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Harriet Walker: Of course it had to be a woman’s fault that the cruise ship hit the rocks


There's a rimy old tradition that women are bad luck on ships. They anger the demonic seas and turn the winds; they call up the kraken with their sub-lunary hormones and lovely hair. During storms, the Greeks threw them overboard to appease the Olympian powers.

Our fascination with Domnica Cemortan, the Moldovan ballet dancer and former employee of the Costa Concordia now wanted by the police for questioning, is like that of those salty seadogs looking for the bit of skirt that caused the problem. We may not have slung her over the side but, in our search for a scapegoat, we've been thoroughly taken in by her siren call.

I have always found the tradition of a captain going down with his ship a little barbaric, an arcane notion of honour that didn't fit a world that had found its sealegs. But Francesco Schettino looks to be the reason the Costa Concordia ran aground – why pillory the woman he is claimed to have had dinner with shortly before it happened? Didn't we reform our nautical policy after Iphigenia?

The only thing we love more than drama is intrigue, and the only thing we love more than both of these is a femme fatale. The sinking of the Costa Concordia has provided both of the former in spades – with images that will make the history books and more conflicting accounts than Circe had pigs – but if we can factor in some kind of exotic sex kitten, then so much the better.

Pictures of Ms Cemortan have surfaced that show her in her bikini, in smudgy "Come hither" eye makeup; only when you scroll down do you see her in fluorescent orange safety gear. She was a trained member of the Costa Concordia crew at one point, and returned to visit the ship. Yes, she is said to have had dinner and wine with Schettino (who has since claimed he did not have any alcohol prior to the incident). But it isn't her fault if he couldn't keep his mind on his rudder; at least Odysseus had the decency to be lashed to the mast when the sirens tried to buy him a cocktail.

So, yes, let's blame the woman for this man taking his eye off the ball. Let's blame a delicate-featured Bond Girl for "her role" in a tragedy. Or let's just blame one man's apparently colossal ineptitude. We don't live in the age of gods; Schettino has none of the tragic stature of the ancients. I believe this is no one else's mistake.