A Sinking Argument on Gender and Courage
Cultural commentator Al Mohler recently covered an unusual study that compared passenger behavior on the Titanic, in 1912, and the Lusitania, in 1915. The study, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that men on the Titanic were more likely than those on the Lusitania to give up their lifeboat seats for women and children. On the Lusitania, which was struck by German torpedoes and sank in 18 minutes, more women and children died than did men, something the study attributes to the men's physical strength and speed in getting to the lifeboats. Put bluntly, the men on the Lusitania acted selfishly, while those on the Titanic showed good manners.
Mohler draws from this study a lesson on gender roles and the created order. He writes that "modern feminists" wish to eliminate "all meaningful gender distinctions," which he believes would lead to the disregard that the Lusitania's men showed for women and children. "Are we really to believe that the moral call that makes men act against their own self-preservation is just a socially constructed artifact of manners?" he asks. "The feminists … call for a world like the Lusitania, but must hope against hope that the world is really more like the Titanic."
Unfortunately, this argument suffers from two serious flaws. First, the most telling of all the statistics is not taken into account: the overwhelming number of upper-class people, male and female, who were rescued on the Titanic. Time magazine ...1