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A Titanic mistake? New research sinks the “women and children first” myth.

Another manifestation of Sink Misandry

The Titanic sank 100 years ago today, and Men’s Rights Activists are still pissed off about it.

They’re not really pissed off that it sank. They’re pissed off that the men on board were more likely to go down with the ship than the women. You know, that whole “women and children first” thing.

Some MRAs were so pissed off about this that they were planning to march on Washington on this very day in an attempt, as they put it, to “Sink Misandry.”

You don’t know how much I would have loved to see this, a dozen angry dudes marching in circles on the National Mall carrying signs protesting the sinking of the Titanic and demanding that in all future sinkings of the Titanic that women and men be equally likely to drown in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. For that would be justice at last!

But, alas, due to unspecified logistical problems this march was cancelled some months back, and so misandry remains unsunk.

Or does it?

For you see, it turns out that the whole “women and children first” thing was not really a thing. Oh, on The Titanic it was. But women unfortunate enough to be passengers on sinking ships that weren’t the Titanic (or the HMS Birkenhead, which sunk off the coast of South Africa in 1852) weren’t able to push ahead to the front of the line. That, at least, is the conclusion of a new Swedish study (link is to a pdf of it).

As Discovery News explains:

The chivalrous code “women and children first” appears to have sunk with the Titanic 100 years ago.

Long believed to be the golden standard of conduct in a shipwreck, the noble edict is in fact “a myth that has been nourished by the Titanic disaster,” economist Mikael Elinder of Uppsala University, Sweden, told Discovery News.

Elinder and colleague Oscar Erixson analyzed a database of 18 peace-time shipwrecks over the period 1852–2011 in a new study into survival advantages at sea disasters.

Looking at the fate of over 15,000 people of more than 30 nationalities, the researchers found that more women and children die than men in maritime disasters, while captains and crew have a greater chance of survival than any passengers.

Being a woman was an advantage on only two ships: on the Birkenhead in 1852 and on the Titanic in 1912.

The notion of “women and children first” may have captured the popular imagination, but it’s never been an official policy for ship evacuations. It wouldn’t be fair, nor would it be an efficient way to get as many people as possible to safety.

Nor was “women and children” strictly enforced even on the Titanic. True, my great-grandfather, the mystery writer Jacques Futrelle, was one of those who went down with the ship, while his wife and my great-grandmother, writer Lily May Futrelle made it off safely (in the last lifeboat). But there were many men who survived, and many women who died.

If you want to get mad about the sinking of the Titanic all those years ago, get mad at the White Star Line for not bothering to equip the ship with lifeboats enough for everyone on it. Blame the captain, for ordering the ship to continue plowing ahead on a dark, foggy night into an area of the Atlantic where numerous icebergs had just been sighted by a number of other ships. Blame the crew for botching the evacuation – for the strange lack of urgency after the ship hit the iceberg, for the lifeboats leaving the sinking ship with half as many passengers as they could fit.

Much like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, Elinder and Erixson’s research has poked a giant hole in the “women and children first” myth. Of course, MRAs aren’t interested in historical accuracy. They’re looking for excuses to demonize women and feminists. So I imagine we’ll be hearing about the Titanic from them for years to come.

Here’s another tragic sinking, of yet another ship without a sufficient number of lifeboats:

EDIT: I added a couple of relevant links and fixed a somewhat egregious typo.

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Posted on April 15, 2012, in a voice for men, antifeminism, chivalry, evil women, misandry, misogyny, MRA, oppressed men, the fucking titanic, white knights. Bookmark the permalink. 371 Comments.

  1. I know Adi’s a jerkface and got a lot wrong in his comment, but can we realize some of the complexity of suicide here? I want to correct some of the narratives I’m seeing:

    1. It is exceedingly common for people who make suicide attempts (successful or not) to be ambivalent about actually wanting to die. Not everyone who tries to kill themselves necessarily wants to be dead. About a quarter of suicide attempts are impulsive decisions made 5 minutes before the act so “wanting to die” can be a very different emotion even between the various cases where there is clear intent.

