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Jewish World Review May 30, 2002 / 19 Sivan, 5762

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham
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Consumer Reports

Post-feminism in the aftermath of 9-11 | The blessed reprieve from the gender mavens we have been experiencing since Sept. 11 is officially over. Questions such as "Where were all the female firefighters in the media coverage of Sept. 11?" weren't raised in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Feminists were smart enough to know that in that horrifying melee, concerns were focused on survival, not diversity. Ask anyone who escaped: seeing strong, burly firemen enter the buildings, carrying 60 pounds of equipment, ascending into the fire, was awe-inspiring.

Now that she has a captain's promotion under her belt, New York firefighter and feminist hero Brenda Berkman will have a more influential platform from which to push for expanded recruiting of female firefighters. In 1982, Berkman successfully sued the city, alleging that the Fire Department's physical strength requirements discriminated against women. The tests were modified, physical standards lowered and feminists cheered. But the feminization of firefighting didn't get very far.

Today, 25 of New York's 11,500 active firefighters are women. Dismayed that women were being overlooked in the post 9/11 tributes, Berkman remarked, "What was most hurtful was to be invisible at the funerals and memorial services. The officials giving the eulogies would talk about 'firemen,' the 'brothers,' the 'men.'"

Her complaints, echoed by groups such as Women in the Fire Service, seem so, well, un-fireman-like. What we have learned in the past 20 years is that women can (and do) play important roles in rescue services nationwide. Berkman herself was at Ground Zero on 9/11 and in the weeks following.

However, there is no place for social engineering when lives are at stake. Watering down agility and strength requirements to attract more female recruits does nothing but breed resentment and potentially endanger the public. Because of the rulings of activist judges, most female firefighters who are unable to sling a 150-pound person over their shoulders improvise by dragging victims out of burning buildings.

"It's better to drag them out because there's less smoke down there," Gloria Steinem told ABC's John Stossel. She pooh-poohed the traditional lift-and-carry rescue, contending that "we're probably killing people by carrying them out at that height."

Doesn't it make sense that the responsibility for developing the department's physical standards rests with those with actual firefighting experience instead of with outdated feminists and liberal jurists?

Women who are up to the strenuous and dangerous task of firefighting and police work should be given fair shots at employment - not boosts from the PC police.

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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a radio show syndicated nationally by Westwood One Radio Network. Comment by clicking here.

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07/20/01: The other, maybe more important, news
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06/01/01: Burying conservatism
05/17/01: Ashcroft's abuse of power

© 2002, Laura Ingraham