Discriminating men on the Titanic


Status
Not open for further replies.
I would like to start a new thread. Although I realise that some things in this topic will be repetitive of earlier threads here, I find it important to shed some new light on this matter.
The discrimination between richer and poorer passengers on the Titanic is obvious (according to victim statistics) and a much debated issue. Everyone seem to be aware of this. But I think enough evidence is proven (among others by excellent debaters here on ET), to show that there was no real, conscious discrimination of third class passengers on the Titanic. In the worst case, the crew behaved negligent and passive towards this group of passengers, but there existed no coordinated complot against them.

A fact that is certain however, is that men were refused at gunpoint to enter the lifeboats, so that women and children (mark; in that order - read the statistics) could be rescued first. What puzzles me, is that this fact seems to be uncritically accepted as the best way to evacuate the Titanic. As a current student of gender equality at the university of Oslo, I find it strange that the difference of genitalia between humans, should be accepted as a more upright deciding factor of who should live and die, than the economical fortune of people.

It is hardly an argument, that "things were different then", as we still, in 2003, still see clear signs of a women-and-children-first mentality (simply read the papers and you can see headlines like "150 killed, among them 75 women and children". I also see, in earlier threads, examples of this mentality alive and kicking among members of this message board).

It is neither an argument that there were no room in the lifeboats for the men, as there were seats for five hundred more people as we all know. And even if there was not, what makes women more valuable humans than men?

Thirdly, it is not an argument that men had a better chance surviving in the water than women. The sea was freezing, no human being - man or woman - would survive for a long time being exposed to it, and the officers of the Titanic knew this.

So what justified this murder of men on the Titanic, simply because they were men? They were no more guilty in colliding with the iceberg than were the women and children. Any thoughts in here?
 

Beth Barber

Member
Hi Daniel - Not to get in any arguements about anything, someone correct me if I am wrong, but whether anyone likes it or not - it was that mindset back then. Women and children were seen as needing more protection, etc... Men were the ones who made the decision on the "Women and Children" first thing. While I do believe that there are plenty of Women that can certainly take care of themselves, wouldn't it be reasonable to say that most young children couldn't? Isn't it our responsibility to take care of children? I know for myself, I would have to help any child that needed it, if I could. These are my thoughts on the subject. - Beth
 
Hi Beth! Nice to "meet" you.

I did not intend to discuss this, as all I wanted was to learn what the rest of you thought of this issue. But as I find your answer interesting I would like to comment on it.
Firstly, you are very right in pointing out the fact that this was a decision made by men. So this violation was something men did to other men, or to themselves if you like.

Secondly, you are of course also perfectly right about protecting the children. That is something we all need to do. My point here, however, is that women and children should not be in the same category. Women are adults and should be treated on the same grounds as men, back then as today.

Another point I subtly tried to make in my first message, is that on the Titanic it seems like even the children were discriminated against, as opposed to women. If you read the survivor statistics, it reveals that while roughly 75 per cent of women survived, only (also roughly) 50 per cent of the children did. Now, I know that most of the children were in third class, and this group had a lower survival rate altogether. But even in third class a higher percentage of women survived (51), than that of children (37). I have read and heard a lot of explanations and theories about how all the children-rich families had a harder time finding the lifeboats etc. I also know, that in one case, for a while even women were refused to enter the lifeboat and only children let in (this was lifeboat 11, among others Mrs Quick experienced this in trying to board together with her two daughters). But to me, these theories are more a "cover up" trying to avoid the fact that the crew obviously made a larger effort saving women than children.
 

Beth Barber

Member
Hi Daniel,

Maybe it should have been "Women with Children First" or if all any child had was their Father - "Father with Children First". Maybe the women and children first was decided on because of the children - at least they would have one of their parents with them and I believe that men, at least back then, considered women to be the nurturers and caregivers. Not that men can't do it but I think back then it was the womans job to take care of the kids.

It does make me sad that there were lots of children who died. I do believe that, if possible, any child should have at least one of their parents with them. Maybe in those cases it should have been left up to the parents who would try to be saved with the children.

I recall there was a single woman (her name escapes me at the moment) that had a place on a boat and got off the boat she was on so a woman who had children could be saved. And she did perish in the sinking.

A lot of maybes......

- Beth
 
Well Daniel with the benefit of hindsight, what would have been the most appropriate evacuation procedure for the crew to have been told to follow?
 