    2.There is a large range of behaviors between standard self-harm for relief and suicide, often called “suicidal gestures” or “parasuicide” where intent to die is not clear or may be absent. The usual case is someone taking a sub-lethal overdose of medications in order to hurt oneself or in order to demonstrate to others the seriousness of their suffering, but there are other means that are sometimes encountered. Women are more likely to commit these behaviors at somewhere between a 2:1 and 1:1 ratio with men but this may be an artifact of biased sampling and the gender gap seems to be closing.These acts will occasionally result in death due to misjudgment of lethality or accident or whatever. I am guessing this is what Adi means by an “unintentionally successful suicide attempt” but we can’t be sure since he’s not going to come back. In any case everyone is right that suicidal gestures aren’t “fake” and deserve psychiatric care and attention, if only because they’re dangerous in themselves and a predictor of future suicide.

  2. OK, a few comments on your collected words:

    @Kendra:

    Nobody has treated him as if he’s disposable, and nobody has denied giving him help for being a man.

    You don’t know that, and I am not telling you, because you will abuse me.

    PASTA!, so what’s the MRM doing to help these men in crisis?

    For starters, engaging those who support policies that boil down telling men in crisis to fuck off and fend for themselves.

    @Hellkell:

    And he had resources, but came from an era where he would have been ashamed to use them, all that macho John Wayne shit. That stigma is something feminism’s trying to erase

    Reread this.

    @pecunium:

    Nope. Depends on the context. If the actions of some women can be shown to be a present threat to another group of people, and not dealing with that threat poses a persistent threat, then the systems in place need to reflect that.

    And my question is: if the actions of some women can be shown to be a present threat to another group of people, do you support dealing with that threat by implementing policies that target women as a group?

    @pecunium:

    After the first emergency phase, WFP’s intervention
    increased. The agency started distributing two-week rice
    rations and introduced a coupon system for people living
    in affected areas so they could receive the rations. Thanks
    to this intervention, over 4 million Haitians received food
    aid. Also, to ensure women’s safety, who most often carry
    food for the family, distributions took place in the morning,
    in broad daylight, and at less than two hours walk from their
    residence.

    Which seems to give the lie to a pair of claims. That men were systematically denied food,

    Wow congrats, you quoted a fragment that didn’t mention gender-preferential food distribution as evidence that there was no gender-preferential food distribution. It did mention one good policy however, that of doing the distributions in broad daylight, because it improved the safety of everyone who received the food, not just women. It is to be noted however that they only cite the safety of women as the motivation.

    and that there were no UN agents reports to be found which detailed safety concerns for women who were collecting food.

    Well I am sure that safety concerns for women were detailed to the tiniest scratch in these report. What the reports’ authors didn’t give a fuck about was the safety of men.

    The report has 30 occurrences of the word “women” and zero occurrences of the word “men”, the latter being probably a good thing given that whenever men as a group were implied in the document, they were always implied as a problem.

    On a more serious note, you have alleged a positive thing; two actually, one that there are “feminist operative agents” in the UN, and two that they have been fabricating stories to make it seem that, “men are evil and woman are morally superior”.

    While it might be somewhat difficult to contact them directly, let alone get them to produce a testimony amounting to the admission of fabricating slanderous lies about men, I hope I can at least convince you of those agents’ existence. The evidence for that is in the very document you quoted, which contains multiple references to “UN WOMEN” – a whole feminist sub-organization within the UN. I believe it is quite reasonable to assume that feminist organizations are womanned by feminist agents.

    As I said before, to insist on allowing one group of people to impose lethal harms on another is evil. You are choosing to justify that evil.

    It is equally evil to insist on punishing a group of people for the actions of individuals. You are choosing to justify that evil.

    @pecunium:

    BASTA believes the press when it says men are being “opressed”

    Actually if I saw that framed as oppression anywhere in the MSM, I would ask you to pinch me.

    but he refuses to believe the press when it says that the reason for that, “opression” is that the men were acting badly.

