Hurricane Irma may be one of the strongest hurricanes to ever form in the Atlantic, and will likely leave a path of destruction rarely seen in recent years. But, claims one study by the National Academy of Sciences, Irma's death and destruction may be worse than previous storms, not because she's clocking 185 mile per hour winds and triggering earthquake alerts, but because we're all a bunch of sexists.
That's right. According to a recently-resurfaced NAS study, female-named hurricanes (like Irma, Katrina, and yes, even Emily) are far deadlier than male-named hurricanes (like Harvey, Ivan, and Charley) because Americans are programmed to take women less seriously than men.
Because we're sexist, we perceive the hurricanes to have different "personalities" or characteristics in line with our stereotypical views of the opposite sex. Women are weaker, more nurturing, less terrifying, for example, so, trusting in our own misogyny, we often underestimate hurricanes like Irma, and fail to adequately prepare.
When it comes to male hurricanes, our innate fear of the Patriarchy kicks in, we presume we'll be flattened, and we board up our doors and windows, load up our cars, and hike it to less water-logged places in the U.S.
“These experiments show that gender-congruent perceptions of intensity and strength are responsible for male-named hurricanes being perceived as riskier and more intense than female-named hurricanes,” the authors claim.
The study's authors say they collected data from 94 hurricanes that hit the U.S. sometime in the last half century, between 1950 and 2012. Male hurricanes caused an average of 15 deaths per hurricane; female hurricanes caused more than 40 deaths, on average.
It does not appear they considered many other factors, however; modern hurricanes often have higher death and damage tolls because urban and suburban sprawl has brought more people into hurricane territory. In some cases, as with Katrina, it's not even the hurricane's fault: Katrina was between a category 2 and 3 when she made landfall, but major issues with infrastructure, bad city management, and poor planning, all conspired with the storm itself to make Katrina one of the deadliest hurricanes of all time.
It's not clear whether Mayor Ray Nagin was also hoodwinked by the Patriarchy.