Shortly after the sinking of the Costa Concordia we started having a low level grumble in the media about the failure to implement a “women and children first” evacuation policy. Others including Elusive Wapiti and Vox Day have rightly pointed out that it is wholly irrational for our society to expect men to follow cultural norms which have long been invalidated by feminism. As Brendan put it in a different context:
If liberation for women meant liberation from accountability to men, liberation for men meant liberation from responsibility to women.
It turns out that feminists actively derided this policy following the sinking of the Titanic. As one article from the Daily Mail points out:
…such an attitude provoked sharp responses from early feminists, who believed that ‘women and children first’ infantilised women, and it gave rise to the slogan ‘Votes not Boats’ for the female sex.
Even worse, feminists of the day denied the unbelievable sacrifice of the men who gave their lives so that mostly women (and a much smaller percentage of children) could be saved. The Daily Mail tells us of the famous feminist of the day wrote:
…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.
There may well be no constant greater than feminist female martyrdom.
As I wrote in the beginning the complaints strike me as fairly muted. I think those who are criticizing the male passengers at some level understand the absurdity of their position. Most of these complaints also tend to conflate the failure of a sufficient number of men to volunteer to be the last to enter the lifeboats with the alleged abandonment of the ship by the captain. The charges against the captain do appear quite serious. An editorial in USA Today opens with:
You can say one thing about the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia: He’s no stickler for traditions. Women and children first? The captain goes down with his ship? They’re not for him. While frightened passengers scrambled to escape his capsizing ship, Francesco Schettino was safe in a lifeboat, resisting orders to get back aboard.
Mark Steyn is even more damning in his piece:
The miserable Captain Schettino, by contrast, is presently under house arrest, charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. His explanation is that, when the vessel listed suddenly, he fell into a lifeboat and was unable to climb out. Seriously. Could happen to anyone, slippery decks and all that. Next thing you know, he was safe on shore, leaving his passengers all at sea. On the other hand, the audio of him being ordered by Coast Guard officers to return to his ship and refusing to do so is not helpful to this version of events.
Yet the charges against the male passengers on the ship are much more murky. They seem to all come back to the same assertion that a few men weren’t entirely courteous in making their way to the lifeboats (again from Mark Steyn):
On the Costa Concordia, in the words of a female passenger, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboat.”
The fact I see very little attention being given is that “Women and children first” is an incredibly disruptive way to load lifeboats. When a ship is sinking time is of the essence. The captain of the Costa Concordia in all likelihood saved incredible numbers of lives by not implementing this foolish policy. There were 4,200 passengers and crew on the ship (source), and so far we only know of 11 dead and 21 missing (source). Even if we assume that all currently missing are in fact dead, this still means that 99.24% of the passengers and crew made it out alive. Given this incredible survival rate alone, the complaints that not enough men chose to give up their seats on lifeboats is downright bizarre. I doubt those disappointed that more men didn’t die have really considered this.
We know from historical implementations of the policy that it creates a great deal of additional complexity at a time when there is already more than enough stress and confusion. The Daily Mail describes the famous original implementation of the policy on HMS Birkenhead:
Some women did not want to go on their own — they had to be torn away from their husbands, carried over to the bulwark and dropped over the ship’s side.
The original Birkenhead drill was effective because the captain and crew were military and there was a way to enforce the order with lethal force. The idea that a civilian cruise ship crew could even enforce this kind of policy is laughable. While there are some accounts of crew members firing into the air on the Titanic to restore order, if a significant number of the men on board had chosen to disregard the policy it seems unlikely that the crew could have prevailed.
Additionally, there is going to be enough confusion on a sinking ship. This call to add additional complexity to the process only makes sense if one is absolutely wedded to a rule which has only rarely been implemented. Keeping men off of lifeboats only throttles the lifeboat load and launch process. Put this practice in place on a sinking cruise ship, and you’ve just created over a thousand heart rending farewell scenes smack in the middle of your lifeboat staging areas. Unless the crew is prepared to forcibly pick up women and throw them physically into lifeboats as they did on HMS Birkenhead you had better hope you have plenty of extra time. The same problem came up on the Titanic when implementing this policy. Many lives were needlessly lost in order to achieve the desired sex ratio of survivors on the Titanic.
The only answer given both the realities of feminism and the logistical nightmare of this policy is to acknowledge that this historically short lived practice is something from the past. This doesn’t mean that no men will ever sacrifice for women, but that men will not be expected to sacrifice for women, especially those women who have no obligation to the men themselves. Individual men will continue to protect their own, but the idea that men in general have an obligation to women in general is dead. Another article in the Daily Mail describes a husband on the Costa Concordia giving up his life jacket to save his wife of 40 years:
‘There weren’t enough life jackets. I can’t swim so he gave me his life jacket. ’He shouted “jump, jump, jump”.
‘I froze and couldn’t jump, but he jumped off the ship and shouted upwards “come on, don’t worry”.
‘I jumped off and the last thing I heard him say was that I would be fine.
‘Then I never saw him again.’