Complete these sentences with your first, gut-level thought:

► Shortly after they heard the alarm, a crew of_____________ rescued some

women from a blazing apartment.

► Two——– attacked a woman jogger in Central Park.

Most people think of the woman as being saved by "firemen" or "fire fighters." It is now considered sexist for TV announcers to use “fireman" rather than "fire fighter." But when a woman is attacked, the TV announcer says, "Two men attacked a woman." When men sate a woman, we emphas­ize their function (fire fighters, donors). When men hurt women, we think primarily of their sex (men), not some men’s behavior (violence). Which creates in our subconscious an anger toward men that, in turn, allows us to feel more comfortable with their disposability.

We call women who are nurses "helping professionals"; we call men who are police officers "cops" (or "pigs"), not "saving professionals." Thus we associate men’s physical strength with how men use it to hurt women, but not how they use it to save women – not only as police officers and fire fighters but as women’s personal bodyguards, ready to die before a woman they love is raped, robbed, or murdered.

The male propensity to save can be found even in places that we normally associate with the male propensity to destroy. When the white-hot core of the Chernobyl reactor had been about to drop into a pool of radioactive water, which would have set off steam explosions, spreading radioactive contamination and leaving hundreds of other families exposed to early deaths via cancer, three men voluntarily dove into the radioactive water to open valves to drain the water, thus preventing a steam explosion. Although the plant supervisor had given the workers permission not to enter the contaminated water, one of the men responded, "How could I refuse when I was the only person on the shift who knew where the valves were located?”

Chernobyl reflects, then, not only men’s propensity for destruction but men’s propensity to save.