Nicholas Kristof Op Ed Columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote this for his column: She Gets No Respect: Sexism Persists, Even Among the Enlightened

Researchers find that female-named hurricanes kill about twice as many people as similar male-named hurricanes because some people underestimate them. Americans expect male hurricanes to be violent and deadly, but they mistake female hurricanes as dainty or wimpish and don’t take adequate precautions.

He continues –

Likewise, research subjects were more willing to evacuate to avoid Hurricane Victor than when it was Hurricane Victoria. The more masculine the name, the more respect the hurricane drew. The researchers estimated that changing the name of a hurricane from Charley to Eloise could nearly triple the death toll.

Women were as likely as men to disrespect female hurricanes.

He concludes –

This deep bias is as elusive as it is pernicious, but a start is to confront and discuss it. Perhaps hurricanes, by catching us out, can help us face our own chauvinism.

Six Comments:

1. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a month the press tells us, “That study was bogus! There’s no real difference in response to hurricane names. The statistics were twisted.” But the columnist is writing as if this is all true, so, just to make it clear –

2. If I ever say to you, “I think you’re less likely to kill me than that other guy,” I’m not disrespecting you.

3. It seems like the people who die from a hurricane because of the hurricane’s name should be considered for the Darwin Award.
“Okay, it’s getting a little windy, Lyle, should we head inside?”
“Well dang, Cliff, her name is Cindy! Isn’t that the youngest Brady girl? How bad could she be?”

4. So Americans harbor an inner and unconscious belief that women are less destructive and less dangerous. I just checked – 90% of murderers in the US are male. If this is bias, is it a false bias? Is it chauvinism if it’s based on fact?

5. Obviously the solution here is to create a nationwide campaign to encourage women to be more violent and murderous, so that people will start respecting female hurricanes.

6. Obviously the solution is NOT to encourage men to be less violent and murderous, because then people would stop protecting themselves from male hurricanes. And that would be disrespectful.