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Nina In New York: Female Hurricanes Don’t Get No Respect

Photo/National Hurricane Center

Photo/National Hurricane Center

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

If you haven’t seen or heard about the #yesallwomen movement at this point, you don’t belong on the internet.

In a nutshell: reviled UCSB mass murderer Elliot Rodger’s misogynistic motivations have people of all genders shining a much-needed, bright spotlight on the inherent misogyny pervasive in our culture. The hashtag is a reference to the idea that yes, all women have experienced this in some way or another, and yes, all women have simply learned to get along in a society in which injustices like sexual harassment, intimidation, degradation and the threat of physical violence are so accepted that often we see it (and otherwise good men perpetrate it) without even realizing or thinking twice.

Well, now is the time to think twice. There’s a lot to talk about, and many have done so eloquently. Here, here and here, or just google it and drop down a rabbithole at the bottom of which you’ll emerge angry, depressed, empowered, and wishing you could just take your daughters and go live in a bunker somewhere.

I wholeheartedly agree that the situation is bad. But I didn’t realize just how insanely, stupidly bad it was until I saw this Washington Post headline:

Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them, study finds

What. The. What?

Researchers looked at the most deadly hurricanes from 1950 to 2012 and found that the storms with female names resulted in nearly double the deaths as the ones with male names. And quit it with whatever dumb “time of the month” joke you’ve got cooking, there, pal. The reason is that when the hurricane has a name like Nancy, citizens don’t take the threat as seriously and won’t take the proper precautions that might prevent their dying.

What’s more, storms with “strongly masculine names” versus those with “strongly feminine ones” present an even sharper comparison. To wit: “‘[Our] model suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charley … to Eloise … could nearly triple its death toll,’ the study says.”

You have got to be kidding me. We are literally dying of sexism.

The researchers suggest that the chauvinism at play here is “inherent,” and not necessarily conscious. So, probably, those unfortunate souls who died unnecessarily didn’t say to themselves, “no hurricane with a name like Sally is going to get the likes of me.” Or, “if this thing was a Jimmy, I’d batten down the hatches. But I think I’ll take my chances with Hurricane Susie Boobsalot.”

Scientists are taking the study’s findings seriously and will be considering whether to change naming conventions for hurricanes and other storms. They could ultimately decide to do away with human names for these types of weather events, but I’d caution them away from such a drastic step. We can all remember (and therefore learn from) Hurricanes Bob and Irene, but we probably won’t be able to recall the damage done by Hurricane GX2438.

It’s a tough spot. On the one hand, they need to more adequately get the message across to people in hurricane zones that a storm’s a brewin’ and she—or he—must be taken seriously. On the other hand, we can’t simply accept and play into the aforementioned “inherent sexism” that leads people to drown to death if the hurricane isn’t named Chuck Norris.

I can conceive of two compromises. The first involves using only androgynous, sexually ambiguous names like Pat, Sal, and Chris. But this is a very limiting solution, and also a pretty boring one. Plus, what happens when we run out of current unisex names and are forced to dig into the Ashleys and Leslies of the past? We’re right back where we started. No, we must do better. So I propose that all future hurricanes should be named as fictional alien overlords, make believe villains with descriptively violent names, and generally repulsive things.

Hurricane Zilgorn the Bloody

Hurricane Querzark the Disemboweler

Hurricane Beastlord

Hurricane Vlanf the Conqueror

Hurricane SpiderRoach Van GoiterBoil

Hurricane Babyeater

Hurricane Fangy McSlugmonster

Hurricane Maneating Rat

Hurricane Voldemort (I know he’s a dude, but he’s also a snake and a ghost or something)

Hurricane Medusa (there, now we’re even)

I could go on, but I’m no scientist. I’m sure they can think of many more gender-free names that will both be memorable and strike fear in the hearts of men and women alike. I feel good about this.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!