Gloria Steinem’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, Plus Should Firefighters Carry Or Drag

Last week, President Obama awarded a whole bunch of people, including Gloria Steinem, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Cathy Young is unhappy with this development, because Steinem, Cathy says, represents the very worst of feminism.

What’s most striking about Cathy’s list of seven ways Steinem is just sooooooo awful is how incredibly petty a lot of the list is. Cathy’s implicit, ludicrous thesis is that it’s wrong to honor a public figure for their fifty-one year career if they’ve ever made a mistake.

Although Cathy calls for an end to “gender warriors,” is her own approach – one-sided as a prosecutor, nuanced as a jackhammer – going to lead to a better conversation? Does Cathy genuinely believe that Steinem has done nothing in fifty years that justifies honoring her?

I have mixed feelings about Steinem myself. She’s from a generation of white feminists that really didn’t grapple enough with racism, homophobia, and trans bigotry.1 And her anti-porn ideology led her to flirt with censorship, something I disagree strongly with (and said so often during the 80s and 90s, when feminist anti-porn censorship was, you know, a live issue). Worse, like many radical feminists, Steinem was taken in by “Satanic Ritual Abuse” hoaxes, and lent her celebrity and name to that disgusting cause. (Cathy calls Steinem out on both these matters, and I agree with her.)

But although there are legit criticisms to be made of Steinem, for the most part Cathy engages in criticisms that are wrong, petty, or both. Cathy writes:

In 1997, interviewed for John Stossel’s ABC News special, “Boys and Girls Are Different: Men, Women and the Sex Difference,” Steinem derided scientific research on sex differences in brain functioning as “anti-American crazy thinking.”

Actually, we have very little idea what Steinem was responding to when she said “anti-American crazy thinking,” because Stossel is famous for distorting through out of context quotes. Steinem’s quote might have been, as Cathy says, talking about all research on sex differences in brain functioning. Or maybe she was talking about all sex differences research, as Stossel claimed in his book, although in that book he (bizarrely) attributed the quote to Heritage’s Kate O’Beirne. Or maybe – to give Steinem the benefit of the doubt, something neither Stossel or Cathy cares to do – she was criticizing a particular study, not an entire field of study. We just don’t know, because (afaik) Stossel has never made the unedited footage public.

Cathy:

She also suggested that upper-body strength tests requiring firefighters to lift heavy loads were sexist. What about situations when firefighters have to carry injured or unconscious people out of burning buildings? Steinem insisted, with a straight face, that it was better to drag them, since “there’s less smoke down there.”

I love that phrase “with a straight face,” as if saying there’s less smoke near the floor is so profoundly ridiculous it doesn’t even require rebuttal, merely a sarcastic sneer. Cathy’s certainly not alone in believing that: Steinem’s statement that dragging is preferable to carrying has been brought up again and again and again by anti-feminists, and has become sort of a canonical example of what fools these feminists are.

From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

The technique was commonly used by firefighters to carry injured or unconscious people away from danger, but has been replaced in firefighting due to the drawback that smoke and heat are greater higher up, and may be fatal to the person being carried.[...]

Currently, the technique preferred in firefighting involves dragging a person by the shoulders or upper clothing in a supine position across the floor or ground. This uses the rescuer’s upper legs (the strongest muscles in the body) to push against the floor for leverage in order to pull the person towards an exit. This technique is also easier for rescuers who may be younger or of smaller size or stature. In addition, dragging, especially feet first, helps avoid stressing a potentially injured spine.

If you don’t believe Wikipedia, here’s Brenda Berkman, a career firefighter and Captain in the NYC fire department, discussing “the test” when her career began: (pdf link):

I decided to take the test and as Richard said, I trained very hard for the test, I was a marathon runner. I went out and chopped wood. I carried my husband up and down the stairs of our apartment building.

No joke – and of course you know in reality firefighters don’t put victims up on their shoulders and carry them around in fires. We drag them out, and usually more than one of us drags them out.

