Gender bias is pretty dumb. That’s not exactly a profound stand to take, but it’s true. However, it’s rare that you run across a case of it so stupid it actually kills people. Hurricane naming, it turns out, is one of those cases.
If the National Hurricane Center declares that Hurricane Joe is on the way to wreck your life, people take it seriously. But if it’s Hurricane Jolene? They just sit on their butts and let it kill them twice as often, according to a new study:
We use more than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes to show that feminine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths than do masculine-named hurricanes. Laboratory experiments indicate that this is because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents’ preparedness to take protective action.
In other words, the data shows that if you give a hurricane a female name, stupid people expect it to file its nails before getting back into the kitchen. Then they drown, because it turns out hurricanes are just weather patterns and don’t conform to gender expectations!
A key problem we can see with the research is that there are other factors involved with hurricane fatalities. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was so fatal partially because the government response was infamously terrible.
That said, though, we’ve also spent enough time on Facebook to know that human stupidity is without any sort of limit, and thus there really are people who think hurricane names mean something other than just “It’s a name for the damn hurricane.” There are people furious we call dust storms “Muslim” names, after all. Then again, considering how stupid you have to be to not get to higher ground when a destructive weather system blows through, we’re guessing not much can be done in the first place.