Titanic-style chivalry: My body, my choice

April 15, 2012, is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It is also around this time that the movie Titanic was re-released in 3D. So now that Titanic fever is sweeping through the zeitgeist once again, I feel compelled to lend my voice on the subject, particularly on how differently men and women were treated when the ship sank, and society’s reaction to that treatment.

As the ship was going down, the crew called for women and children to board the lifeboats first.  Since there were not enough lifeboats for everyone, many of the men went down with the ship into the icy water  and died. When the disaster was over 72% of women had survived, followed by 50% of children, and a mere 19% of men. Commentators often argue the reason for giving women preference on lifeboats was either to allow the weaker a chance at survival (whereas stronger passengers had a higher chance of toughing it out in the water), or that the species would be able to reproduce and survive more effectively than if women and men had been saved at equal rates. Yet there is another aspect of the event society often dismisses or ignores.

If the crew instead called for whites and white children to board the lifeboats first, and if people of color not only complied, but also saw their exclusion and death as sacrifices that whites were naturally entitled to, how would we reflect on the event? Would we regard it as a noble sacrifice? Would we refrain from questioning why so many felt obligated to commit suicide based solely upon their existence in a particular birth group? I do not believe so. I believe we would have been asking some very different questions we currently are not asking of men, namely:

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  • Why is it offensive for society to say a woman’s place is in the home, but not offensive to say that a man’s place is in the grave?
  • What cultural pressures have so conditioned men to believe that their mere existence as men decreases their value relative to that of women, to the point that women are entitled to their very lives?
  • Why did women have a higher survival rate than children?
  • If the primary reason for excluding men was to save the weaker and leave the more able-bodied to swim, why were the elderly not saved before the young? Why were children not saved before women, or even pregnant women before non-pregnant women?
  • If excluding men served mainly to preserve the species, why were pregnant women not given priority over non-pregnant or elderly women, the latter of whom could not have children? And were the populations of the passenger’s respective nations of origin so disproportionately concentrated within the Titanic that those countries would have died from under-population if men and women were saved at equal rates?

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When a particular principle is selectively applied, we may be certain that it is not the primary motivator, and must look for alternatives. I do not believe women were saved primarily because they were weaker, or to repopulate the species, as these arguments are highly problematic. I believe these are either secondary reasons or smokescreens that serve to occlude the very real and politically inconvenient possibility that women were saved first and foremost because they were women.

Matriarchy is the accordance to women of primacy over children and the means of reproduction, and the institution of laws and customs which grant special rights and protections to women as a political class in recognition of that primacy, while excluding men from the same. It is the other half of our history which our culture denies when it swallows whole the Feminist lie that gender equality is a one-way street. The phrase “women and children” (as opposed to “women, men and children,” a much more inclusive and egalitarian grouping) is a slogan of both Matriarchy and Feminism. I encourage society to broadly observe, just as we see when we compare the survival rates of women to children on the Titanic, that whenever a law, policy or custom is promoted for the interests of women and children, it is usually women who are the primary beneficiaries. The examples are manifold.

In family courts, the phrase “best interest of the child” often actually means best interest of the mother, which is why children are often reflexively given to mothers in high-conflict divorces. When child support and welfare are given to single mothers with no oversight into whether the money is spent for the benefit of children, it is clear that the effect is not to bail out children from impoverished conditions, but to bail out single mothers.

The Domestic Violence Industry, founded upon the Feminist lie that men are nothing but perpetrators and women are nothing but victims, chants endlessly that its raison d’etre is to protect women and children, and turns a blind eye to abuses inflicted upon children by female perpetrators, leaving a man whose partner is abusive toward his children with no shelter to turn to.

Some dispute the role of sex in determining who was saved, and instead argue that class served a more prominent role. Indeed, first class members were selectively saved before those in second or third class. But the analysis for this line of argument stops there. When we further break down the victimization stats by sex within each class, we get a different picture. Among third class passengers, for example, 49% of women and 13% of men were saved. In addition to women being saved at roughly four times the rate of men, the disparities in survival by sex is also a critical factor and a common denominator across class lines, making it evident that class was more a coefficient of gender than the other way around.

Recently, when the Costa Concordia wrecked off the coast of Italy, society was given a chance to display how far it had progressed in 100 years. The results, while still disappointing, were yet encouraging. As reported by A.N. Wilson in the Daily Mail, a UK publication, “One of the features of the disaster that has provoked a great deal of comment is the stream of reports from angry survivors of how, in the chaos, men refused to put women and children first.”