That’s one of only many things that were part of the then current New York City Fire Department tests that had absolutely nothing to do with the way that we perform the job of firefighting, and in many cases were just put in there because a bunch of guys sitting around a table thought, “Hm, you know, my daughter can run a mile in eight minutes, therefore we have to make the pass mark for the mile run seven minutes.” That was the way that the job validation was going on in 1975, 1976 when they were developing the first tests that women were going to be allowed to take.

(Emphasis added).

So Steinem was arguably correct in everything she said. But Cathy, and anti-feminists in general, can’t be bothered to do five seconds of Googling to find that out.

Cathy also says it’s wrong to honor Steinem because Steinem is supportive of men in theory, but refers to “actual” men as “dangerous brutes.” Cathy’s evidence:

In her 1992 book, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Steinem writes, “The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.”

That’s not really a very damning quote, is it? Note that Cathy doesn’t make the slightest attempt to refute Steinem’s quote; like the fireman’s carry, Cathy believes Steinem’s quote refutes itself.

But look at the quote in context (page 261). Steinem was talking about crime statistics. Shouldn’t Cathy have told her readers that?

Statistically, the man most likely to physically attack or even murder a woman is not a stranger, but someone to whom she is romantically attached. The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.

Is Steinem right? It seems clear that American women – the subject of Steinem’s book – have little to fear from invading hostile forces. (That bit seems like overblown rhetoric, frankly.) But for the rest, Steinem seems on the money, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (pdf link):

• Females are generally murdered by people they know. In 64% of female homicide
cases in 2007, females were killed by a family member or intimate partner. In 2007, 24% of female homicide victims were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse; 21% were killed by a boyfriend or girlfriend; and 19% by another family member.

• In an additional 25% of cases in 2007, females were killed by others they knew. An estimated 10% of female murder victims were killed by a stranger.

Surely Cathy isn’t saying that Steinem is anti-male, and shouldn’t be honored, for correctly reporting uncontroversial crime statistics. Wait – that’s exactly what Cathy said. Oy.

By the way, as far as Google can tell, I am the first person on the entire internet to quote that “most dangerous situation for a woman” passage with context. The context-free version Cathy used is online thousands of times, nearly always in the writings of anti-feminists.

For instance, in Christina Hoff Sommers’ anti-feminist blockbuster Who Stole Feminism?, Sommers writes:

Gender feminist ideology holds that physical menace toward women is the norm. The cause of battered women has been a handy bandwagon for this creed. Gloria Steinem’s portrait of male-female intimacy under patriarchy is typical: “Patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself…. The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.”

Sommers took a partial sentence from page 259 of Steinem’s book, put it next to a sentence about crime statistics from page 261, and then pretended the two separate passages formed a single thought. Of course, all writers use ellipsis – but it’s dishonest to use ellipses to change the meaning, as Sommers does.2

Speaking of Sommers, Cathy cites Who Stole Feminism? on anorexia mortality:

Steinem’s dissemination of faux facts is not limited to distant history. In Revolution from Within, she asserts that 150,000 women and girls in the United States die from anorexia every year — multiplying the actual number by about 1,000. (As Christina Hoff Sommers documented in her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?, the claim of a 150,000 death toll was based on a feminist professor’s mangling of a statistic referring to anorexia sufferers.)

To recap: Cathy is now arguing that it’s inappropriate for Steinem to be honored for her fifty-year career of fighting for women’s rights and equality because on page 222 of a minor book written in 1992, Steinem quoted a statistic someone else had messed up.

Cathy again:

The same book discusses an alleged crisis in girls’ self-esteem based on a single shoddy study from the American Association of University Women.

Did Cathy actually read her link? The writer, Amy Salzman, doesn’t call the AAUW study “shoddy,” although she points out that the findings are stronger for appearance-based self-esteem than other areas. (Salzman also calls Christina Hoff Sommers’ critique of AAUW “bad science.”)

That aside, does Cathy seriously believe that because a 1992 book referred to a 1991 study by the AAUW that Cathy dislikes, it would be wrong for Gloria Steinem to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

What next – we can’t give Steinem the Medal of Freedom because big sunglasses?

