ColumnLightning strikes twice (make that four times) as many men as women.
A study by Popular Science Magazine has determined that out of everyone who is hit by lightning, 82% are men. In my house this has led to lots of merry speculation about the reasons for this lopsided statistic. My daughter thinks it’s because lightning is attracted to men, much the same way that mosquitoes are reportedly drawn to people with type O blood. Interesting though it may be, I can find no scientific evidence to support this idea.
My husband subscribes to the more Hemingway-esque theory that men get hit by lightning because they are more likely than women to be outside doing manly activities like playing golf, being lumberjacks, and participating in soccer riots. To his credit, immediately after voicing this theory, my husband retracted it, on the grounds that it made him sound like a lifetime member of the He-Man-Woman-Hater’s club. Besides being condescending to women, this suggestion ignores the fact that women also spend lots of time outdoors: playing professional soccer in nearly empty stadiums, dragging garbage cans to the curb (because someone has to do it), and walking across town when we grow weary of being groped and harassed on public transportation. It’s just that, unlike men, we are willing to interrupt these activities during life-threatening electrical storms.
Yes, it’s as simple as that: women don’t get hit by lightning because we are smart enough to go indoors during thunderstorms. The people at Popular Science agree with me on this, although they word it more delicately, saying that, “men are less likely to stop outdoor activity when stormy weather hits.” Inevitably, one has to wonder why this is so.
Golf is one of the most likely ways for men to become lightning-bait, which is not surprising, since it is a summer-time activity that strands large groups of people out in the open when they’re holding long metal sticks (also known as “lightning rods”). I live right next to a golf course and during thunderstorms a distinctive blaring horn will sound to tell the golfers to come indoors. Minutes later there is a second round of horns for the die-hard meatheads who ignore the first warning. Recently I asked a member of the club if women golfers were, in fact, more likely to heed the first warning – he laughed and said “Oh women don’t need the siren at all – they come in at the first sign of a storm.”
My theory on this is that women have learned over time to be more alert to the signs of danger. Years of sharing elevators and subway cars with sweaty predators and perverts have taught us to recognize a threat when we see it. Women do not ignore danger, maybe because the repetitive panic that accompanies peeing on sticks to see if we’re pregnant has taught us that foolish acts can have dire consequences. Finally, we simply lack the macho bravado that makes men feel like sissies if they run inside at the first sign of thunder.
I haven’t read any statistics about it, but I’ll bet that fewer women than men are killed during the Running of the Bulls in Pamploma. This is because women, by and large, have the good sense and finely honed survival instincts to spend their leisure time doing something that doesn’t involve racing around medieval European side streets while being chased by large, bloodthirsty mammals with horns. Women, in general, live longer than men, and while much of their superior longevity can be explained by a pragmatic lack of idiocy, something else seems to be at work here too. Despite our quaint and anachronistic reputation as the weaker sex, a recent study just reported that women are much less likely to die from most forms of cancer. Women also have much lower rates of heart disease and we are practically exempt from hemophilia. Some might say that we are the lucky sex. And while I would never dream of claiming we’re the smarter sex, at least we know enough to come in out of the rain.
Susan Goldberg is a slightly lapsed treehugger. Although known to overuse paper products, she has the best of intentions – and a really small SUV. Catch her column, The Goldberg Variations, each week here at EcoSalon.