The FDNY Is a Force of More Than 10,000. Can You Guess How Many Are Women?

On this freezing Sunday morning in January, the New York Sports Club is the last place anyone would want to be. Outside, an icy wind whips through the deserted, snow-clotted Financial District. The gym is mostly empty, an expanse of abandoned elliptical machines, dotted with one or two diehards working at half-speed. All of them are politely trying not to stare at the main event transpiring at the center of the room: five women being run at top speed through a brutal workout by two people who won't stop yelling.

It looks inevitable that the women of the FDNY will file a lawsuit

"Are you kidding me, ladies?" shouts Sarinya Srisakul. "You can't stop!"

Srisakul, in her thirties, has black hair, a cheery pink workout top, and a forbidding expression. A nine-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, she has just come off a 24-hour shift. She and the rest of her engine spent all night pumping out a basement flooded with eight feet of water. She hasn't slept in over 30 hours. Her voice is hoarse, and getting hoarser by the minute as she hollers threats and encouragement at the five women running on the treadmills in front of her.

"Do not hold on!" she shouts at one, who quickly lets go of the treadmill bar and picks up the pace. And to another: "Are you fricking kidding me? You're walking to the end? Let's go!"

Slideshow: Women Prepare for the FDNY Entrance Exam

These women want to join the tiny sisterhood Srisakul is part of: the women of the FDNY, who make up less than one-half of 1 percent of the department's active-duty firefighters. There are 37 female firefighters in the department, alongside some 10,500 men. No two women work in the same firehouse. The most women who ever served in the department at one time is 41.

That was 30 years ago.

The obstacles for any woman — or man — hoping to join the fire service in this city are exceedingly high. Applicants to the FDNY's Fire Academy on Randall's Island must pass a written exam and the standardized Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), and they must also run a mile and a half in under 13 minutes. Once they make it into the academy, they'll be known as "probies," or probationary fighters, a designation they keep for 18 months. To graduate, they have to make it through another battery of physical tests, including some that Srisakul argues blatantly discriminate against women.

But right now she's focused on getting these five women past their first hurdles and into the academy. She's joined by Thompson Plyler, a ludicrously fit, relentlessly cheerful former Marine turned physical trainer who shouts things like, "Feels great, doesn't it?" when it clearly does not.

As soon as the women finish their run, Plyler allows them a minute to cool down. Then the real workout begins: rapid-fire pushups and sit-ups, followed by circuit training, which the women do while wearing 50-pound weight vests to help simulate the 75 to 100 pounds of gear a firefighter wears on the job.

"Down, down, down!" Plyler shouts, as the women go into their pushups. "Why are you in disarray?"

"You should be able to do this!" Srisakul adds.

Almost every drill focuses on building upper-body strength, an attribute the FDNY's testing emphasizes. In one exercise, the "sled tow," Srisakul and Plyler pile 135 pounds of weight onto a platform, then attach a rope. The women have to drag the weight 20 feet across the floor, then push it back at top speed. They do deep lunges with 50-pound sacks slung across their backs. They hoist a barbell in the air, and do as many pull-ups as they can.

Meanwhile, a latecomer is ordered to hustle up and down the stairs as fast as she can, wearing her weight vest and holding two 25-pound kettlebells. She keeps slowing down. Srisakul is not having it.

"You keep going until we tell you to stop," she says flatly. "You came late. That's what you get." Nearby, the woman doing pull-ups cries out in pain around her fifth one. Most of the women get through a few pull-ups; one can't complete any.

"They're at different levels, as you can see," Plyler says. In a normal training session, he explains, he'd take it slow, working with what a particular individual could handle. But since the test doesn't change and everyone will have to lift the same weight, "the best we can do here is make sure they're doing it safely."

The workout continues for two relentless hours, until finally Plyler and Srisakul bring everyone back to the center of the room.

"How'd that feel?" Plyler asks merrily. The women give him tired thumbs-up.

"If you're falling behind, you have to put in extra effort during the week," he says, turning serious. During a real fire, he says, "If you're falling behind, you're a liability."

"Wherever you go, you will be the only girl," Srisakul adds. "Everyone will be looking at you to fail. You know that." The women all nod and file out silently. They'll be back two days later for another round.