    No, I don’t need the press to tell me that morally wrong actions by a tiny minority minority of men are being used as an excuse to implement policies against all men. I know it happens all the time.

    The language is pretty straightforward. I didn’t see too much in the way of jargon (though from 16 years of military briefings, esp. the Battle Update Briefings, I may not be the best judge of jargon-density).

    Didn’t it occur to you that after 16 years of work in that very subsystem of society which depends on male disposability both for its ethos and for its continued existence, you may not be the best judge in the matters of male disposability?

    @Magpie:

    What’s wrong about trying to get attention anyway? How can you get help if no one knows you are suffering?

    If you are a woman, nothing. If you are a man, the wrong thing about it is that it is unlikely to work. You will get contempt instead.

  3. Oh, Pasta, fuck off. I’m not sure what you were getting at quoting me, but if you really think that feminism isn’t trying to erase those kinds of stigmas, you’re even dumber than I thought.

  4. If you are a woman, nothing. If you are a man, the wrong thing about it is that it is unlikely to work. You will get contempt instead.

    Ok, BASTA the solution to this is not to also have contempt for women who are seeking help but to not have contempt for men who are. We shouldn’t stop supporting women, we should be supporting men more. Easier said than done, but… duh???

  5. Kendra, the bionic mommy

    You don’t know that, and I am not telling you, because you will abuse me.

    I don’t know the help my own husband got after being in a tornado? I don’t need you to tell me what help was offered to my husband and sons, because I literally saw them get the help. I am telling you that he is a male victim of a disaster and that nobody treated him as disposable. Nobody denied giving him food, money, clothes, and other types of help. We all got the same help. If anyone here is being abusive, it’s you. You’re the one blaming women for surviving natural disasters, and I’m sick of it.

  6. @Adi,

    Wait, wait, wait a minute…You say attempted suicides and successful suicides are nothing like the same thing, but then mention a family member of yours who supposedly only wanted to attempt suicide rather than be successful but was accidentally successful? You do realize those two things are contradictory, right? The latter only proves that unsuccessful attempts should be taken just as seriously as successful ones because what if it’s “accidentally” successful another time? Think, person!

  7. Regarding self-harm and attention-seeking, in my personal experience, I did know one – one – girl who cut herself in public, including at the mall while she was out with a friend of mine. When my friend asked her what the fuck, she replied that she had to. This girl also frequently lied about being pregnant and then miscarrying, and having an allergy to sunlight. She would invite herself over to her friends’ homes and expect to be fed very specific foods, she stole oil of St. Francis of Assisi that my friend had for her deceased father. She claimed to be a Pagan high priestess and to be able to perform spells that changed people’s hair colour, but only she could see them. She also claimed to be able to make it rain when she was angry (such as wanting a poster my friend had won at a fair). I don’t know what was wrong with her, but she was a chronic liar and very manipulative.

    That all said, she was an EXTREME example. I’ve known at least four other people who cut themselves and I resent that they and their pain would be dismissed as “attention-seeking” And as others have noted, even if it were attention-seeking, it would have been attention they NEEDED. You don’t take a fucking scalpel to your shoulder (I know two people who did this and carry pretty nasty scars) because you’re “a whiny attention-whore”. You don’t carve symbols into your arm with a kitchen knife (my brother) to make a makeshift scar tattoo because you’re “emo”. Even the girl mentioned above – and she is the extreme, not the norm, of people who cut – must have had some reason for doing what she did. It’s just that she was impossible to be friends with due to her constant dishonesty.

  8. @Kendra, Come on, you don’t know your own experience nearly as well as PASTA! does. /sarcasm

    (I have a feeling that if data existed showing that men were disproportionately injured by tornadoes, PASTA! would claim misandry because, you know, MOTHER Nature.)

    @PASTA! Can you clean up your blockquote disaster? That wall of text is nearly unreadable. But here are a few things you seem to be conveniently ignoring.

