Monday, December 26, 2005


Today is the first anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami (so called, I presume, only in the half a dozen countries that mark Boxing Day - I wonder what everyone else calls it?)

I don't have much to say about the event itself, what can you say?

But there is one point I want to make about 'natural' disasters. We can't stop earthquakes, Tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, and the like (although we can make some of them more likely), but the effect they have on people isn't inevitable it depends on how we organise society. The Tsunami took hours to cross the Indian ocean; in that time people in India and Sri Lanka could have been warned of the danger and gone inland. We have the technology and the resources, we just don't use them that way.

According to Oxfam many more women than men died in the Tsunami. That's not 'natural' that's the result of a sexist and misogynist society.


  1. "According to Oxfam many more women than men died in the Tsunami. That's not 'natural' that's the result of a sexist and misogynist society."

    Huh? How does the logic work with that? Does it not occur to you that women are generally weaker than men physically, and that they were fighting a very large force in order to stay alive?

    That isn't being sexist, it's just acknowledging what is true.

  2. the men were out fishing at the time, that may be sexist, but it is not misogynist is it?

    this was noted at the time, i saw photographs of grieving husbands and fathers around that very fact, and a subsequent article on the incidence of alcoholism among these men as they tried to deal with it

    i think you are stretching a point to bring this slant to the effects of the tsunami,

  3. Hm. Very interesting.

    I have no doubt that more women died as a result of the way in which our societies are structured - Maria von Trapp points out that women are generally physically weaker than men...which is true, but it's obvious to me from the Oxfam article that more women died because they were at home (near the shoreline) with their children when the tsunami struck, not because they couldn't out-swim the men. I don't think Maia is stretching a point to fit her argument at all - the facts speak for themselves, surely.

    But what I think is most concerning is that, and this is something that Oxfam article discusses, women will suffer more afterwards as result of their position in society, e.g. loss of income, leading them in to potentially exploitatative relationships. I'm not saying men haven't suffered - of course they have. Everyone involved will be suffering in some way. But in times of crisis, whether it's a natural disaster or a human-made one (ie war) women and men have to deal with different threats to their well-being, simply because society is structured the way it is.

  4. There are other issues, besides women being at home rather than fishing. For instance if women haven't been taught how to swim, in order to preserve their modesty, then they're far more likely to drown. In at least some rural areas women were dead because of ideas of modesty:

    That's no stretching anything. How we organise society changes the effect disasters have on people.