A little while back, I saw this article in the Washington Post about how people don’t take as much precautions when a hurricane is named after a woman as when it’s name after a man. It seems because people don’t feel threatened by a woman. My first thought was, isn’t this a subtle way of reducing the number of sexists in the world? But then I also thought, is it actually sexist to think of women less likely to cause harm to the world, when statistically it’s true. Whether that’s something to do with the nature of the female of the species or the fact that they don’t usually get too much chance to get to a position where they can do too much damage is up for discussion. But this latest research seems clear: women are perceived as less of a threat than men. My second thought was to use this information to make people take the appropriate amount of precaution. So we name our hurricanes according to how bad we’ll think they’ll be.
Benign storms can get “little old lady” names like Gladys or Martha. Then, building up through increasingly macho names as the storms get more dangerous. The very top rung we can pull out another prejudice and use foreign-sounding names. Just to instill a bit more fear into the general public. Thus Ramon or Abdullah would be great names for dangerous hurricanes in the US. The trouble is, this doesn’t simply use established stereotypes and prejudices for a practical purpose, it also helps to reinforce them. (Plus, people in ethnic groups where these names are more common, won't prepare as well.)
Meteorologists deny that Hurricane Bertha caused by Bermuda setting light to a fart.
So maybe we should take it away from the world of human names and use other categories to name them. Maybe it’s animals that we should use. Our fear of animals tends to be related to actually how dangerous they are (well, somewhat). So we can base the name on how deadly the species is. Thus Hurricane Mouse is nothing compared to Hurricane Shark. Hurricane Wombat would be quite small and Hurricane Boa Constrictor would be pretty darn big. And you should all run and hide when you hear Hurricane Mosquito is coming. Seriously, look those statistics up.
Or maybe we should use movies. Small hurricanes can be named after classic, friendly movies you see at Christmas or on Wednesday afternoons, but the really big ones can be named after video nasties. Hurricane I Spit On Your Grave or Hurricane Texas Chainsaw Massacre are definitely ones to hide from. But you can probably go for a walk during Hurricane Lassie Come Home.
What's that Lassie? There's a storm coming? What's it called?
*Woof Woof Woof Woof *
Hurricane Ramon and Abdullah Kill Dismembered Slut Spiders and Drink Your Blood! We'd better hide.