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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Women, Children and Elderlies

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A man is supposed to be brave and bear it all. He is supposed to be able to hold longer and suffer lesser. He is also supposed to be dispensible.

In any tragedy or accident where all people cannot be saved, general wisdom is to save women, children, old people and disabled first. Men get absolute last priority. So if you are stuck in hijacked plane or sinking ship, you are doomed if you are male between 18-50 years. One can understand about children; they are fragile and innocent. No adult in their right mind can let children suffer in front of him. Rest, I am not too sure.

Even leaving that aside, problem is that most of the time nature of such events is such that being man is no help against fighting that misfortune. If it were not so, then one can easily side with conventional wisdom. What additional things men on Titanic could have done that women and elderlies couldn’t? One may presume that they can hold marginally longer in the water (that itself is an assumption) but in vast expanse of ocean, how much advantageous that would have been? Ditto for fighting with armed terrorists or running out of burning buildings. I am not sure if being man gets as much advantage as it’s assumed to be.

Of course, this is all arm chair, matter of fact, logical thinking. I can see men, including myself, I hope, sacrificing just because they see it their duty to do their best so as to minimize harm to others. It is related to concept of manliness, a concept so undermined, or forced to be undermined, everywhere else, by everybody else, when it doesn’t suit. We’ve compartmentalized role of people in our mind. One side is traditional role, other side is more advanced progressive social role.

Delegating men to last when rescuing can be explained, perhaps. Delegating them to last when mentioning causalities I cannot fathom. So many people died including so many women and children. Even a dead man is not worth the respect others get. Somehow his death is not so much pain as that of woman or child. Would one suffer less because a man in the family died as against a woman, ceteris paribus? Yet, burden of manliness lasts up to the grave.


Der said...

It's just as sad as the higher price women pay (traditionally) for infidelity vs. men. Both sexes have it bad. It's just bad in different ways.

Ashish Gupta said...

You are correct. I don't think women have it better but since many other blogs talk about that, I thought otherwise here.

On another note, you seem to agree that women pay higher price for infidelity which was point of contention of our original argument on Bollywhat!

Der said...


Of course I agree that women do pay a higher price than men in regards to infidelity! My argument is that the higher price is mainly created by society.

Take away patrilineage and put the responsibility of raising children on the mother and her family, and "infidelity" may well become non-existent. This idea of "fidelity" comes from man's attempt to ensure that he is the only father to children.

Similarly, take away archaic rules that men are stronger and everyone else should be helped first, and men no longer need to suffer in times of crisis.

Beverly said...

Everyone in a society has the obligation to look after those in that society who are weak and vulnerable.

In normal circumstances the weak and vulnerable people are the very old (that includes men), the very young (that includes male children), the disabled (that includes men) and women (this would be the only category that does not include men!)

In a disaster triage situation (such as a sinking ship) the elderly would be prioritized to the bottom of the list, and only those with a good chance of survival would be at the top (gender would not be considered)

Every statistic we have shows that in the case of a marriage breakdown women usually come out with less economic advantage than men.

These are the facts.

Emotionally you can argue it whichever way you want to but facts are facts.

Ashish Gupta said...

@beverly: I think you miss the point. I was not arguing emotionally, which is how world does, and hence prioritizes children first (objectively, and probably callously, least productive member of society requiring social investment for next 20 years). I was arguing objectively, in world where men and women are expected to be equal. And I agree with you that women should have priority if we believe that they are "weak and vulnerable". My problem is, and I alluded to it by saying "concept so undermined...elsewhere" is that women choose to become "weak and vulnerable" when it suits them and "equal to men" when it suits them. They can be damsel in distress when that works and demand equality when that works.

Marriage point is irrelevant here and I would say that I agree with you within Indian context but not so sure within American context.

Der said...

Men and women are not equal. I do not want equality. I want equity. There is a difference.

Ashish Gupta said...

Just one more point. When I say that "nature of such events is such that being man is no help against fighting that misfortune" it means that within that context, in that situation, women may not be more "weak and vulnerable" than men at all. Both may be equally vulnerable. Of course, if that doesn't hold, then also I agree with you as I've already mentioned in first line of 2nd paragraph in original post.

Ashish Gupta said...

@der. I see what you mean, when I say equal, I mean equal in terms of rights and obligations, what you termed equity.

Anonymous said...

When people are treated equally differences are ignored.

When you treat people equitably then differences are celebrated.

Women are not always weak and vulnerable but do go through periods of vulnerability such as during the childbearing cycle.

It would be awfully hard to run away from danger or save someone else when you are 9 months pregnant or nursing a baby!

Men will never be equal to women since women are necessary for the survival of the species, however, just because men don't have superpowers like women such as growing a baby, or producing milk doesn't mean that they do not deserve respect!

Women and children first when the ship is sinking is not necessarily because they are weak and vulnerable but rather because women are necessary for the species to survive and children are the future.

My comment about marriage breakdown was in reference to the thread on infidelity and who pays the higher price. I believe these facts are correct globally.

Great discussion! Although I have many discussions with people from India I have never had a discussion with someone in India!

There is a great contrast in our cultural values. Exploring those differences opens my mind!

Ashish Gupta said...


You've cited special case of pregnancy or nursing and I am with you there. My post was more general.

Genetic science is making men more and more irrelevant of course!

Children are future, that is alright, but saving a child is saving A child, saving a man is saving potentially MANY future child. So that wouldn't hold. But yes, I see that women are required for survival of specie. But that argument will hold more in Armageddon situation, and I doubt if that's the thought behind in small rescue operation.

I am glad that you like discussion here. Hopefully you will give us opportunity again.

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