I’ve been thinking about chivalry lately, partly because of the focus this topic receives in the manosphere. Back in May grerp posted her take on chivalry (feminism killed it), and more recently Welmer had a post about a young man’s response to a young woman bemoaning the lack of chivalry. I also stumbled on an astounding column by our friend Liz Jones where she whines about the lack of chivalry men show today.
I approach this with mixed thoughts. By manosphere standards I’m probably more of a social conservative. Part of me mourns the loss of chivalry, even while I recognize that grerp is right; feminism has for the most part destroyed chivalry and turned what once was noble into farce.
I assume many of my readers are glad to see it go, and I can understand that as well. When I first considered writing about this my first challenge was even to identify what it was I somewhat ambivalently mourned. The biggest single example I can think of is the doctrine of women and children first. For the rest of this post I’ll share some of what I found about how this actually worked on the Titanic. I’ll follow up with a later post with more thoughts on chivalry and how I think men should frame the concept in the world reworked by feminism.
Probably the best known example of women and children first in action was on RMS Titanic on April 14th, 1912. More recently leftists have tried to spin the disaster as a situation where the wealthy were given preferential access to lifeboats, leaving the working class to drown in the frigid North Atlantic. However, an examination of the actual casualty figures by Chuck Anesi tells a very different story:
First of all, if you were a man, you were outta luck. The overall survival rate for men was 20%. For women, it was 74%, and for children, 52%. Yes, it was indeed “women and children first.”
But what about class? Well, third class women were 41% more likely to survive than first class men. And third class men were twice as likely to survive as second class men.
Anesi provides more insight into the lifeboat loading process a little further down:
All 14 lifeboats, the two emergency boats, and two of the Engelhardt boats were launched. These had a capacity of 1,084 passengers. Obviously, many boats were not loaded to full capacity. There were many reasons for this; at first, many women and children were simply unwilling to be lowered 65 feet from the boat deck to the water. Some of the men put in boats were put there simply to show it was safe, and allay the fears of other passengers. (The two Engelhardt boats that were not launched floated off when the Titanic sank, and were used as rafts.)
There were 1,690 men on board the Titanic, spread between the crew and the three classes of passengers. Only 338 of the men were saved. Those who perished and many who were saved clearly made a conscious choice to allow the women and children to evacuate before them, patiently waiting even as the women refused to board the lifeboats out of fear. Anesi suggests that more lives of men, women and children could have been saved had the captain not ordered the women and children first policy:
there was enough lifeboat capacity for ALL women and children (534 persons total), AND 550 men as well. (Total capacity of the boats launched was 1,084.) This explains why, especially as the situation became more urgent, more men were put in the boats. Indeed, if the boat crews had loaded one man for each woman or child loaded, they could have expected to save all women and children, plus as many men. [I believe that if this approach been adopted from the start, the boats would have been loaded more rapidly, passenger fear would have been reduced as families were kept together, and far more lives would have been saved in the long run.]
It is hard to fathom the amount of will it would have taken to stand by on a sinking ship and wait for those who were too afraid to board the lifeboats to go first. Often feminists try to claim that men were privileged back then, and that chivalry was merely ceremonial. But you won’t convince over a thousand men to step aside when their lives are in extreme peril unless they truly accept that they have a duty to protect others. No one knew the Titanic was going to go down. The men aboard were as close to a statistical sample of the day as one would expect to find. The Guardian reinforces this point in it’s article about the differing death rates between the Titanic and the Louisitania:
They noted that on the Titanic the women and children first order was enforced by the crew, and accepted by the passengers – “otherwise the passengers could have easily revolted against such a protocol”.
And by passengers, of course The Guardian euphemistically means the men who stood by while women and children boarded the life boats.
Titanic lifeboat photo from Wikipedia Commons.