Women think about themselves while men sacrifice for others
WHEN the bullets started flying at La Belle Equipe restaurant in Paris, Ludovic Boumbas threw himself forward as a human shield to save his friend Chloe Clement. That instinctive act of selflessness cost the 40-year-old his life, but Clement survived.
Out of the evil of the terrorist rampage in Paris last month, similar tales of chivalry and male sacrifice have emerged, as they so often do in situations of grave peril. Men who risk and even lose their lives protecting the women around them are a constant feature of crisis stories, from Paris to the Port Arthur massacre, from the San Bernardino terrorist attack to the rampage of a bikie on the streets of Melbourne.
In Paris, at the Bataclan theatre, where most of the 129 victims were massacred, Yannick Minvielle, 39, stood in front of his girlfriend to protect her when the Islamic State gunmen opened fire. He died and she survived.
Hobart native Emma Parkinson, 19, who survived the Bataclan shooting rampage, has told how a stranger protected her head under his arm as they cowered on the floor.
A British man, Michael O’Connor, 30, lay on top of his girlfriend Sara Badel to shield her from the gunmen’s bullets, and put his arm around another woman lying next to him.
Irishman David Nolan threw himself on top of girlfriend Katie Healy.
Another man in the theatre that night, identified only as Bruno, also risked his life to save a woman he didn’t know, shielding her from the bullets with his body.
A pregnant woman hanging from a third floor window ledge at the theatre was rescued by a man known only as Sébastien, who risked his life to re-enter the building and pull her back through the window, with gunfire still blazing.
Across the world, wherever there is mortal danger, we see so many of these acts of heroic male selflessness that we have come to take them for granted.
In the terrorist rampage in San Bernardino, California, two weeks ago, for instance, Shannon Johnson, 45, wrapped his arm around his 27-year-old colleague Denise Peraza and held her close as the bullets started to fly.
“I got you,” he said. She survived and he died.
Who could forget heroic father of three Brendan Keilar (pictured above), shot dead while trying to rescue a woman being assaulted by her bikie boyfriend in Melbourne’s CBD eight years ago.
Keilar, a 43-year-old solicitor, was on his way to work at 8.20am when he intervened to stop a drug-addled gun-toting Christopher Hudson hauling Kaera Douglas by her hair out of a nightclub. Dutch backpacker Paul de Waard, 26, also took a bullet as he came to the woman’s aid and was seriously injured.
“We are immensely proud of Brendan,” his wife Alice wrote when he was honoured with a posthumous bravery award, “and to have his courage and selflessness recognised in this manner means much to us”.
When I covered Australia’s worst mass murder, the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, I was struck by how many husbands had been shot as they lay on top of their wives to shield them from Martin Bryant’s bullets.
Peter Nash, 32, Ron Jary, 71, Tony Kistan, 51, and Kevin Sharp, 68, died as heroes. John Fidler, who also pushed his wife to the ground and shielded her, survived his wounds.
Peter Crosswell shielded his friends Thelma Walker and Pamela Law with his body as they hid under a table at the Broad Arrow cafe.
Grandfather Rob Elliott ran towards Bryant as a decoy to distract his focus from where his wife was hiding. He also survived being shot.
In the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre massacre of 2012, acts of sacrificial valour were again evident.
Jon Blunk, 25, Matt McQuinn, 26, and Alex Teves, 24, were shot dead as they lay on top of their girlfriends to shield them from the gunman’s bullets. Their girlfriends survived with minor injuries.
There is an instinct for selfless chivalry in men, a spontaneous urge to protect the weak, which used to be honoured in folklore and stories passed on through generations. But today it is ignored and even derided. Its once familiar, small manifestations, such as opening doors for a woman, or standing back as she enters a lift, have been snarled into virtual extinction.
Instead, we are told that all men are incipient violent brutes, so prone to domestic violence they must be berated from birth, denied the joys of Lego and toy trucks and shamed into submission.
This is no way to nurture the manly virtues which are the antidote to violence.