Thursday 19 January 2012

Costa Concordia - so it woz a woman, a Russki blonde, wot donnit!

Well, we might have known it all along. It wasn't really the Captain's fault. No, it was a woman. A Russian-speaking (former USSR) woman. Well, they'll get up to anything, won't they!

And guess what colour her hair is (at least currently). Yes, it's another (bottle-) blonde who's causing all that trouble.

Even worse, she's an artiste - a dancer. They're known for it, aren't they. Destabilizing kings. Making rich earls marry them. Seducing perfectly upright politicians.

Did she inveigle him into drinking that carafe of wine just 35 minutes before the sinking? Well, such a responsible, fatherly-seeming man wouldn't have done it otherwise, now would he! See how they cause trouble wherever they go, these women.

And she hadn't even paid properly to be onboard. Well!That's the giddy limit.And there she was on the bridge with him, on that sacred site where only Real Men are allowed.


This silliness can be seen in the latest Costa Concordia stories today. See summary at

The trouble is that it sort-of fits. Vain men do indeed behave foolishly when beautiful young women are around. But the problem is such immature behaviour, men's socialisation in a sexualised society, and a culture that pushes the over-use of booze not the object of the attention.

The woman is being sought, which adds to the mystery and frisson. But isn't this all speculation by the media, designed to keep readers engrossed, and thereby keep the coffers filled?

I suspect that this tack will continue and the next article will reveal that she's done glamour modelling, propositioned other crew,and neglected her two-year old daughter. And is her phone already being hacked? Poor woman.

Pic: The dancer, Domnica Cemortan, of Moldava.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Piracy and tampons

Modern women have been appropriating the idea of piracy for several decades now. Scores of US female soccer and basketball teams have swashbuckling names, such as the Orange Coast College Pirates. The point is to stress the values of teamwork and bold courage.

But this witty product really takes such appropriation of piracy to a new level.I'm not sure it's for real.(found at

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Women and children first? Costa Concordia controversy has precedents in suffragettes' history

The 'men were pushing women aside, and they shouldn't' saga goes on. Woman's Hour today has just aired some useful modern arguments showing chivalry is not the province of just one sex. People help other people anyway, said evacuation expert Ed Galea.

In researching women's history in sea disasters I've found that when men gave women priority as the Titanic sank in 1912 some suffrage campaigners said later they wouldn't have accepted that particular gendered sort of gallant treatment. They wanted equal rights - including the vote - so why would they accept such inequality on a ship? It would have been hypocritical.

Of course right-wing men attacked this 'rebuff':

~~~ GK Chesterton (see pic), the high-profile writer, who was later to be in the government’s War Propaganda Bureau, was outraged that month by the (now untraceable)feminist response and particularly put out by
‘the displeasing incident of Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, who, immediately after the disaster, seems to have hastened to assure the public that men must get no credit for giving the boats up to women, because it was the "rule" at sea.
'Whether this was a graceful thing for a gay spinster to say to eight hundred widows in the very hour of doom is not worth inquiry here… What does Miss Pankhurst imagine a “rule” is--a sort of basilisk?
'Some hundreds of men are, in the exact and literal sense of the proverb, between the devil and the deep sea. It is their business, if they can make up their minds to it, to accept the deep sea and resist the devil.
'What does Miss Pankhurst suppose a “rule” could do to them in such extremities? Does she think the captain would fine every man sixpence who expressed a preference for his life?’

~~~ anti-feminist journalist Harold Owen insisted in 1912 that ‘The wreck of the Birkenhead is man’s answer to the cry for equality of the sexes.’He meant that, because every woman was saved, men could say 'See, if we'd given you equality you'd dead now. We save your lives by ensuring you are not equal.'

But as socialist-feminist campaigner Charlotte Despard argued, ‘We want a new conception of chivalry. We want it to go outside the shell of conventional manners ....a chivalry, the reigning principle of which will be reverence for every honest worker, with special regard for the weaker amongst their number.’

Such new chivalry meant respecting women enough to give them the vote, and working on the principle that no one sex is necessarily more or less disposable than the other. Respect for those in the greatest need was the point.

Look out for my book next year: Risk! Women on the Wartime Seas! Yale University Press.
PIC: My art work using logo from Pankhurst's newspaper

Monday 16 January 2012

Costa Concordia - saving women and children first, still?

Women and children have been prioritized in shipboard evacuations since at least the middle of the nineteenth century. And such prioritizing has been challenged by feminists for at least 100 years, including by suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst when the Titanic sank.
Gender does not confer intrinsic privileges, they argue. People should be given priority according to their need - which would mean older poorly people would be disembarked first.
And arguments that for the good of the race's future children and reproducers(women) should be saved don't wash in our over-populated times.

So it's rather interesting that at least one survivor of the Costa Concordia still expected the old rule to apply. And was shocked when it didn't.
Today's Daily Mirror reports that British retired policeman Edwin Gurd revealed men on board pushed past terrified women and children to get to the lifeboats first.
He said “My wife got on lifeboat No 17 and we got as many women and ­children on as possible.
'"But later there was quite a lot of panic from the men who were forcing their way onto the boats.
'"The men were stressed and panicking. They were pushing in front of women who should have got on first. There was a real danger of people being crushed.”'

I found in researching women on the wartime seas that the generous and gallant practice of men standing by while women were allowed into lifeboats became established as the Birkenhead Drill. It's named after the iconic occasion when soldiers stood on parade on deck, to let women survive as HM Troopship Birkenhead sank off the coast of South Africa in February 1852; 55 men died.
However, in looking at many wartime evacuations of sinking ships I now wonder if the principle may have sometimes caused more loss of life. The first, hastily- launched lifeboats aren't necessarily the safest. Also a boat without sufficient people able to row and navigate had less chance of success.

It's not sensible to have a boat disproportionately full of:
# people who were untrained in those 'unfeminine' and adult skills
# mothers who may well have been too focused on helping children to also pay attention to what needed to be done on the boat. Sometimes it was urgent to row hard to avoid being sucked under as their big ship sank
# people, ie children, who were likely to be so distressed that they required extra attention and reduced morale
Each lifeboat needs a more balanced population, including trained seafarers.

Today, when so many women get rowing practice in gyms, they might be far more of an asset than they were in the past.
Also, formerly, corsets hampered arm and back movements and caused the death of shipwrecked women in one 19C case. The tightness so high under their armpits stopped them reaching up to clutch at a spar from which they could have swung and so leaped to safety on the nearby rocks, dress reformers argued.

PIX: the ship yesterday, and ship's dancers Rose Metcalf and unnamed colleague.
See 'Costa Concordia cruise ship crash', by David Collins, Daily Mirror ,16/01/2012