Cathy goes on:

Steinem’s solidarity with women stops at the party line. In 1993, she flew to Texas to campaign against then-Senate candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate pro-choice Republican, and slammed her as “a female impersonator.”

The “female impersonator” line was appalling, and transphobic. (Steinem recently apologized for her past support history of transphobia.)

But for the rest of it – what? Cathy seems to be saying believe that Steinem is required by feminism to judge candidates on their sex, rather than their political views. But feminism doesn’t require that sort of blatant sexism. In fact, if Steinem said what Cathy just said, Cathy would be the first to point out the sexism.

Cathy’s article is petty, poorly thought out, and substitutes sarcasm for argument. To say that it’s wrong to honor someone’s lifetime of achievement and activism because they quoted a bad statistic in 1992 shows only that Cathy, when it comes to feminism, lacks a sense of proportion.

Gloria Steinem is not someone I agree with on everything. She’s a radical feminist, and I’m a liberal feminist with dashes of socialist feminism, and basically it’s Judean People’s Front versus People’s Front of Judea time. But giving the Medal of Freedom to the most prominent living representative of feminism’s second wave seems appropriate. Steinem, unlike Cathy, seems to have a pretty healthy perspective on what this award means. As Steinem said of the award, “I’d be crazy if I didn’t understand that this was a medal for the entire women’s movement.”

  1. Actually, neither has the current generation of us. []
  2. By the way, I just asked three very smart, well-educated feminists if they could say who wrote the book Revolution From Within. None of them had a clue, or had heard of the book. It’s a minor and largely forgotten work, among feminists. But because Christina Hoff Sommers had the book at her elbow for quote-mining while writing Who Stole Feminism?, the book – or, rather, a few selected out-of-context quotes from the book – perpetually lives on among anti-feminists. I think that’s hilarious. []
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25 Responses to Gloria Steinem’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, Plus Should Firefighters Carry Or Drag

  1. 1
    Hugh says:

    While I agree that a lot of criticisms of Steinem are incorrect or overblown, if the medal was really for the entire woman’s movement, couldn’t they have found a less objectionable representative? I mean, sure, as you’ve ably pointed out, there are worse out there than Steinem. But, even bearing in mind her recent apology for her past transphobia, there are better out there too.

  2. 2
    Ben Lehman says:

    This post is great: classic Alas!

    Hugh: Who? Steinem is an icon; one of the few feminist leaders who is genuinely a household name.

    I mean, I would love to see a Medal of Freedom for bell hooks and Andrea Dworkin but can you imagine the brouhaha over them? If you’re only going to choose one feminist leader from the second wave, Steinem is the right choice.

    yrs–
    –Ben

  3. 3
    Hugh says:

    Well she is certainly high profile, but that’s kind of my point. Choosing the problematic because they’re high profile is what makes these kinds of awards so frequently frustrating. If it really was about rewarding people for their work on behalf of others, the question of whether the person is already well known wouldn’t figure into it.

  4. 4
    alex says:

    I just feel bad for feminism. Gloria Steinem, gender revolutionary, co-opted while standing alongside Clinton and Oprah. Ouch.

    Sorry, but fire rescue requires strength. Steinem’s firefighter comment is ridiculously flip. Amps response is weirdly literal. But they both just attempt to dodge the obvious point.

    Re: the quote. Basically, there’s the statistic, which is fact. Then the second bit is ideology, and an attempt to segue into the home and relationships being more dangerous due to their place as a centre of patriarchal control. It might be, but it might not be (it may be an exposure effect as people spend more time with family than strangers). The second sentence doesn’t automatically follow from the first, it’s spin.

    Statistically, the man most likely to physically attack or even murder a woman is not a stranger, but someone to whom she is romantically attached.The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.

    I think the main criticism is partisan sloppyness. The anorexia bs, and self-esteem bs, and the satanic abuse bs, and the porn bs, and the bs anthropology, and the brain science stuff, and I’m sure people could find many others. I don’t think one of them alone matters. But it’s all the same thing really. I think because of her background in journalism and her political position, the science and evidence just gets misread because it’s what people want to here. That said she’s joining the likes of Greenspan, Friedman and Drucker…

  5. 5
    Chana says:

    There is only way to make a career as a feminist without saying something that some corner of the wider social justice community will try to hang on your shoulders until the end of time.

