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Breaking Glass

Sexism and hurricane safety

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Hurricane Irene as seen from space.
Hurricane Irene as seen from space. - (NASA)

No, this isn't a joke. And yes, this is real — albeit unabashedly foolish.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have determined that hurricanes with female names have historically been more deadly than hurricanes of the same strength with male names.

Coincidence? Unfortunately, no.

The reasoning, the researchers said, is that both men and women have applied gender bias to weather patterns.

“The femininity of the name influences the degree to which people feel the storm is dangerous, and that affects how they respond to it,” Sharon Shavitt, a behavioral scientist at the university and a co-author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a news release.

It’s important to remember that scientists do not choose the gender of the storm — men’s names are given to odd-numbered storms during even-numbered years, and women’s names are given to odd-numbered storms during odd-numbered years.

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However, this study suggests that if there’s a hurricane headed for the East Coast named Mark and it is suddenly renamed Megan — the expected death toll would automatically triple.

Thank you to the researchers at UIC for proving that gender bias can literally kill you for being naïve.

After collecting and analyzing 90 years of hurricane fatality data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers ran six follow-up experiments to further test their strange findings.

In one experiment, volunteers were given storm statistics and an optional evacuation order for either Hurricane Danny or Hurricane Kate — all information being exactly the same except for the name. Participants who read about Hurricane Danny were more likely to say they’d evacuate their homes than those who read about Hurricane Kate.

What’s worse is that women were just as likely as men to think hurricanes with male names were more destructive than those with female names.

Therefore, all participants who don’t believe in science — or women’s wrath, for that matter — are left to fend for themselves in the wake of a “feminine” hurricane.

Good grief.

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Meg Fry

Meg Fry

Meg Fry covers manufacturing and retail. Meg joins NJBIZ with past production experience in the arts, film and television. She continues to write and market her own spec scripts and screenplays. You can contact her at megf@njbiz.com or @MegFry3 on Twitter.

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