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‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’ Letter to the Editor FDNY Not ‘Incredibly Sexist’

Posted Thursday, February 13, 2014

Monday, February 10th, 2013; 5:00 p.m. ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’ / New York, NY

As a member of the incredibly sexist patriarchy known as the FDNY—a characterization (Feb. 7 issue) offered by someone who has never been a member of the FDNY (and one that in my mind surpasses “stubborn bastion of white male privilege,” a characterization offered by another white male who has never strapped on a mask and crawled down a hot, smoky hallway)—I would like to offer a few quotes attributed in print to various female members of said patriarchy.

United Women FFs President FF Sarinya Srisakul: “The first year, guys want to see how you are in a fire. Once you get past that, it’s pretty golden.” She acknowledged when saying this that all new firefighters are subjected to this period of evaluation and judgment, not just females.

“I feel like I have 30 brothers,” she said with a smile when talking about the other members of her company. She went on to say that she feels welcome and gets teased because she is a vegan.

Other quotes from various female firefighters (whom I will not identify here as they were not quoted in the article in question) but can verify and provide sources for:

“I didn’t expect it (sexism) and it didn’t happen.”

“I’ve only had really good experiences on the job.”

A very high-ranking civilian female member of the FDNY, charged with recruiting a diverse workforce, said the FDNY “is the best job in the world.”

Three of the above quotes were made within the past 6 months, and the oldest one is from 2010. In addition, the FDNY has spent well more than $20 million and instituted numerous programs and initiatives to integrate and recruit females as well as minorities in an effort going back to the 1980s. In short, the man who made this comment would do well to learn something before commenting lest he appear foolish again in the future.

Does this mean that sexism does not exist in the FDNY? As a microcosm of society, this would be impossible. Sexism and racism exist everywhere, and they are revealed in the FDNY by certain members who advocate that hiring decisions (and no doubt, eventually, promotions) be made on the basis of race or gender. In fact, that advocacy has resulted in the racist use of quotas for the current Academy class as well as the one that just graduated.

Nevertheless, I believe that the vast majority of people in both society and the FDNY reject this type of thinking. Unless and until equal treatment for all is demanded at every turn, however, preferential treatment will continue as a result of judicial fiat or because of policy decisions made by administrators who have forgotten where they came from—or who were never there in the first place, but arrogantly believe they are fit to pass judgment on those who are, or about those who they feel should be.

One more thing. FF Srisakul made the claim that a female firefighter was held back from graduating for a year for making faces at her instructor, but this claim does not pass the smell test. Could it be that there was another reason, perhaps one not as helpful to the “incredibly sexist patriarchy” narrative being advanced?

I would like to know, and I encourage the firefighter supposedly subjected to such draconian punishment to contact me to explore avenues of redress for unequal treatment. If I don’t hear from anyone, I will assume this is a false claim made to unduly influence a serious issue.

President, Merit Matters