    That is to do nothing but call-out other people.

    It isn’t fresh thinking and it doesn’t move the conversation forward, but you’ll never get attacked for calling something misogynist or transphobic when it, in fact, is not. This is why the call-out culture self-perpetuates. If 99% allies can have a couple of ill-considered quotes follow them around for decades (ahem, Dan Savage, ahem), the only way to survive is to make no original statements, just critiques.

  6. 6
    closetpuritan says:

    alex:
    Amps response is weirdly literal. But they both just attempt to dodge the obvious point.

    “Weirdly literal”? I wasn’t sure what you even meant by that at first, but I suppose you meant that focusing on whether victims should be dragged or carried was too specific because Gloria Steinem is opposed to any sort of strength requirements for firefighters. But is she? If she says that firefighters can drag victims, that implies that they have to be strong enough to drag them, doesn’t it? I made an attempt to find more context for this quote, to try to see if she was opposed to any sort of strength requirements or merely thought that the strength tests being used were excessive, but was unsuccessful.

    I guess the “obvious point” is supposed to be that men are stronger than women. But there are two complicating factors–men are only stronger than women on average, and firefighters need only be strong enough to do the job. Being extra-strong might be a bonus, but it isn’t as though that’s the only possible bonus ability a potential firefighter could have.

    I do wonder how many women were being kept from being firefighters by this, though, since in the wake of the women-in-combat debate I saw a piece about women doing the fireman’s carry that said that it actually isn’t too difficult for most women to pick up men larger than they are.

    ***

    Here’s an article about recent allegations (and a lawsuit) that Chicago’s physical abilities test for firefighters discriminates against women:

    Critics claim Chicago’s test has no uniform standards, is administered inconsistently and requires tasks that are not needed to be a firefighter. Supporters of the alternative test, used by more than 50 suburban Chicago departments, say it would be a better option because the steps are laid out in detail and all of the duties are directly related to those a firefighter must carry out while on the job.

    ***

    Chana, that is very true.

  7. 7
    Grace Annam says:

    alex:

    Sorry, but fire rescue requires strength.

    Certainly. Institute a performance-based test and require all firefighters to pass it. Done, and no mention of gender.

    Plenty of women are stronger than plenty of men. I can bench press a bit over my own weight, as required for one of my assignments. I have to work hard to get there and stay there, but passing that test makes me stronger, on that test, than roughly 50% of men aged 18-29, and I’m a woman substantially older than that. And that’s a bench press, which isolates mainly to triceps and pectoralis major. A body-drag is a whole-body exercise, and you can get that job done in several different ways. I’ve dragged a 220+-pound police officer in tactical body armor, and I’ve been one half of a carry team on the same. Given a 9-foot strap, I can, by myself, get that same officer on my back, do a squat to a standing position, and walk, with both hands free. Any fit person can do it; I’ve taught the technique. I won’t be winning any sprinting contests, but I can move him and still have hands free to grab my surroundings or handle a weapon. I’m not a firefighter, but a firefighter could do the same and still handle an axe. The oxy tank on the back might get in the way some, now that I think about it, but I’ll bet it would still work. And if it didn’t, that same loop goes under the arms, across the back, supports the head, and drag that person the hell out of there.

    Grace

  8. 8
    mythago says:

    alex clearly didn’t bother to read the link to Brenda Berkman’s testimony; he just decided that she, a career firefighter, can’t possibly know what the “strength requirements” are all about. O, for the days when we will all be ruled by engineer-kings.

    Anecdotally, when I was living in Portland in the early 1990s, a boyfriend-of-a-friend was working to become a firefighter. Let’s call him Bob. Bob was a decent guy, but nobody you’d call a feminist (and he certainly wouldn’t call himself a feminist, either). Bob made an arrangement to meet with the senior firefighters at a particular station where he was interested in working, to talk about requirements and their own ‘firefighter confidential’ info about what classes and training were appropriate. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but it was one of the smaller towns surrounding Portland.