-Beth
Interesting thoughts. Some children travelled with male companions only. And some of these men, like Mr Navratil and Mr Olsen, managed to put their children into lifeboats but did not survive themselves. Others, like Mr van Billiard and Mr Klasen did not succeed in saving their children nor themselves.
For the moment, I can not remember a case were a man was let into a lifeboat with a child, without a woman companion.

I think the woman you are referring to is Annie Funk. Although there may very well have been other women who gave up their seats for people with children, I think Funk`s sacrifice is the only documented case.

Mick-
I guess it is a sort of a compliment that you ask me for an alternative evacuation plan, all though I feel a slight hint in your message that you are satisfied with the way things were handled back then. Am I right?

But to answer your question, theoretically (if not principally), I do not think there is anything wrong with letting women into the boats before the men, they are after all human beings as well and hence have just as big a right to be saved. But as I wrote in my first message, there were five hundred empty seats in the lifeboats, which were rather left empty than given to men. Do you think that was justified? Even if they managed to put all the women and children onboard into the boats (which they did not), there would still be seats left for an equal number of men. I think it would have been more appropriate to let men on, after there were no more women in sight, simply to fill the boat (like Officer Murdoch did in a few cases). But, again, rather than fill the boats with men, for the most part they let them be lowered half empty. Was this a sufficient answer for you?
 
1. "Am I right?" No
2. "there were five hundred empty seats in the lifeboats" Why was this so?
3. "Do you think that was justified?" No
4. "Was this a sufficient answer for you?" No

Daniel, I am no expert on the Titanic, but as I understand it:
1. The regulations at the time allowed the ship to get its certificate without their being a seat in a life-boat for each passenger and crew.
2. The crew were under-trained in the evacuation procedures, principally they did not know that each life-boat could hold more people.
3. I have seen no evidence that shows evacuation drills took place for crew and passengers, after the ship had left Southampton and Cobh. Steerage passengers at least did not appear to know how to get to the decks where the life-boats were located.

For me it was not a matter of who went first, but why were not more of the "last" saved, when there was time and space in the life-boats.
 
>>And even if there was not, what makes women more valuable humans than men?<<

In terms of simple biology, women can have the children. Men cannot. At best, they can take a few minutes to provide their half of the needed contribution of DNA, and you don't need a lot of them to do that.

Value in terms of cultural norms are often another highly subjective matter.

>>So what justified this murder of men on the Titanic, simply because they were men? <<

This would assume that they were deliberately killed off with malice aforethought, and this didn't happen. Ergo, it's not murder.

What did happen is the ship struck ice, started to sink, and this put the officers and crew in one ugly bind in that they had a surplus of people and an acute shortage of boats with the certain knowladge that no matter what choices they made, people were going to die. Still, they had to make choices, so consistant with cltural norms and expectations of the time, the women and children were given pride of place.

My own read of the evidence is that what happened was that those in the know played things down to avoid a panic which historical experience gave them good reason to believe would happen, and put those who showed up in the boats then sent them on their way. This was cold, calculating, and utterly neseccery given the situation at the time if they wanted to keep the numbers of corpses down.

Was it perfect?

No.

But that was the best they could do given the situation at hand, the resources available, and their understanding of the situation at the time!!! They did what they had to and we are on mighty dangerous ground trying to view the whole thing through the prism of our moral and cultural expectations. They knew nothing of this, had no way of knowing, and had more immidiate concerns then the unguessable "verdict of history."

Could they have done better?

Perhaps. However, this would presuppose that they knew then what we do now, and they just didn't have that knowladge. They all came to the party with what resources and understanding...however imperfect...at the time.

Those are my thoughts.

As always, your results may vary and probably will.
 
Mmmmmmmmm...addendum: > guess it is a sort of a compliment that you ask me for an alternative evacuation plan, all though I feel a slight hint in your message that you are satisfied with the way things were handled back then.<<

Does it matter whether we're satisfied or not? We cannot change what happened no matter how passionately we may care to debate this. We can only hope to understand it.
 
>>I recall there was a single woman (her name escapes me at the moment) that had a place on a boat and got off the boat she was on so a woman who had children could be saved. And she did perish in the sinking.<<

That would be Miss Edith (Wharton) Corse Evan, allowing Mrs. Brown her seat.

As Michael pointed out it wasn't murder.

