The Profound Tragedy of Titanic Virtue

On April 10th, on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, John Piper[1] tweeted, “When the Titanic sank 20% of the men and 74% of the women survived. That profound virtue was not nurtured by egalitarianism.”

I literally gasped.

Quoting that tweet, I posted the following as a status update on Facebook:

There are selfless men, selfless women, selfish men and selfish women of every kind–complementarian and egalitarian. I don’t need to see my wife as the “weaker sex” in order to choose her life over my own. We could each take care of ourselves, though we’re better off with the other’s help.

I put her first, not because of some archaic notion of “virtue” consisting of the acknowledgment of her inherent weakness as compared to my inherent strength. Rather because, though she can take care of herself, I pledge my whole life to taking care of her.

It is for love, not chivalry, that I hold the door for one who is strong enough to hold it without me. It is for the same that I would send her to the life-boat while I took my chances on the ship. #Egalitarian.

I followed that post with another:

Here, Mr. Piper, are told tales of “profound virtue”.

“On the real ship, a young couple was seated on the Promenade Deck. When an officer asked if he could put the girl in a boat, she replied, ‘Not on your life. We started together, and, if need be, we’ll finish together.’

On the real ship, Edith Evans gave up her seat in the last lifeboat to another woman just 15 minutes before the ship sank. ‘You go first. You have children waiting at home.’ Evans, age 36, died that night.


Celiney Yazbeck cried and tried to rejoin her husband on deck when she realized he could not go with her. While a husband is different from a brand- new boyfriend, Yazbeck was only 15 years old.


63-year-old Rosalie Ida Straus[...]said, ‘I’ve always stayed with my husband. So why should I leave him now?’”

Don’t get me wrong. Death is bad. The less death, the better. I’m not suggesting that more women should have given their lives. I’m saying that too many people did and that the actions of those women who died to stay with their husbands or to allow families to not be divided stand in as prophetic judgement on the sort of “virtue” that would send lifeboats away half empty.

So many people died who didn’t have to. And that profound tragedy was also not nurtured by egalitarianism.

I’m posting today in celebration of mutuality and gender equality alongside Rachel Held Evans‘s #mutuality2012.

A Week of Mutuality

1. (back to text) John Piper (Wikipedia)

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