they should have stayed home and let the women fight each other. Oh and could you please explain how women shaming and harassing men who dont fight doesnt contribute to war? Id love to hear what you have to say on the White Feather campaign.

Jim said...

Blaming men for starting wars is like blaming women for overpopulation. It's just dishonest. Women have been hounding men out to war for millenia, and enjoying the spoils of war for millenia.

Danny said...

Good point on the comparison to the population. It would be like blaming women for overpopulation knowing full well that not all women can bear children. You can't blame war on men because not all men support war.

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