Perhaps we should pause a few moments tomorrow and pay tribute to the brave men who lost their lives when the Titanic went down. If you haven’t figured it out from all the tributes and TV specials, tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of that great ship’s sinking. It hit the iceberg during the night of April 14, 1912 and sank the next day.
A statistic from that terrible day says much about how the world has changed since then: Seventy-four percent of the female passengers survived, while eighty percent of the male passengers perished. The rule for the lifeboats: women and children first. Men died for an ideal of chivalry in 1912. The sinking of the Costa Concordia earlier this year, when men shoved women out of the way to save themselves, shows how the world has changed.
Chivalry, not bumptious conduct, as we’ve been led to believe, is the hallmark of true masculinity. Of course, masculinity itself has been under attack since the radical phase of the feminist movement began in the 1960s. I know men who fear opening doors for women because some women are offended by such gallantry (not me!).
As Christina Hoff Sommers, the American Enterprise Institute scholar and longtime IWF friend, wrote some years ago in a review of Harvey Mansfield’s book, Masculinity, "The idea of male gallantry makes many women nervous, suggesting (as it does) that women require special protection. It implies the sexes are objectively different. It tells us that some things are best left to men. Gallantry is a virtue that dare not speak its name."
On the ninety-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, we at IWF went to the Titanic memorial and placed flowers there in honor of the men who sacrificed their lives. At the time, I wrote this:
This kind of gallantry is enshrined in the inscription on a rarely visited memorial to the men of the Titanic in Washington, D.C. "To The brave men who perished in the wreck of the Titanic–They gave their lives that women and children might be saved," it reads. In the past women honored the heroes of the Titanic by taking flowers to the monument every April 15, a custom no longer observed. Indeed, Hoff Sommers noted that this monument to manliness is now one of the least visited sites in Washington.
If, as Harvey Mansfield argued, it is time we rescue the virtues associated with manliness from the feminist oblivion into which they have been cast, then there is no better place to begin than with the Titanic memorial. This week, as we did last year, the Independent Women's Forum will observe the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic by placing flowers on the monument.
In so doing, we honor men who were brave enough to be gallant.
Even if you don’t take a posy to the monument tomorrow, do stop a moment and give a few thoughts to the meaning of the Titanic.