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Posts Tagged ‘chivalry’

The Titanic – Children and whom first?

March 9, 2010 6 comments

The Titanic is a tale of amazing power which has continued to carry great strength almost a century after the mighty ship sank. To be honest, the only film version I have seen is the 1953 edition (Yeah, yeah. Don’t ask.), but what I want to talk about is one of the things which is at the core of any and all re-tellings of the story of the Titanic:

Male sacrifice.

The men of the Titanic are famous for their willingness to forfeit their own lives so that the women and children aboard might live. It is one of the most noble displays of chivalry in recorded history, proving absolute selflessness on the part of most of the men, and it is this general concept of male sacrifice for women which I want to talk about.

The idea that the lives of men are somehow less valuable than women is pervasive through American (and probably western if not global) media. In almost any instance, if escape is limited, the women go before the men. Sometimes the character discuss the correctness of this, but most of the time no one complains (not that I can blame them).

Most people accept the idea that men should put themselves in harms way to save women because, (a) it is an ancient tradition, and (b) it seems to make some intuitive sense. Women are the ones who bear children, so, as feminists like to say when you ask them about male sacrifice, it is only natural for women to be ensured safety at any cost.

However, as is the case with so many concepts of modern gender politics, the math on that theory just doesn’t quite work.

The problem with the idea of women being more important to the species arises when you realize that western society is quite thoroughly monogamous. That is to say that any given person only has a single spouse at a time, and our society is usually pretty strict about this. For that reason, each and every woman needs a male all to herself in order to breed. That’s where the math stops working for the ‘women are more valuable’ theory.

Let’s look at an imaginary sample population of humans (this is all hypothetical). We have 20 people, 10 male and 10 female. This is the adult population, all of child bearing and rearing age.

Now, assuming everyone gets along well, each adult is part of a happy mating couple. 20 adults, 10 couples each of 2 adults. That’s how a monogamous society works.

Now, let’s say someone dies. If a woman dies, she can no longer bear any children, so the community loses that production.

However, since they are monogamous, if a man dies the same thing happens. A dead man leaves a woman with no breeding partner, so society loses that production.

This same idea applies to our own society at large. Adults form mating couples, one female to one male. If we were polygamous, then few men could mate with more women, so a decrease in male population wouldn’t be such a problem, but in our society a loss of an adult of either gender reduces the number of maximum possible mating couples by 1.

Of course, in a real society not everyone is coupled up. There are always unmarried women and men. However, the goal of the species, from a Darwinian view, is to breed as much as possible. Since the speed of reproduction is limited primarily by the speed at which women can bear children, our goal would be to make sure they were all breeding as much as possible.

Now, in a polygamous society, that would be done by ensuring that literally every woman was married, often many to the same man. But in a monogamous society, each woman needs her own man. And since humans are naturally picky, it can be hard to get every woman matched up with a man she likes. Therefore, the more men we have, the more likely each and every woman will find an acceptable mate.

Therefore, a surplus of males can actually help breeding, while surplus females go to waste in a world of monogamy. A scarcity of females would actually increase the likelihood of the remaining women breeding, since they would have plenty of men to choose from.

Not to mention the fact that widowers are more likely to remarry (and therefore keep breeding) than widows.

But that’s just a counterargument. Naturally, or at least I think naturally, we should all work to have all humans valued equally, regardless of chromosome configuration.

Nonetheless, the sacrifices men make are truly noble and deserve a heart felt salute, but the concept which drives such behavior is obsolete in the modern world and should be done away with for the betterment of all. The math just doesn’t work, so retaining such traditions is, if I might be allowed to say so, like hanging onto a sinking ship.

Of course, there is some logic to men being quicker to die since there are more boys born than there are girls (105 to 100, global average). Or maybe that isn’t to account for war, but for women’s tastes.

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Categories: Film Tags: , , ,

Alice – Chivalry Gone Wrong: I guess a bloody nose is manly

December 14, 2009 2 comments

Alice is the new miniseries on Syfy from the makes of Tin Man. As the name suggests, it is a ‘bold re-imagining’ of the Alice in Wonderland stories. What this means is that it does not bear much similarity to the source material beyond character and location names.

Now, I won’t be reviewing Alice over all, at least not today, but I will say this:

It was both better and worse than Tin Man, in different ways. I do think 4 hours (with commercials) was a bit excessive. Also, I am still not sure how I feel about all the male characters, so I won’t be discussing that today. However, there is one aspect of Alice which I would like to talk about. It is not something unique to Alice, but it is quite present.

What I speak of is chivalry (in the modern sense). That oh-so-cliched code of conduct which guides the behavior of gentlemanly behavior. Many of the old traditions of chivalry have fallen by the wayside with the march of feminism, which is a good thing in my opinion. However, a few of these old traditions of special treatment for women still persist. One which has always been a great annoyance to me is the concept that violence should not be used against women.

It has traditionally been the view point that men are the ones who should do the fighting, take the beating and absorb the pain. This was once due to the belief that women were weaker than men, but that concept of feminine frailty has supposedly been discarded by modern feminism. By that same theory, both men and women should be seen as able to take and dish out the same kind of beating.

No such luck, I’m afraid. Our society still seems to view men as the disposable sex, responsible for taking physical harm while women remain protected. Not that men get any special privlidge for that responsibility.

In Alice we see a fair about of hand-to-hand combat. It is primarily fought by two of the leads: Alice and the Hatter, each with respectable combat prowess. Each takes down numerous thugs with punches, flips and face slams.  However, there is something of a discrepancy in regards to the about of abuse the heroes take. The hatter is kicked, thrown, punched in the face, shot and even electrocuted. On the other hand we have Alice, the extent of whose bodily harm amounts to getting grabbed by a thug (she swiftly repels him).

Despite close to three decades of full-steam feminism, we still have this cultural sense that it is wrong to harm women and that men are capable of and duty bound to take abuse for them. However, this doesn’t match up with the ‘equality’ called for by feminism. The end result is a sense that men and women can do anything, but women should be given special treatment to make sure they remain safe.

This made some sense in a world where men received extra status for taking on the duties of protecting women, but those have been stripped. This leaves a prime example of how media often portrays men and women as equal, but women being more equal, safe in the assurance that they will be protected while still demanding to do anything and everything they like, with full respect. Men are left to feel equal (at best) but also disposable.

In the past, men who did not face down danger and risk were called cowards.

What do you call someone who doesn’t face danger but still demands full respect as if they had? Besides a female soldier. That one’s easy.