Women and girls are always being told to be more confident. In fact, in many instances — like when women complain about unfair treatment, unfair wages, or sexism — the response is just that we have to step up and be bold. It’s our fault that we’re not stepping up and taking what we deserve.
But maybe — just maybe, hear me out — instead of women becoming more confident, men should maybe try to tamp their out-of-control confidence down a bit?
Here’s the latest example. A 2023 YouGov survey found that a staggering 46% of men are either very confident or somewhat confident that they could land a passenger plane all by themselves in the event of an emergency, as long as they could talk to air traffic control. That’s basically one out of every two men you see.
Yes, these are the same men who don’t start the dishwasher because they “weren’t sure what button to press.”
Yes, these are the same men who do not know what size shoe their children wear.
Yes, there are the same men who ask you, the only woman in the room, to take notes during the meeting.
It seems like weaponized incompetence disappears when the world needs a hero.
How did other demographics in the survey compare? Only 7% of women were confident that they could land a passenger plane, while 13% were somewhat confident they could pull it off (and hey, why not? We pull off everything else, why not land a 737 while making someone a snack and helping someone else learn long division?).
I’m just sitting here trying to picture the man I saw earlier today — who tried to confidently wave me through a dangerous intersection while I had a red light — attempting to put the landing gear down on a jumbo jet.
Has an inexperienced person ever landed a plane like that in an emergency before? Well, once, in 2022. It was a small, single-engine plane in which the pilot had a medical emergency. And the passenger landed safely with the help of air traffic control. Of course, even though this person didn’t have any flight experience, he had seen pilots fly multiple times before — and it was a small plane with fixed landing gear and simpler controls than something commercial.
But in a number of simulations, it’s very rare for someone to land without crashing unless they have some familiarity with flying. The rate of crashing is even high if you’re a licensed pilot trying to land a plane you aren’t trained on.
As a pilot explained on Aviation Stack Exchange, an online forum for pilots, it would even be difficult for someone without experience to find the right frequency on the radio to speak with air traffic control in the first place, let alone follow directions to land the plane (which would also be dependent on air traffic control finding someone familiar with landing your type of plane).
The good news? Even though it would be very difficult to land a passenger plane in an emergency, the chances that you would have to do it are extremely, extremely low. Commercial flights have two qualified people up front and take lots of precautions that they both don’t become incapacitated at the same time (for example, they are encouraged not to eat the same meal before boarding to avoid food poisoning).
That means the chances of an overly confident man taking the controls on a plane you’re on are very low, too. Thank the gods.
In any case, the next time a man tells you he needs your help because he can’t do it alone — just tell him to pretend he’s landing a commercial airliner and do it all by himself.