Often, all too…the truth hurts.
Over the years I’ve had numerous discussions, some with avowed “feminists,” like myself, some rabid “anti-feminists” and some “radical feminists.”
Like every true “feminist” I believe that physical standards need not be altered for the benefit of women (or any other group), yes, even for jobs like firefighting, which remain stubbornly and persistently male; nationally firefighting remains 96.4% male vs. 3.6% female.
Taking into account all the available variables I see no reason for lowering physical standards and insist that even in the face of lowered physical standards, the increase in the number of females in the Fire Service would almost certainly be negligible.
Ironically enough, both rabid “anti-feminists” and “radical feminists” both seem to view women as less capable, less equal than true feminists such as myself. While rabid anti-feminists would bar women from such jobs, radical feminists would seek to shamelessly lower standards ostensibly to increase the number of females who COULD pass such exams.
BOTH are rooted in the belief that women simply cannot hold their own in such jobs. If that’s the case, then WHY defend the right of sub-par applicants to attempt to do jobs they don’t appear capable of doing?
Recently Marine Captain Katie Patronio wrote an article titled, “Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal.” (SEE:
In it she notes, “I fit the mold of a female who would have had a shot at completing IOC, and I am sure there was a time in my life where I would have volunteered to be an infantryman. I was a star ice hockey player at Bowdoin College, a small elite college in Maine, with a major in government and law. At 5 feet 3 inches I was squatting 200 pounds and benching 145 pounds when I graduated in 2007.”
She also adds, “I also repeatedly scored far above average in all female-based physical fitness tests (for example, earning a 292 out of 300 on the Marine physical fitness test).”
One very evident problem is that the scores above don’t translate for even “average” for males. Few males are unable to bench-press more than 150 lbs (most of the firefighters I know can bench well in excess of 200 lbs), nor are many males unable squat more than 200lbs.
So, why would anyone pretend that a very fit 5’3” female is “as capable as” a 5’10” physically fit male?
There are reasons that female tennis players are protected from playing against males, or why the best female basketball players are segregated from male players. Even female golfers don’t compete with their male counterparts because the physical disadvantages faced by females would make such competitions both unfair and humiliating for the female athletes.
Street policing, firefighting and (according to Captain Patronio) combat are just as “unfair” to females.
To be sure, Captain Patronio sees “longevity” as the major downfall for females in combat.
In her account she notes, “Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.
“I was a motivated, resilient second lieutenant when I deployed to Iraq for 10 months, traveling across the Marine area of operations (AO) and participating in numerous combat operations. Yet, due to the excessive amount of time I spent in full combat load, I was diagnosed with a severe case of restless leg syndrome. My spine had compressed on nerves in my lower back causing neuropathy which compounded the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. While this injury has certainly not been enjoyable, Iraq was a pleasant experience compared to the experiences I endured during my deployment to Afghanistan.”
So according to an experienced female Marine officer, the rigors of such physically demanding positions wear women down faster and more severely than their male counterparts.
Apparently there’s a very good reason why only 3.4% of firefighters nationwide are female. One reason is that so few females even apply for such positions. Another is that, yes, existing physical standards DO tend to impact female applicants much more negatively than their male colleagues.
It would appear that Captain Patronio would agree with me that standards DO NOT need to be lowered to accommodate female recruits.