    Bob came back from his interview deeply shaken. Apparently when he had asked about the physical tests and requirements, they had explained them, but then the most senior guy pulled Bob aside with a wink and told him, “But you don’t really have to worry about those. We just use those to keep the broads and the blacks out.”

  9. 9
    alex says:

    C’mon. Firefighters jobs involve rescue. This requires strength. This gets rhetorically dramatised with the old burning building image, but strength and the needs of the job are through real point. It is flip and wierdly literal to start going off on one about the finer points of fire rescue. Everyone knows firefighters rescue people from wells and car crashes and floods, and all sorts of places where you would not want to be dragged along the floor. That’s not a surprise is it? The responses look like a try at dismissing rather than addressing the point.

  10. 10
    Ruchama says:

    By that logic, shouldn’t all firefighters need to be skinny enough to fit down a well? Of course firefighting requires strength. The question is how much strength. I’d say that “enough strength to carry someone in the way that firefighters generally carry people” seems like a logical place to draw the line.

  11. 11
    alex says:

    “I’d say that “enough strength to carry someone in the way that firefighters generally carry people” seems like a logical place to draw the line.”

    Maybe I have a problem with empathy and seeing the other persons side. I agree the way firefighters generally carry/drag people is important. But when I see the “omg, don’t you realise firefighters *drag* people out of burning buildings, lol, aren’t these guys ignorant” retort I’m just flabbergasted.

    It seems blindingly obvious to me that rescues from burning buildings are vanishingly fucking rare, compared to say car crashes or floods. I don’t understand how you can smuggly use such a tiny proportion of the role to dismiss what seems, even if it’s wrong, a reasonable objection that deserves a decent response (i.e. being able to physically lift someone might be useful if you want to rescue them). I end up at, they genuinely can’t be that stupid so they must be bullshitting, pretty quickly. I don’t know, maybe Gloria Steinem really loves Backdraft and NYCs a real firetrap.

  12. 12
    Grace Annam says:

    alex:

    But when I see the “omg, don’t you realise firefighters *drag* people out of burning buildings, lol, aren’t these guys ignorant” retort I’m just flabbergasted.

    I think your phrasing attributes a dismissive tone which isn’t in what people said originally. I’d be interested if you could quote material directly which takes that tone.

    The problem is that people want to use gender as a shorthand for physical capability, and that’s a truly lousy metric. There is a better metric: define the essential job tasks and make sure people can do them in actual conditions. Part of that is to define the essential job tasks correctly, which is what the argument over dragging is all about. Some people said that you had to be able to pick another person up and carry him on your shoulders. Others pointed out that (a) some women have demonstrated that they can, in fact, do that, and (b) that’s not an essential skill because you can do the rescue another way, and the essential point is that the person being rescued gets rescued, so why set a standard pointlessly higher than whatever is necessary to reach that result?

    Now you say that rescues from burning buildings are rare and we should concentrate on crashes and floods. I have no personal experience with flood rescue, and those are rare, too. But I have lots and lots of experience with crashes and extractions from vehicles, because they’re very common and the officers usually get there first. Also, many years ago I was an EMT. I have pried doors with a Halligan tool and with hydraulic equipment, smashed back windows, cut windshields with an axe, and on and on. A fit woman can do any of those things, and do them better than an un-fit man.

    I don’t understand how you can smuggly use such a tiny proportion of the role to dismiss what seems, even if it’s wrong, a reasonable objection that deserves a decent response (i.e. being able to physically lift someone might be useful if you want to rescue them).

    We haven’t dismissed it; we’ve addressed it. We have given it a decent response. For one example, I outlined a simple skill with a very simple piece of equipment — a nylon strap — which enables one person to carry another person on their back and leave their hands free. I added that strap to my tactical gear, and the few ounces of added weight went unnoticed on my tactical vest.