"Women and Children first" was a formalized declaration of the norms at that time. Women were not given the right to vote in the US until 1920. Some would say women were treated like chattel, I'd say they were treated more like "advanced children" i.e. they were cherished, listened to and admired, but they had few rights. Men were generally chauvinists and protecting women and children were a part of the 'code' they adhered to protect their superiority and interests. It was an accepted part of their class structure, if they were superior, they would have at some time have to pay a price and do the right thing to protect the young and the weak.

"It is hardly an argument, that "things were different then", as we still, in 2003, still see clear signs of a women-and-children-first mentality..." I disagree, it IS the arguement. We still see a part of it, but it has devolved to manners, not a firm code of ethics. In contrast, no one has made issue of the men vs women, or by class death ratio in the World Trade Center disaster to my knowledge. It is now a non-issue.

Remember that it was "Women and Children First" NOT "Women and Children Only". Men, IMHO, should have been seated if no one else was around, even J "Brute" Ismay.
 

Ben Holme

Member
Daniel wrote:

Thirdly, it is not an argument that men had a better chance surviving in the water than women.

I'm afraid a very strong case can be made here. As we know, a surprising number - almost fifty - suffered long exposure to the icy temperatures of the North Atlantic, and only survived by swimming to safety, albeit only temporary for those on collapsibles A and B. The fact that only one of these was female rather speaks for itself.

Best Regards,
Ben
 
Hi everyone.

Firstly, I am glad to see that so many have bothered to air their opinion on this.
Secondly, the messages are rather unanimous, and confirm what I suspected already from the start, that this issue is uncritically accepted (as I wrote in my first message), even glorified, and that questioning it is like sticking the finger into a beehive.

I see no reason to answer all of you in depth, as there is no wrong or right - I think, but I will like to comment on some selected views.

-Mick
"For me it was not a matter of who went first, but why were not more of the "last" saved, when there was time and space in the lifeboats."

But then we agree. This is the very same question I asked in my last message to you. And my answer is still; why were not more of the "last" saved? -Because they were men. Men were pulled out of half empty lifeboats, only because some officers had a principal, and it was not "women and children first" but "women and children only". Which brings me to Michael;

"Ergo, it`s not murder."

But it IS murder. Pulling people out of lifeboats, even though there is room, and knowing very well it is the only way to survive, IS murder. It is like if I (I am a nurse) would refuse to give a man his critically needed medicine, even if there were enough medicine available. That would be murder.

"In terms of simple biology, women can have the children. Men cannot. At best, they can take a few minutes to provide their half of the needed contribution of DNA, and you don`t need a lot of them to do that."

Do you honestly believe, that a persons value is based on his/her ability to bread children?? Does not a human being have a value on its own? In a world where a persons value is based on what he or she can provide, the value will be based on if the "goods" they can provide is critically needed is it not? So you think children is what we need the most in a world with over six billion people, and children dying of starvation every day (this was also a problem in 1912)? Will then not, a person who can provide food and water, which is more needed than more children, be considered more valuable?
And even if it is like you say, what then about women who are infertile, or choose not to have children? Are they then valued as men?

"Does it matter whether we`re satisfied or not? We cannot change what happened no matter how passionately we may care to debate this. We can only hope to understand it!"

We seem to debate everything else here, usually things that can not be changed. So why not this? Is this not a forum for debate? And is not the very reason we stay interested in the Titanic and continue to debate it, that it gives us SATISFACTION in some way? And as for the question of satisfaction, these men actually were refused the possibility to live and died! They (or at least four-five hundred more of them) could have continued to live normal lives. They were innocent, but history made them guilty for being men (and so were the surviving men). I get provoked when thinking of that my father, brother or some man I love would have to die under those circumstances. So excuse me if I do not have your point of view, but knowing this does not satisfy me!
 
""For me it was not a matter of who went first, but why were not more
of the "last" saved, when there was time and space in the lifeboats."

But then we agree."" I don't think so Daniel.

""This is the very same question I asked in my last
message to you. And my answer is still; why were not more of the
"last" saved? -Because they were men"".

I don't hold this view. More were not saved in my opinion because the crew were undertrained in the evacuation procedures, did not know how many people each lifeboat could hold, and passengers did not appear to have had any evacuation drills.
 
That is all right, Mick. I do believe that what you say is part of the truth also. In addition to, that in the beginning, passengers were hesitant of entering the lifeboats.
 
""In addition to, that in the beginning, passengers were
hesitant of entering the lifeboats.""

Daniel that was because they had been told the ship was unsinkable! Also there are reports that in the early part of the sinking passengers in steerage were told to go back to bed by cabin stewards for the same reason.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top