In the hours after American Airlines Flight 63 landed safely thanks to the courage and strength of the flight attendants and passengers, there was a refreshing clarity about the sexes evident in the land.
Let's review: When Richard C. Reid leaned down and began touching lighted matches to his sneakers, it was a flight attendant who first attempted to stop him. She grabbed at his hands and he shoved her so hard that she landed, according to The New York Times account, four rows back. She yelled for help, and another flight attendant attempted to thwart Reid's shoe-lighting. Reid bit her on the hand hard enough to draw blood. When she screamed, a number of male passengers, including the 6 foot, 8 inch NBA player Kwame James responded. Using anything at hand -- including plastic handcuffs, a dozen belts offered by other passengers and, eventually, sedatives from the plane's on-board kit -- four or five large men were able to subdue the "almost possessed" Reid.
The female flight attendants deserve high marks for their courage. But the episode does reveal that physical size and strength still matter in this world. It took the advent of real danger to reawaken our politically correct society to this truth.
Three years ago, my then-5-year-old son came home from kindergarten and looked at me sympathetically. "Mom, when you were a little girl, people didn't think women could be firefighters, did they?"
I knew immediately that his teacher, a lovely lady of decidedly liberal outlook, was instructing her charges on the wonderful progress of civilization.
"Well," I said, "I'm still not sure I think women firefighters are a good idea." I explained that women had been discouraged in the past from pursuing careers at all -- and this did not make sense. There is no reason that a woman cannot try a case, run a business or heal the sick.
But when it comes to tasks requiring physical strength, well, women are still smaller than men. And while many women have just as much courage, ingenuity and self-possession in emergencies as men, only the most unusual women have the strength to carry the average overweight American out of a burning building.
We've pretended for decades now that physical differences between men and women are insignificant, and where they exist, stand as a rebuke to men. Big dumb jerks. We don't need you to hold open doors for us! I can carry my own bag, bub! Except, it turns out, that when a 6 foot, 4 inch terrorist is swatting women away like mosquitoes, you do need men -- the bigger the better -- to overpower him.
What feminists have never understood, and have actually gone out of their way to distort, is that male strength has always been viewed, in Western culture, as a responsibility, not as a weapon with which to subjugate females. Women and men have traditionally taught their sons (in all but the worst families) that with physical strength must come mental and moral strength. Boys were taught the honorable use of their power -- not to intimidate but to prevent intimidation; not to bully but to protect. Despite reams of disinformation circulated by some feminists, husbands are the last people to beat or abuse women.
Perhaps the new climate of danger -- danger from evil men -- will quiet the anti-male agitation we've endured for so long. For the threat from evil men can only adequately be met by good men. Why not cheer when the manly virtues are called for and demonstrated?
Our admiration for Rudy Giuliani is not based upon his empathy -- though he showed plenty of it -- but rather for older virtues like command, authority, competence and leadership. The businessmen on Flight 93 who whispered their farewells to their wives and families, and then set down their cell phones to take on the terrorists were real men -- the best of masculinity. Were we proud of the female flight attendant who quietly boiled water to throw at the terrorists? You bet. But if it came to a fight, mano a mano, the men would have to take the lead.
As Peggy Noonan observed in Opinion Journal, Sept. 11 has brought old-fashioned virility back into style. God bless our men, who've taken so much undeserved abuse for decades, yet never stopped being men and gentlemen.