    You may say, “But you could get caught in a situation without that strap, and then where would you be?” Yes, but you can raise objections like that for any task. What if the firefighters have no water, and have to shovel dirt to put the fire out? What if it’s winter and the ground is frozen? What if, what if… that’s why you apply expert human judgement when you design the standards.

    For almost any physical standard, reasonable or not, a higher percentage of men than women will pass. But you can’t exclude ALL women without setting it so high that MOST men can’t pass it; those bell curves are mostly overlap. And if some women can pass the standard, why not let them do the job? And since at that point some women are doing the job anyway, why not base your standards on results-oriented criteria?

    Grace

  13. 13
    mythago says:

    Maybe I have a problem with empathy and seeing the other persons side.

    Considering the “other person’s side” here is that of someone who has been a firefighter for a quarter of a century, starting at a time when strength tests were invented out of whole cloth specifically for the purpose of keeping women out and not for making sure that people could be rescued from burning buildings, I’d say the issue is less empathy than obstinacy. Your ‘reasonable’ objection has been answered over and over, and your response is simply to repeat yourself louder.

  14. Pingback: Was I unfair to Gloria Steinem? | The Y Files

  15. 14
    RonF says:

    I don’t think firefighters should drag. The heels would make it very hard to carry heavy equipment or people up and down stairs, the heat might make eyeliner run into their eyes and the outfits look pretty flammable.

  16. 15
    RonF says:

    But you can’t exclude ALL women without setting it so high that MOST men can’t pass it; those bell curves are mostly overlap.

    OTOH, there are jobs where it’s entirely reasonable to set the fitness and strength requirement so high that MOST men can’t pass it. Members of special forces combat teams comes to mind. I’ll leave it up to experts as to whether firefighting is one such.

  17. 16
    Robert says:

    Who here has been a firefighter? Grace was an EMT; not the same thing, though there is some overlap. Heh, one of my besties from high school is an EMT now (actually head of EMT ops for his county); we regularly give him shit for being the ‘ambulance driver’; he was and is a squirelly little guy, I could break him in two. And I could not be a firefighter. I’ve toured firehouses with my kids for years for school; every one of the men and women in those places could break ME in two.

    Nor am I convinced, mythago, that your friend of a boyfriend of a friend or whoever, coming back from an interview in Portland’s exurb three decades ago or whenever, and reporting that he was one-of-the-guysed with the key data that all the tests were fakes to keep out the Negroes and the vaginal-Americans, constitutes a sweeping proof that all fitness tests have that as their aim.

  18. 17
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    OTOH, there are jobs where it’s entirely reasonable to set the fitness and strength requirement so high that MOST men can’t pass it. Members of special forces combat teams comes to mind. I’ll leave it up to experts as to whether firefighting is one such.

    Sure.

    One of these is police tactical operator. The physical qualification I have to pass is not the toughest tactical operator standard out there, but it’s tough enough that fewer than 50% of men aged 18-29 can pass it, which is another way of saying that most men can’t. In order for me to pass it, I had to score in the 99th percentile for women my age in everything except the run, where I had to score merely in the 90th. One of my teammates tells a story about a woman he served with in the Navy who would leap up to grab a bar and casually knock out fifteen or so pull-ups. I certainly can’t do that. There are lots of women out there faster and stronger than I am.

    It seems to me that the takeaway here is not to use gender, or race, or ANY other measure as a proxy for physical ability. Measure the ability, and go from there.

    As General Patton is reputed to have said: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”

    Unless you’re in a terrible hurry, don’t use gender as a proxy for pretty much anything. To illustrate this about as baldly as possible: need someone to have a baby? There are men out there who can do that. Need someone inseminated? There are women out there who can do that.

    Even if, in your world, your male/female line must be drawn in a way which offends trans people and trans allies, there are men who can gentle a baby to sleep or knit a cardigan, and women who can get heavy objects off of high shelves or field-repair a tractor.

    (Funny story: someone I know was reading a list of “You might be a redneck if…” jokes to a group of people which included her mother, a very cosmopolitan urban professional. Everyone was laughing at those wacky rednecks until the reader got to “…you know how to hotwire a tractor.” Whereupon the cosmopolitan mother ejaculated, “But I CAN hotwire a tractor!”)