    The safety concerns about women were well documented in the earthquake’s aftermath, as I explained to you here: http://manboobz.com/2012/04/15/a-titanic-mistake-new-research-sinks-the-women-and-children-first-myth/comment-page-4/#comment-146985 This does not mean that there should be no safety concerns for me, but it does (I think) justify prioritizing the safety of the group being assaulted most frequently — especially since, as you yourself admit, this in no way harmed men and in fact may have helped them too. It appears your need to say men suffer the worst oppression of anyone ever wins out even in situations where no one is suffering because of an action.

    There was a logic to the way aid was targeted in the aftermath of the earthquake, as I explained to you here: http://manboobz.com/2012/04/15/a-titanic-mistake-new-research-sinks-the-women-and-children-first-myth/comment-page-4/#comment-146984 (Please note the observation of aid workers that people were SHARING their aid.)

    I’ll go back to Mother Nature’s standard response to you: http://i.imgur.com/P8yTL.jpg

    And hope Pecunium will swoop in with his new “citation needed” weapon of doooooom.

  9. Basta: And my question is: if the actions of some women can be shown to be a present threat to another group of people, do you support dealing with that threat by implementing policies that target women as a group?

    Asked and answered, as I said before Depends on the context. If the actions of some women can be shown to be a present threat to another group of people, and not dealing with that threat poses a persistent threat, then the systems in place need to reflect that.

    If you can’t understand so simple a response to what you asked, why should we bother to reply at all?

    Well I am sure that safety concerns for women were detailed to the tiniest scratch in these report. What the reports’ authors didn’t give a fuck about was the safety of men.

    To quote you: You don’t know that. If you can find one of them saying that, feel free to cite it. Until then, no sale.

    I hope I can at least convince you of those agents’ existence.

    Not by your inference. Show me some evidence stronger than your conspiracy driven persecution complex.

    Didn’t it occur to you that after 16 years of work in that very subsystem of society which depends on male disposability both for its ethos and for its continued existence, you may not be the best judge in the matters of male disposability?

    Gee, someone who has direct knowledge of the actual “disposability” is a bad judge of that disposabilty, whereas someone who theorises about it is the good judge.

    In other words, upon consideration, yes, I think I am a better judge of it than you are see Supra, re persecution complex.

    And… because pretty much all you’ve provided is your, decidedly biased and unsupported opinions, allow me to direct you to someplace which has the answer to all your problems

  10. Kendra, the bionic mommy

    @Kendra, Come on, you don’t know your own experience nearly as well as PASTA! does. /sarcasm

    (I have a feeling that if data existed showing that men were disproportionately injured by tornadoes, PASTA! would claim misandry because, you know, MOTHER Nature.)

    No kidding. PASTA! knows all about how my husband was treated after a disaster. I need to tell my husband all of his memories about Red Cross workers giving him bottled water, meals, clothes, blankets, and a tetanus shot were all in his imagination. He also needs to know that Sam’s Club and the Royals didn’t give him underwear, socks, and toiletries. I have sons, so apparently my memories about receiving toys, clothes, and diapers for them are also not real. After all, PASTA’s persecution fantasies can not be contradicted by anyone’s lived experiences.

    The evidence for that is in the very document you quoted, which contains multiple references to “UN WOMEN” – a whole feminist sub-organization within the UN. I believe it is quite reasonable to assume that feminist organizations are womanned by feminist agents.

    BASTA, the reason there is a UN Women is because men’s needs are already seen as the default. The UN Women group can do a better job at addressing problems that disproportionately affect women around the world. That doesn’t mean the UN is run by feminist agents, and your assumption is not reasonable. In other words, you are talking out of your ass.

  11. Only here because of ballgame’s post.

    Oh I see, Adi, it’s not because you’ve been here before, repeatedly.

  12. the reason there is a UN Women is because men’s needs are already seen as the default.

    @Kendra, I genuinely believe that the problem for people like PASTA! is that, increasingly, men’s needs are not being seen as the default, and that in and of itself equals misandry.

