Wednesday 22 November 2017

Mary Dejevsky: In this new age chivalry, it’s the fathers that go first

The other day, an elderly man with a walking-stick stood back to let me get on the bus. I signalled for him to get on first, but he insisted. In his canon, gender trumped age and infirmity. This sort of chivalry, though, is disappearing fast.

How fast seemed crystallised by reports of what happened during the evacuation of the Costa Concordia. For every tale of heroism – and there were plenty – there's been a matching account of how able-bodied men pushed their way on to the lifeboats, and nostalgic breast-beating about that long-lost time when women and children went first.

Now it may be that "women and children first" was only ever a mythical ideal, though the survival figures for the Titanic show that here it was largely observed. There is also the view that giving precedence to women and children presumes and perpetuates an outdated notion of a weaker sex and children as the responsibility of women – valid though both contentions might be in extreme situations.

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