Flying High: sexism, paternalism and sheer idiocracy

What are the dangers to a kid flying alone ?
Airline policies and parents concerned about allowing unaccompanied minors to be seated next to men make a travesty of both reason and justice.

That this fear feeds paternalistic policy and parental concerns is ludicrous.

If you send your child unaccompanied on a plane, your child has more chance of dying in a plane crash than being molested!

Tracey Spicer, journalist and Sky News anchor has recently affirmed her support of this controversial airline policy saying “I don’t want my kids sitting next to a man on a plane.”

Her statement is, as she admits, sexist. It most certainly is, but my major issue is that it is patently wrong and misleading.

It is said that we use only 10% of our brain, that 20% of statistics are made up, and the remaining 90% of the population aren’t any good at proportions.

Most of these statistics seem to be about right when it comes to some airline policies and parental concerns. We seem to be flying out of control.

Tracey and airlines have decided that all men should be treated with caution because 90% of paedophiles are male. (They presumably think that males in many, even most contexts are fine despite this risk, e.g, teachers, husbands, fathers, pilots, flight crews, etc.).

This is a truly staggering piece of unreasonable thinking.

Sexual abuse of children is horrific in the extreme. It is also an extremely unlikely event.

In the United States where disturbingly detailed statistics of these sorts of ugly events are kept, there were 56,000 perpetrators of sexual abuse in 2012.

That is an awful lot of awful people.

However, let’s put this into perspective. The US population in 2012 was 313.9 million people.

That means that if you picked someone at random, the chances of that person being a sexual abuser would be roughly .018% or about 1 in 5,500 people. If we assume that all sexual abusers are male, then it’s about 2 in 5,500 chance if the person is male.

Against this we juxtapose the fact that a person has one in 7,800 of dying in a plane accident in their lifetime.

The odds are not directly comparable – one is a proportion of the population, the other is the probability of an event in a lifetime.

However, we can say that being on a plane clearly raises your chances of dying in a plane accident enormously. And it is unlikely to have any effect on your exposure to sexual abusers as planes are not a well-known 'hang-out' for sexual abusers.

Reports of airline safety illustrate this point perfectly. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau shows that there were some 41 fatalities in Australian commercial aviation between 2003 to 2012. During the same period, there is no evidence of any child molestation incidents in the ATSB report nor in any other source that I can find. So we can count molestations as zero.

If you're really that worried about the safety of your child, you shouldn't be putting your child on that plane at all. He or she has more chance of dying than being molested.

Tracey and all you other helicopter parents, get a grip!

Giving support to overly paternalistic policies based on appalling logic is not doing anyone any favours.

If the media is going to lead good thinking on parenting and policy, let it be the free-range parenting model promoted by Lenore Skenazy who caused a social ripple by publishing a story about letting her 9-year old son travel on the New York subway alone.

Frankly, if you’re worried about your child being abused, you should worry less about strangers and more about parents! The vast majority (80%) of child abuse perpetrators are parents.

So following Tracey’s and airline logic, the State should probably make all children wards of the State due to the risk that they are exposed to abuse (neglect, physical, sexual, etc.) from their parents.

This is absurd.

It is human to discriminate. We are constantly discriminating good from bad. We judge kids, parents, teachers, students, professionals, employees, employers, as good or bad.

The problem is not the discrimination. The problem is discriminating based on poor reasoning.

Details about the profile of a sexual abuser (predominantly male) gives no basis for judging the prevalence of sexual abusers among the male population.

Judging all individuals of one gender as bad based on this fallacy is not only unreasonable, it is unjust and odiously sexist.

Even the double-standard that allows such anti-male remarks to be printed speaks volumes to the distance we have to go in the battle to end sexism, paternalism and injustice.

To get there, we will need to start using the other 90% of our brains.

1 comment:

  1. I strongly agree with you. It is a sad comment on the statistical and reasoning/ analytic competence of media that they did not see your argument for themselves and did not criticize the airline policy for its embarrassing stupidity.