In Sheila Gregoire’s post and syndicated column Women and Children First? A Feminist Tragedy, she is outraged that men didn’t offer to follow a women and children first (WACF) policy on Costa Concordia:
Many female passengers this week are disgusted with the males on board, as well they should be.
She offers the Titanic as an example of how things should work on shipwrecks:
When the Titanic sank, the men followed the “women and children” first rule. In fact, you were more likely to survive as a third class female passenger than a richer male one. But that was a century ago.
She is a bit murky on exactly why men have an obligation to do what the men on Titanic did. She makes vague references to honor and personal responsibility:
In 1912 it was a different world. Personal responsibility was still the main ethos of the day. People took care of their neighbours; they did not wait for government to do it for them. And people had a code of honour that included helping others when you could.
But if the reason men should sacrifice and even die in the place of women is due to honor and selflessness, a woman writing this is being incredibly rude and crass. If men have no obligation to sacrifice for unknown women but often do anyway out of graciousness, women demanding more of this is quite simply despicable. Women demanding that men give up their seats in lifeboats is the life and death equivalent to showing up at someone’s home and demanding hospitality (especially if the person doing the demanding knows they will never be in a position to have the same demand made of them). While Sheila and several of the women commenting on her blog are essentially asking men “Don’t you think you should be brave and selfless and offer to die for me now?”, an uncouth and entitled houseguest might only ask “Don’t you think you should loan us your car? Don’t you think we should sleep in your bed instead of in the guest room?” Even if you are a strong proponent of hospitality, once this attitude of unbelievable entitlement by guests takes hold you can no longer be a gracious host. This profound ungraciousness by women like Sheila is as much to blame for the death of chivalry as feminism is.
It is worth noting that Sheila makes these demands from men while accusing them of being selfish and worrying about what others will do for them:
Somehow we have lost that. It is no longer about honour and what we should do for others; it has become what others should do for us.
Telling others they need to do more for you (or people like you) while lecturing them in this way is the height of hypocrisy.
Another possible argument for WACF is that men owe this to women, and it therefore isn’t a gift men can give any more than paying the rent is a gift to one’s landlord. This would fit with the unthankful and demanding attitude we see. Sheila’s syndicated column might not be her being profoundly ungracious, it could be simply a case of the landlord demanding the rent. A commenter on Sheila’s site named Rachel made this very argument:
Women and children do not go first because they are weaker; they go first because lets face it, you need more women than men to keep the population going (men can make millions of babies in a day, women can only make 1-2 per year at best and our fertility is limited)and children are our future to continue the human race.
She just said that women’s lives are worth more than men’s lives. It also implies that fathers aren’t all that valuable beyond walking wallets and sperm donors. This blazes entirely past radical feminist all the way to female supremacist bigot. Sheila didn’t challenge this assertion, and my initial take was that it wouldn’t be fair to question Sheila’s stance on this simply because she didn’t refute it. The internet is a big place, and just because someone says something on your blog and you don’t refute it doesn’t mean you agree with them. However, a reader named Fidel did challenge Rachel on her argument:
Keep the population going … I get it.
Rachel, look up stats for abortion in America since Roe vs Wade ….
Sheila was outraged that Fidel challenged Rachel on her women are worth more than men argument. Unlike her (non) response to Rachel on the topic, she not only responded but actually scolded Fidel:
Fidel, what is the matter with you? Are you insinuating that Rachel doesn’t know about abortion? Of course she doesn’t support abortion. This is a Christian blog; many here have worked in the pro-life movement. If you want to participate in a conversation, that’s fine, but just insulting people is not helping anything, and is just showing that you want confrontation rather than a real discussion. To insinuate that Rachel is somehow ignorant of abortion is ridiculous. If you want to insult the commenters (and Rachel is a frequent one), perhaps it would be better for you to read more of this blog and see more of what she stands for.
Why should Fidel have assumed Rachel was a good Christian woman? Rachel’s Darwinian female supremacy argument wasn’t Christian in nature. And by defending Rachel’s good standing on the blog in this specific context she also seems to be lending her weight to Rachel’s argument. She actually says Fidel was insulting for the way he challenged Rachel’s men are worth less than women argument. Does she not feel that Rachel’s original statement was far more insulting than Fidel’s very measured response?
Sheila didn’t just defend Rachel’s comments once, she did so twice. Commenter Tom directly quoted Rachel’s women are worth more than men argument in his comment:
” they go first because lets face it, you need more women than men to keep the population going (men can make millions of babies in a day, women can only make 1-2 per year at best and our fertility is limited)and children are our future to continue the human race.”
That might matter if women weren’t aborting their unborn babies to the tune of a million per year.
As she did with Fidel, Sheila scolded Tom:
Tom, this point has already been dealt with. Did you read the comments? This is a pro-life blog, and just because abortion is now practiced (an abhorrence and a tragedy) does not give anyone else the excuse to not do the right thing. It looks like you’re advocating a race to the lowest common denominator.
Elsewhere in the comments Sheila indicates that she isn’t completely sure WACF is merely about Rachel’s Darwinian logic:
I’m not completely sure that was the origin of WACF. I think it was more an acknowledgement that men were stronger, and that honour demanded it. For instance, it applied to older women, too, even those who were past childbearing age. I’ll have to think on that more.
Sheila isn’t sure why women like her shouldn’t be called on to do what she so crassly demands from men, but she’ll rationalize a reason and presumably get back to us. But this still leaves the question; why does Sheila feel that men owe her this? She obviously feels strongly about this, or she wouldn’t have made this the topic of her syndicated column. Does she agree with Rachel that men’s lives are worth less than the lives of women, and that “less valuable people” need to stay away from lifeboats until all of the “more valuable people” have been rescued? Is her disagreement with Rachel merely on the logic used to determine that men’s lives are worth less, and not the fundamental conclusion? Or does she believe that men aren’t actually obligated to die in the place of women but have done so anyway out of an extreme sense of graciousness, something she demands more of in a most ungracious way? If Sheila doesn’t agree with Rachel that men’s lives are worth less than the lives of women, why did she so passionately attack those who criticized this line of argument while not bothering to point out the error in the argument itself?
I still want to give the benefit of the doubt to Sheila on this. I would prefer to assume that she simply has astonishingly bad manners, and not that she is a female supremacist bigot. Yet the combination of her own words as well as her selective silence makes me wonder. She can of course clarify this for us if she wishes to on her own blog.