    Robert:

    Who here has been a firefighter?

    Why do you ask? (I suspect I know, but I’d rather have a discussion in good faith and know for sure.)

    Grace was an EMT; not the same thing, though there is some overlap.

    Correct.

    Nor am I convinced, mythago, that your friend of a boyfriend of a friend or whoever, coming back from an interview in Portland’s exurb three decades ago or whenever, and reporting that he was one-of-the-guysed with the key data that all the tests were fakes to keep out the Negroes and the vaginal-Americans, constitutes a sweeping proof that all fitness tests have that as their aim.

    Good thing she labelled it as anecdote, then.

    vaginal-Americans

    Obligatory reminder that people with vaginas and women are two distinct groups, though there is some overlap.

    Grace

  19. 18
    mythago says:

    Robert, I am going by the interview with Brenda Berkman, in that link in the original post that everybody seems so curiously reluctant to read.

    As for anecdata, given that you expect your own anecdata about your divorce to be accepted unquestioningly as sweeping proof of The Unfairness of American Family Law, it’s rich to see your snotty misreading of my comment. This was not “all fitness tests everywhere are evil”. It was an observation that fitness tests as an excuse are not something that are invested invented by rabid feminists, a relic of the olden tymes, or something that happens only in backwaters.

  20. 19
    Robert says:

    “Why do you ask?”

    Because mythago said “Considering the “other person’s side” here is that of someone who has been a firefighter for a quarter of a century, starting at a time when strength tests were invented out of whole cloth specifically for the purpose of keeping women out and not for making sure that people could be rescued from burning buildings, I’d say the issue is less empathy than obstinacy.”

    I suspect her of manufacturing authority for one side of the discussion through conveniently careless reading.

    “Good thing she labelled it as anecdote, then.”

    And then referenced it as having settled the factual question, again manufacturing authority.

    “Obligatory reminder that people with vaginas and women are two distinct groups, though there is some overlap.”

    The person mythago posited as having stated har-har to a fellow man that the tests were there to exclude women would not have made or comprehended the distinction; had it been explained, he would have excluded anyone calling themselves female in any capacity, per mythago’s characterization of the man.

  21. 20
    Robert says:

    Ah. OK, so the actual firefighter said it, with about as much backing for the statement as any “well I was a software guy and we all know that Bill Gates won the Windows source code from KenP in a bar bet” type evocation of knowledge. OK, the statement has some inherent credibility because it comes from a pro; that makes it worth considering, it doesn’t make it dispositive.

    I didn’t read “here” as referencing the OP; I read it as referencing a disputant here. Which is the facially correct reading, so my bad for getting it wrong, but you coded it wrong.

    I am in agreement with Grace that the proper test is functional, and that people should be permitted or not permitted to the job according to their ability to functionally do it; this is not a new view, as there have been female firefighters for more than a century.

  22. 21
    Robert says:

    Sorry, my misstatement – there have been female firefighters for coming up on two centuries.

  23. 22
    Grace Annam says:

    Robert:

    The person mythago posited as having stated har-har to a fellow man that the tests were there to exclude women would not have made or comprehended the distinction;

    The person mythago posited was not the person who wrote the phrase “vaginal-Americans” as a cutesy way to say “women”.

    Grace

  24. 23
    Robert says:

    Point taken.

  25. 24
    mythago says:

    For fuck’s sake, Robert. First you misread me repeatedly, then call me a liar, then say it’s actually my fault for “coding” wrong. Will you please go yell at whoever you’re actually annoyed with in real life, instead of coming here and throwing a fit because you’re too angry to read straight?

    As I have said a million fucking times, I am talking about two separate things:

    1) Brenda Berkman’s discussion of her own experience as a firefighter for 25 years, starting at a time when strength tests did not exist – but were quickly implemented when a woman showed up;

    2) The story relayed to me by someone I knew who wanted to be a firefighter, was a guy, and didn’t have an axe to grind or whatever other excuse you’d like to pull out of your ass to pretend I made that up.