  13. Cloudiah: Yes, loss of privilege means there are fewer people to be automatically superior to.

  14. Cloudiah Adi is here because of Ballgame’s post. It’s not that he reads us, it’s that when one of his ideologues complains about how mean we are, he doesn’t take the time to see what was said, he gets all upset, and storms over to write a rant in response to the complaint of the people he follows.

    It’s not quite lockstep, but it’s not really personal umbrage.

  15. I love Feminist Critics. David I’ve been arguing with them for the past couple days. Here’s my last response to them. Note that somehow, we went from a sinking ship to battlefields because female privilege. We aren’t allowed on the front lines, but really that’s just women hiding behind the strong menfolk. I’ve outright asked them to provide what they thought a fair solution would have been during the Titanic disaster. I’m still waiting for a reply, but I only asked earlier this evening so maybe they are giving it some consideration.

    So a quick check tells me that the last ime selective service was used in the US was 1973. It can be reinstated and applies only to men. However, the last time it was used was forty years ago, and funny, but the US military seems to be going strong. It also appears to have far more than ten men in it doing active tours of duty. And they voluntarily enlisted.

    According to you, women can join the military and work their way through the ranks, just don’t let them fight ( I wouldn’t trust a woman to save my life..can’t be bothered to load a weapon…). But simultaneously, you’ll resent women as a group because they will not be sacrificing their lives…interesting. I guess holding that grudge is more important than the equality you claim to want.

    You have a general who says the women can fight just fine. I guess he means that women are at least competent. But we shouldn’t be allowed to fight because the men can’t wrap their heads around a competant woman soldier. So because men want to cling to the image of women as helpless and blame themselves for a death that just as easily could have been a man, it fine to keep women from the front lines and a) ensure that men continue to resent women b) prevent men from ever seeing a competant female soldier and c) continue to give society at large the last remaining excuse to not see women as full contributing members of society. Hmm.

    Ah yes that scads of money only women get. I mean, tampon boxs come filled with hundred dollar bills amiright? Or, women (including some of my friends) are joining the military to fund their educations just like men. In fact, I have a friend who enlisted a couple weeks ago. She’s been training the past few months to make sure she passes the physical tests. And she’s a military brat, so she has a very good idea of what she’s walking into.

    In case you folks haven’t noticed, I’ve been arguing that women should be on the front lines. But somehow you think I’m arguing that women should always be protected by men during war? What? I have zero problem with the draft including women too. So.

    And um, what should have been done on the Titanic so that survival would have been more equal on both sides? Any ideas?

  16. @pillowinhell, You are impressive. That is all.

  17. All these MRA’s and their “where are the menz services?” You are allowed to do it yourself you know! Every couple of months there is an article in my local paper about menz looking after each other. Here’s the latest one:

    http://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/news/local/news/general/healthy-advice-mate-to-mate/2539448.aspx

    RECEIVING advice from your mates can make a difference in men’s health, according to the coordinator of a pilot education program.

    The Mate to Mate Project peer education program will target older men to let them know what aged and community services are available in their region.

    And this is a country town in NSW, west of the mountains.

  18. I haven’t gotten to reading these yet but it appears after Apr15 MB article response to the Apr13 Discovery.com article that on Apr18/19 a 2-part rebuttal was made:

    http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2012/04/18/

    http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2012/04/19/

    I am interested in knowing if David Futrelle has written more on this issue, such as rebuttals to the two above responses, so I can read further about it.

  19. what is it with thread necro-ing, this month? It’s summer, damn it (assuming you’re northern hemisphere, sorry Kittehserf et al) go outside, play in the fresh air, step away from the ancient threads. I say this for your own good.

  20. Peter R. Sanchez

    Women and children first a myth? I don’t know about that. I have taken my wife on around half a dozen or so cruises through Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines and both of these companies announce during the muster drill that it is their “official policy” that “in the event of a disaster, women and children will be evacuated first”. I was rather surprised the first time I heard this as I had half thought it was a myth myself. Now, to what extent they would actually follow this policy in the event of an actual disaster I can’t say, however, these companies are not shy about making it know that this is their “official policy”.

  21. …You didn’t read the previous comment, did you?

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