Horror of horrors. Lining men up to knock them down just isn’t as easy as it used to be. Am I supposed to feel ashamed? On the contrary, I feel glad that men were willing to stand up for themselves, rather than be marked as second-class citizens simply due to their sex. Wilson continues:

When the Titanic went down in April 1912, the Captain’s orders were: ‘Women and children first!’ Although this legendary edict was never part of maritime law, it was adhered to so strictly on the Titanic that men were actually stopped from boarding lifeboats, many of which went to sea only three-quarters full. There were only a few exceptions to the unvarying tales of heroism: three men in steerage who disobeyed the rule – Italians, coincidentally – were shot.

Wilson forgets that a critical element of heroism is the possession and exercise of the choice to place oneself in the line of fire for the benefit of others. When people are coerced or forced into sacrifice and death, they are not heroes, but victims. Wilson goes on: “Flora Annie Steel – a forgotten name now, but a famous author in 1912 – wrote a poem in the paper saying that the men who perished in the Titanic disaster achieved a mercifully quick death and instant glory whereas their wives were left to grieve and fend for themselves.”

The words of Flora Steel are similar to those of Feminist and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who said “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.” One wonders why men should bother making these traditional sacrifices at all when they are often twisted into forms of abuse against those they sacrifice for. But moving beyond the incidence of shipwrecks, we may use this occasion to question why men should feel it is their role as men to reflexively place themselves in danger, or sacrifice their lives for women, in any situation.

If I see a woman being attacked in the street by a man, for example, I will at least fulfill my responsibility as a citizen by calling the police. But as far as playing the traditional male hero and intervening with my life, I cannot say I feel compelled to do so. Now I may very well choose to do so, if I am reasonably certain the attacker is unarmed and that she did not strike first. But if after calling the police I instead shrug my shoulders and walk away, why not? If I were attacked in the street, would a woman see it as her role to risk her life to save mine? And if I were to make that risk or sacrifice, is there any evidence the woman I saved would be any more grateful to me than our culture in general is grateful toward men as a group for the historic sacrifices they have made on behalf of women? My body, my choice.

If I happen to live with a woman and a criminal breaks in, and she hides under the bed and tells me to check it out rather than help me defend my home (or better yet, leave the premises together), I would not feel obligated to perform my “manly duty” to confront the intruder on her behalf. On the contrary, I would feel more than entitled to open the window, climb out, leave the house and everything in it behind me, and then call the police from a safe distance. And I would not feel the least bit of shame in doing this. If instead it were I who hid under the bed, would my partner see it as her role to personally ensure the security of the house?  And why should I risk my life for mere bricks and mortar, or for a woman who has a 50% chance of divorcing me anyway? My body, my choice.

I apply the same reasoning to all disasters – including burning buildings, earthquakes, and the like – where an attempt to rescue a woman would mean risking a man’s life: that men should not feel pressured to risk their lives for women by social compulsion, but rather are free to do so – or not – by individual choice. The blood sacrifice of men, which has historically been poured out for the safety and security of women, children and society, is a gift. It is not an entitlement, and no one has the moral authority to take that away from them. My body, my choice.

Now if a child was in danger, I would most likely act to save that child. In addition, I will refrain from speaking ill of men who choose to sacrifice their lives for women. If they wish to do so, in full knowledge that their sacrifices as men will neither be remembered nor appreciated by our misandric culture, that is their choice – so long as they do not attempt to force that responsibility on other men, nor prevent me from empowering my brothers by preaching the good news that they don’t have to. My body, my choice.

Ah yes – my body, my choice! I do like that phrase, don’t you? It feels rather empowering to say it. The social contract is broken, and this is cause not for our consternation, but celebration. Men as a collective are no longer obligated to die for women, and it is our great honor to proclaim this good news to the world. The time has come for men to assert their vulnerabilities as men, and to challenge the role of male protector. I am proud to stand by my brothers in such rare and invaluable male-friendly spaces, and to look back on the suffering men faced on the Titanic and say “never again.”

Sources:

Henderson, John R. “Demographics of the Titanic Passengers: Deaths, Survivals, and Lifeboat Occupancy.” Ithaca College website.www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/titanic.html

Wilson, A.N. “Whatever Happened to Women and Children First?” Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2087585/Cruise-ship-Costa-Concordia-sinking-Whatever-happened-women-children-first.html

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