Sunday, August 23, 2015

Titanic Lie

HMS Titanic survivors:     
Donald Trump proving that male gallantry is dead
and male self aggrandising and knee-jerk misogyny is
alive and well. But were men ever gallant?

Adult female survivors: 324
Adult male survivors: 323
Children survivors: 56

When a male comedian performing at the London Apollo recently mocked the 'women and children first' rule of the sea, saying it makes sense for children but surely 'women are in the wrong category', I decided to do a spot of research on this oft cited and much resented example of sexism against men. 

Sure enough, as I suspected and against popular mythology, even on the Titanic, which is thought the exemplar of this gallant rule in action, the number of men and women that survived was almost exactly the same - only one less man - and the first lifeboat launched had all male passengers aboard. If the captain hadn't ordered women and children first into the lifeboats, based on what happened in other ship sinkings the men would likely have saved themselves in much greater numbers still. 

The reason for men's lament about the woeful sexism against them on the Titanic is that there were many more men on board (approximately 1,200 more) so the percentage of women survivors was considerably higher than the percentage of male survivors. But many of these men were crew who would have drowned with the initial flooding of the engine room rather than being denied a place in a lifeboat. There were only 22 female staff members compared with 896 men - in the days when the all-male parliaments and voters didn't allow married women to work in the paid workforce. There were also almost twice as many male as female passengers, reflecting men's far greater freedom to travel than women in these times. 

The Lusitania that sunk just three years later exposed the myth of male chivalry in full, with men fairly charging the limited lifeboats and making up the vast majority of survivors.  

Gallantry does not come naturally to most men, it seems, as really both these ship sinkings show. Most women know this, but most men still prefer to maintain the illusion of male gallantry, portraying themselves as self-sacrificing heroes and protectors of women who, conversely, are portrayed as pathetic damsels in distress waiting on their men to rescue them - don't wait women, they're not coming! - and or self-serving creatures who happily leave men to perish at sea or send them out to work while they relax at home or go shopping. 

In a 2012 Swedish study - you can count on the Swedes to see through the sexism - of all the major ship sinkings over the last 150 years, including the Titanic, men have overwhelmingly saved themselves rather than the women and children on board, with on average 17.9% of women passengers surviving compared with 34.9% of adult male passengers surviving and only 15.3% of children. So roughly twice as many men survive ship sinkings as do women.  

Add to this the fact that virtually all of the criminally rich business and banking barons, as well as political and religious tyrants and con-men throughout history responsible for systematically destroying countries and cultures across the globe, killing millions to make their billions, were men, and the notion of male chivalry seems about the most titanic lie ever told and sold. 

Donald Trump in his uber arrogant bid to be the next US president while hating on all women who aren't a 10 (sorry Heidi Klum), in many ways exposes the reality of the essential male, as a self-serving narcissist without an ounce of real courage or chivalry in him. If even ten percent of men were truly brave and chivalrous - like Rose's Jack - the world would look a far cry from the way it looks today and in a way Trump, by showing men's true colours, is doing the world a favour - unless of course he wins, which would be the sinking to end all sinkings of the HMS US and possibly the world. Get your life-jackets, women!

Ah! My good man is back with the shopping. I must go and help him unpack. You will (and do) call him emasculated, but I call him emancipated. For he is the kind of man who in serving and supporting others, especially women, shows that if the test of gallantry came at sea or on land he would be prepared to save others before himself. Alas, I fear he is the exception that proves the rule and when it comes to it, there just won't be enough life-jackets to go round.   

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