If you’ve been following news reports surrounding the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy and have ever been (or contemplated going) on a cruise, it’s hard to keep from thinking you could easily have been one of those terror-stricken passengers.
As divers resume their search for missing passengers, more details are surfacing to fill in the blanks of what actually happened. One of the many shocking accounts came in Rich Lowry’s National Review Online article, “Dude, Where’s my lifeboat?”, where he reports of women and children “being pushed aside by hysterical men as they tried to board lifeboats.”
Coincidentally, the book I’m reading is The Myth of Male Power in which author Warren Farrell is speaking up in defense of men. Not that he would approve those men who were pushing and shoving on the sinking cruise ship. But Farrell does assert (with some rather impressive endorsements) that cultural expectations of men as protectors, providers, and rescuers produce powerlessness, not power. He defines power as “having control over one’s life,” which he believes men forfeit with the obligation to protect women and society by going to war or giving up their seat in the lifeboat. He turns the current discussion of gender on its head when he observes that when it comes to power, “men are not at the tip of the pyramid, but at its base.”
Consider some of Farrell’s statements:
“Today, violence against women is rightly abhorred. But we call violence against men entertainment.”
“The message of religion for boys is that there really is no choice but to save.”
“We don’t call ‘male-killing’ sexism; we call it ‘glory.’ We don’t call the one million men who were killed or maimed in one battle in World War I (the Battle of the Somme) a holocaust, we call it ‘serving the country.’ We don’t call those who selected only men to die ‘murderers.’ We call them ‘voters.’ Our slogan for women is ‘A Woman’s Body, A Woman’s Choice’: our slogan for men is ‘A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Gotta Do.'”
Is chivalry another sinking ship and should it sink? Are unreasonable and even unjust burdens placed on male shoulders when they’re expected to rescue, protect, and provide simply because they are male?
On the flip side, are these callings only for men except in unusual circumstances or do women also share these responsibilities? After reading Lowry’s article, a friend reflected on what happened on the Titanic, “I suspect there were women who would have given their place in the lifeboats to another if they had been allowed to do so.” How does the Blessed Alliance factor into this discussion? Don’t we have heroic stories of ezers like Esther and Deborah, Chai Ling and the Freedom Climbers who were willing to risk their lives for others? Are these women rare exceptions or role models for the rest of us?
So is it part of the job description for ezer-warriors to be looking out for others versus expecting others to take care of us?