“Say, Elbert. What’s the name of that there hurricane that’s fixin’ to pounce upon us?”
“Lolita, I think.”
“What? Lolita!? I ain’t evacuatin’ nowheres! Not for no fee-male ‘cane. Gimme that there beer and turn on the TV.”
Poor Earl and Elbert! Blown away by “implicit sexism.”
It’s the PEER-REVIEWED paper “Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—the National Academy of Sciences!—by Kiju Jung, Sharon Shavitt, Madhu Viswanathan, and Joseph Hilbe. They say, “Laboratory experiments indicate [female-named hurricanes are deadlier] because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents’ preparedness to take protective action.”
Look out! “This finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, with important implications for policymakers, media practitioners, and the general public concerning hurricane communication and preparedness.”
Everybody remembers how the media downplayed female-named Hurricane Sandy, right?
Listen. This paper has no near rival in sheer awfulness, as evidence by its opening sentence: “Estimates suggest that hurricanes kill more than 200 people in the United States annually, and severe hurricanes can cause fatalities in the thousands.”
If they checked the National Weather Services’s numbers, they’d’ve learned that in 2006 there were 0 fatalities, in 2007 just 1, in 2008 only 12, in 2009 a mere 2, in 2010 another 0, in 2011 a meager 9, in 2012 a paltry 3, in 2013 a whole 1. Update These are USA land deaths. See the comment from me to Dan Jones below.
Since 1940, only 4 years out of 74 had hurricanes which killed more than 200, the number they claim is the average. The 10-year average is 108 yearly deaths but the 30-year average is 47. Hurricane Katrina killed 1,106 in 2005 and bumped the 10-year average.
The authors used hurricanes from 1950 to 2012. Who remembers that up until 1979 hurricanes only had female names? Skip it. This is science, not history. They had “raters” “rate” the degree of femininity of hurricane names, from 1 to 11. Hurricane Flossy (1956) got a score of 7, but 1971’s Ginger beat her with a 10. Numbers are what make it science!
Here come the stats: “A series of negative binomial regression analyses were performed to investigate effects of perceived masculinity-femininity of hurricane names, minimum pressure, normalized damage, and the interactions among them on the number of deaths caused by the hurricanes”.
Guess what? Right! The regressions spat out wee p-values! Negative binomial regression! Your average bad paper relies on everyday ordinary regression. But this is negative binomial. Hoo Ah! does that sound impressive.
Wee p-values prove sexism kills, sisters and brothers. Statistics don’t lie. So what if hurricane names are assigned in advance before the season begins and before anybody has any idea of what may come? And so what if nobody in all of history can be found poo-pooing a hurricane because it had a girl’s name? Implicit sexism kills in the same way that splicing in a single frame of a photo of popcorn into a movie convinces people to buy it subliminally. I despair.
The authors must have conducted actual interviews with real people who recalled thinking about real hurricane names, and how they acted on the femininity of those names, right?
Wrong. They ran six “experiments” to generate fictional data instead.
First experiment asked 346 non-house owners (college kiddies) to ponder boy and girl hurricane names and predict the “intensity” of these from 1 to 7. “Arthur” had a mean fictional made-up imaginary pretend fantasy nothing-to-do-with-real-hurricanes “intensity” of 4.246—not 4.245, nor even 4.247, but 4.246—while Dolly had 4.014. Another wee p-value. What more proof do you need, you misogynist.
Another experiment scrapped 142 volunteers from the Internet and asked them to rate their “evacuation intentions” and fake hurricane “risk”, from 1 to 7 of course. Hurricane Christina had a mean 2.343 fictional made-up you-get-the-idea evacuation score, while Christopher had 2.939. More wee p-values, you sexist.
There were other experiments, but all were equally asinine and had zero bearing on any real-life decisions people make with real storms. The authors’ conclusion that the greater deaths seen under female-named hurricanes is “because feminine- vs. masculine-named hurricanes are perceived as less risky and thus motivate less preparedness” is smellier than that which is ejected out of a cow on a forced diet of wet crabgrass.
Listen sisters and brothers, there is no point being nice about this. This paper is dumb. The idea is dumb. The experiments are dumb. The analysis is dumb. The statistical errors are dumb. The media which reported it lovingly was dumb.
The theory is so preposterous that only an academic could believe it. That it even saw the light of day is a measure of how politicized Science has become, how willing the so-called intelligentsia is to accept any evidence, no matter how farcical, as long as it bolsters their prejudices.
Update Shavitt is professor of marketing at the University of Illinois, Kiju Jung is a PhD student in advertising same place, Madhu Viswanathan is a business prof there, too, and Joseph Hilbe is the statistician at Arizona State. The paper prearranged to have Susan T. Fiske, psychology prof at Princeton specializing in stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, as editor.
Update But wait—more research is needed! We still need to discover whether Femnadoes are more destructive than Sharknadoes!
Update Another take at AW’s place. The best comment, “So if we start calling them ‘Butch’ and ‘Vlarg, the Destroyer of Worlds’, it’ll save lives?”
Update There is nothing wrong with using the negative binomial. I was being sarcastic. No model at all should have been run. The picture alone proved the theory was folly (James below made one, though I think he mistakenly classified some early hurricanes as “male”).
Update I’ve run into some folks who say the theory is plausible and that the study, such as it is, might suffer from “low power.” I say the theory is nonsensical because nobody ever thought about a hurricane’s name before deciding whether to run away from it. The authors present ZERO direct evidence anybody ever did. Do we not remember the media frenzy over (female) Sandy? “Run away or die tonight!” However, and quite technically, the theory is contingent, meaning it has a vanishingly small probability of being true. Just as do the theories, “Hurricanes starting with the letter P kill more than the letter R” or “Hurricanes with three syllables kill more than with one or two.” These have low power, too. Just as will any of the infinite theories you can think up which would explain the data.
Thanks to Ant O’Fearghail â€(@aofarre) who provided the name Femnado. And thanks for Al Perrella for finding the Discover connection.