Sunday, January 18, 2009

Women and children first? Really? In 2009?

In case you haven't heard, a plane crash-landed in the Hudson River the other day, right near Manhattan. Everyone got out okay, and no one died. At some point during the evacuation of the plane, someone (I am finding mixed opinions as to whether it was a staff member or a passenger) gave that ages-old cry of "women and children first."
In this particular case, I wouldn't fault the passengers for making this antiquated and sexist decree. This was obviously an emergency situation and people were just trying to bring some order to the chaos. The problem here is whether "women and children first" is still an official evacuation policy. If a crew member made this call, then there are some real issues:
  • Why women? Is is that you are assuming we are weaker, fragile, and less likely to survive? Are you assuming that we are better suited to care for the children who disembark first? Neither are necessarily true.
  • This policy neglects the elderly, the sick, and the disabled who should be allowed to disembark before all healthy and able-bodied women. Why would anyone call for able-bodied women to evacuate before disabled people?
  • This policy neglects single fathers. Why should a strange woman be better suited to care for a child than the child's own father? We aren't "natural caregivers" by virtue of having female reproductive organs. And if the concern is then shifted to keeping the caregiver with the child, regardless of caregiver sex, why shouldn't both parents be allowed to evacuate simultaneously with their child? It seems nonsensical and tragic to split families in an emergency.
  • Some women have claimed that they don't care if this gets their asses off the sinking ship/plane faster. Sorry, that doesn't fly with me. If we want to be seen as equal, we have to start acting like the strong women we are. We can stay on the plane and help the disabled, elderly, children, and families off first. Hell, we can help the people who can't swim if we need to. But we need to stop accepting help that we DON'T NEED.
I want to reiterate that I'm not faulting any passenger in that flight who, in the heat of the moment, felt that women and children should go first. But if airlines still endorse this policy, or if their crews aren't well-trained enough to know that they shouldn't use this policy, there is a problem. "Elderly, disabled, and people with children" first. All able bodied people last.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

Gosh, it is amazing how long it takes for old ideals to go away.
For example, I don't think anything of guy not holding a door open for me but I can't stand it when a guy won't give up his seat for an older person, so you are right. Since I am perfectly capable I just give my seat up! Time for us women to get over ourselves.

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