Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

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New York Post Online Edition:
February 6, 2000

After nearly two decades and many, many good-faith efforts to integrate women into the New York City Fire Department, the number of female firefighters remains low.

Some would say scandalously low: There are only 36 women in the FDNY's entire 11,000-member force.

And only 11 women did well enough on the latest round of tests to become candidates for hiring.

A few activists, including the United Women Firefighters -- a necessarily small organization -- believe the city should be doing even more to produce a higher proportion of women in the ranks.

It's hard to see what more, in fact, could be done.

It's time to face facts and realize this is not a crisis, but just reality: Men have greater upper-body strength than women and -- generally speaking -- can move heavy loads from one point to another faster than women.

And, in this particular line of work, strength and speed are life itself -- for firefighters and for those they are called upon to save.

More than any other public-service occupation -- perhaps even more than the police force -- firefighting demands rigorous physical training.

A perfect score of 100 on the physical test is usually a requirement for hiring, and it is not surprising that very few women qualify. More than 40 percent of male applicants fail to reach that bar.

So the number of women remains low, even though the tests have been fine-tuned to de-emphasize raw muscle.

The exams were rejiggered to reflect the notions of Judge Charles Sifton, who -- while presiding over a sexual-discrimination suit in 1985 -- found that upper-body strength to be largely "irrelevant" to firefighting.

Just how do today's physical tests reflect Sifton's peculiar reasoning?

Instead of assessing how much weight a candidate can bench-press, the current exams emphasize real-situation skills, such as feeding 50 feet of water-filled hose to a fellow firefighter in a set amount of time.

But the results still demonstrate that -- relative both to men and to the clock -- most women lack the forearm and grip strength to use a hand-over-hand method to feed one section of hose, while pulling on the next.

Simply put, having a physically incapable member of a fire department risks lives: That individual's, other members of the squad -- and, most important, civilians in need of rescue.

And this is not to overlook that a certain amount of self-selection occurs in the decision to become a firefighter.

Of the 850 women who originally registered for last September's written test, almost half dropped out beforehand.

And of the 350 who passed the written exam, only a third chose to take the physical test in December. Finally, as noted, only 11 passed that test.

And so, New York's Bravest remain 99 percent male.

This reflects a simple truth: In certain cases, sometimes biology really is destiny.

Tinkering with tests won't change that -- nor should it.

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