Social Question

rebbel's avatar

What is so special about "women and children"?

Asked by rebbel (33251points) January 23rd, 2020

The question comes from hearing two sayings that have “women and children” in them.
The first is one we probably all have heard before, but possibly never in an occasion when it was officially announced; when disembarking a sinking ship, the women and children may go first.
The second I hear every time a plane has crashed, or a ship has sunk, or a terrorist/war attack has been carried out; “120 people were killed, of which 80 were women and children”.

Now, women and children are very deer to my heart.
But why is it that they are apparently so special (my qualification) that they need extra attention/precedence?

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33 Answers

Inspired_2write's avatar

It is assuming that the men are more able and stronger to manage whereas women and of course children are not.

chyna's avatar

Women are the reproducers and children are our future. We won’t need very many men for their sperms.

ragingloli's avatar

Theoretically, you could have female only reproduction.
No male material required.

janbb's avatar

I’m with @chyna on this.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The short answer is the now obsolete proposition of non-combatants.

cookieman's avatar

I’m with @janbb and @chyna on this.

gorillapaws's avatar

It goes WAY back. As others have pointed out, you don’t need very many men to propagate your “tribe.” There’s a reason men tended to have the most dangerous jobs/roles like hunting and defending the group.

LadyMarissa's avatar

When the saying was initially used, the men were the providers & caretakers of the women & children. At the time, men had NO clue how to take care of children without their wife; however IF the man died, the family would find another leader of their clan. So since women were the prize cargo, it was the man’s job to protect them at ALL cost…with the women went the children, so they got the “special treatment” by default!!! At that point in time, a man would prefer to die than live as a coward who didn’t take care of his family.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

But the flip side of treating women and children as “prize cargo” opens up.a world of hurt for the women and children, as the men’s possessions.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The expression stems from the historical view of women as being weak. Saving “women and children first”, as was done on the Titanic, is actually insulting to women.

raum's avatar

I’ll tell you

raum's avatar

Women are a famous preservative

JLeslie's avatar

It takes 9 months for a woman to have a baby, and during that time one man could make 100 babies if he had 100 fertile women around. The species continues.

Also, if one parent was to survive the mother might be thought of as the better caregiver to raise the children. Although, there was a time in history when women couldn’t earn a living and the man was thought to be a better provider and he could just find another wife.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie ”...Also, if one parent was to survive the mother might be thought of as the better caregiver to raise the children.”

Also don’t forget that despite the fact that men have nipples too, we can’t nurse a child. In today’s world where formula is ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that a lack of breast milk was a death sentence for a baby.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws I’m not talking about my opinion, I’m talking about old perceptions from the time those sayings came about.

Not only do I think men can raise children, I also think we are a long way from worrying about keeping the human race going, or keeping enough men alive in America to fight and protect.

Having said all that, as much as I do think men are capable of raising children, and I know some dads who are more involved than the mothers, I know a lot of men who much prefer to let the mom take care of it. The dads love their children, I’m not questioning that, they want to be with their children too. I know men very saddened not to be with their children more after a divorce. I know men who don’t get divorced, because they want to be in their children’s daily life. But, all the cooking and the cleaning and chauffeuring and whatever else I think more women are willing to sacrifice their time than men. The women resent it later, that’s why you might know a lot of women over 50 who want to do whatever the hell they want, get out of their way. they don’t resent their children, they resent their husbands. That’s shifting a lot culturally as more men help out now.

Anyway, as I mentioned in history in some countries men were seen as being the more capable parent in a divorce. A man had money and could pay for help to care for the children. Also, some cultures children were viewed more as property, and the men were the owners, women didn’t own property.

America followed English law on this back in the 18th and part of the 19th century. Sometime in the 1800’s the courts began favoring the mother as guardian for the child in a divorce matter, demonstrating a shift in the culture. I don’t know all the details of that history. In the mid 1900’s there was a big swing for the mother to get custody, even if the mother had to be on welfare, and now in the last 30 years that has shifted quite a bit to 50/50 custody.

Usually, it’s talked about in terms of what is best for the children. However, there are multiple things at play. Religion, government tax dollars, and opinions on psychological impact.

jca2's avatar

Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think if a ship was sinking and there was a lifeboat, and a guy pushed ahead in front of women and children, he would be an a**hole and would look like an a**hole.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie I think we’re in agreement, I was just expanding on your earlier point. I’m mostly referring to ancient human anthropology, where the idea of men being more expendable than women in a group was absolutely founded in biological realities.

If you had tribe A where the men did all of the dangerous stuff and the women were protected and raised babies, and tribe B where the women fought and the men raised the kids, and a 3rd tribe started a war and killed most of the warriors in both tribe A and B, then Tribe A is going to keep passing on it’s genes while tribe B will likely collapse along with the genes. Tens-of-thousands of years of human existence building cultures around those realities will reinforce gender-roles that will take a long time to adapt to new realities that modern technology has enabled.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca2 All the others in the life boat could put him to good use by having him row. :-)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

They’re the future. They’re also magic

raum's avatar

Maybe I’m just sexist. But whenever I read the phrase “women and children were killed”, I read it as the writer implying that they didn’t have a fighting chance.

canidmajor's avatar

Cuz we’re just so darned cute.

janbb's avatar

@canidmajor Yeah. and softer and cuddlier.

chyna's avatar

And cuter feet.

janbb's avatar

^^ Especially the webbed ones!

raum's avatar

Penguins first!

janbb's avatar

@raum Actually we just loll around on our icebergs laughing at all the women and children scrambling into the lifeboats!

LadyMarissa's avatar

Back when the saying “women & children first” came into being, the women & the children WERE the possession of the men & it was the man’s job to protect them at ALL cost!!! Over the years, men became abusive instead of protective of their possessions & that’s when the feminist movement came into being.

I know some women who complain about the idea of women & children first. I’m pretty sure that these same women would be at the front of the line to get off a sinking ship & they’d be throwing their children into the lifeboats leaving the men behind!!!

JLeslie's avatar

I would give up my life for my husband. I think he naturally would want to protect me, but I’ve thought about it and he’s healthier than me, his parents have been healthier than mine, and I just think he has more life to live.

If it was a matter of life and death like a sinking ship, and one place left on the lifeboat, I would want him to take it.

If it was a matter of violent men coming to rape and pillage I wouldn’t be so brave I don’t think. Violence, especially repeated violence, is much more terrifying to me than death, and I would feel more vulnerable.

LadyMarissa's avatar

My Grams & my Mom were both considered possessions by their husbands. In return, they were treated like queens!!! They may not have gotten everything that they wanted, yet they did have everything that they needed & both were very happy with their lives!!!

By the time I got married, I offered the same to my ex & instead of treating me well, he chose to cheat on me & abuse me to the max. With my last husband, we had mutual respect for each other. IF we had been on the same ship with you @JLeslie, there would have been room for your husband to go with you because neither of us would have left choosing to go out together. We would have either gone home together or died together!!!

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