Sixty years later, the men on the Titanic – liars and thieves, wealthy and powerful, poor and obscure – found themselves called upon to “finish in style,” and did so. They had barely an hour to kiss their wives goodbye, watch them clamber into the lifeboats, and sail off without them. They, too, ‘ope’d it wouldn’t ‘appen to them, but, when it did, the social norm of “women and children first” held up under pressure and across all classes.
Today there is no social norm, so it’s every man for himself – operative word “man,” although not many of the chaps on the Titanic would recognize those on the Costa Concordia as “men.” From a grandmother on the latter: “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls.”
Whenever I write about these subjects, I receive a lot of mail from men along the lines of this correspondent:
“The feminists wanted a gender-neutral society. Now they’ve got it. So what are you complaining about?”
And so the manly virtues (if you’ll forgive a quaint phrase) shrivel away to the so-called “man caves,” those sad little redoubts of beer and premium cable sports networks.
I don’t know that you can blame this on the feminists: While women have justly determined what it is to be a woman in today’s world, somewhere along the way, men have forgotten what it means to be men.
To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ‘and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An’ they done it, the Jollies — ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies — soldier an’ sailor too!
Their work was done when it ‘adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ‘eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too! — R. Kipling, from “Soldier an Sailor Too“