How many women are in the NFL?" Paul Mannix asks. He's a pale guy, 50 years old, with faded freckles and rusty reddish-brown hair. On a recent morning, he's wearing a bright blue turtleneck and pounding on a sheaf of notes for emphasis. "Women in general cannot compete with men in physical competition. We'll recognize that in something as trivial as sports, but they want us to ignore it for something as important as firefighting." He snorts in irritation.

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44 comments
Kaedyn
Kaedyn

-_- it doesnt matter how many are women... What matters is if they are capable of performing the job. If they aren't, then they shouldn't have the job simply because they have a vagina... that is ridiculous.

Linda
Linda

This is a physically demanding job that even some men probably come up short at.

Putting on all of that clothing and hauling around all of those hoses and equipment is no joke--let alone trying to rescue some fat ass from a fire!!!! 

tj7045
tj7045

The FDNY and firefighting in general is very hard. "Probie School" should also be hard. This is life and death, not some joke or social experiment. Could you in good conscious be OK with sending someone into a burning building that could not do the job? NO! When that person gives up because he / she was too tired or weak to save YOUR grandmother, I bet you would be the first in line to sue NYC and the FDNY for someone not doing their job correctly!

Women have passed probie school and do well in the firehouse, because they earned the right to be there. You have to work hard in life, we ALL don't get medals for trying or at least we shouldn't. 

Eric Eddy
Eric Eddy

Unacceptable. We have women police officers, transit workers-- you name it. Hazing and harassment is absolutely ridiculous and should be condemned at all levels. I can't understand how a respected, professional organization like the FDNY could be so backwards regarding women. This article makes the problem seem rampant and systemic. These are grown men who appear to be acting like children in a treehouse that says "No Girls Allowed". If it's really this bad, they should take effective legal action and end this nonsense once and for all. Btw, this Mannix guy sounds like he listens to Sean Hannity...

GetReal
GetReal

"I've never in the nine years I've been a firefighter had to run a mile and a half without stopping," Srisakul says. "If we run anywhere, it's running a quarter of a block, to a building on fire."


Quotes like this are a joke. I am a firefighter, and I can tell you that fighting a small fire is the equivalent of "running 3 miles."  That is a fact.  The endurance necessary to become an asset to the department, as opposed to a worthless, out-of-breath hump, can only be gotten form doing harsh, physical fitness (i.e, running/jogging, rowing, swimming, long-distance biking, cross fit-style workouts, etc.). You will not get fit on an normal exercise bike, lifting some weights, or sipping coffee at the table.  So when this lady says "I've never run at a fire," she obviously doesn't think there is any need to rush when she gets to your burning house, probably stands outside watching everyone else bust their butts, and obviously is not that fit to fight a fire--as are the men I see that do the same as she at fires I respond to.  They are called "outstanding" firefighters, because they are always "standing" "outside."

gold
gold

Political momentum is at stake here, so the men must be pushed aside and the women hired and put on the fast track for promotion. The point of the issue: firefighting must now take its turn as a progressive mechanism that produces a socialist outcome. It is not about saving property or lives; it is about social justice. All opposition is reactionary noise; must be ignored. Ability is meaningless; that old world is gone and the dinosaurs must go with it. We won the election; get over it. Surrender to the inevitable and know that social justice is just starting. Next we tax the churches, then we own your children. We won. Go live in Florida. We are going there soon.

4714026
4714026

POLICE ACTIVITY REPORT

TEAM OF ARMED JUDICIAL POLICE SENT BY NYC D.A. CYRUS VANCE JR. TO CONNECTICUT HOME OF CONTINENTAL ILLINOIS CHAIRMAN, MATT LECHNER, THREATENING LECHNER WITH ARREST FOR CALLING CBRE COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE BROKERS "WHORES" AFTER THEY OBSTRUCTED DEAL TO REBUILD LEGENDARY WINDOWS ON THE WORLD RESTAURANT WHICH WAS DESTROYED BY TERRORISTS ON 9/11.   LECHNER COUNTERS SAYING THE TERM PROPERLY DESCRIBED THE BROKERS WHO WERE OBSTRUCTING THE DEAL AND IT IS A LEGITIMATE AND NON-OBSCENE DICTIONARY WORD LISTED IN MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY WITH STATED MEANING "A VENAL OR UNSCRUPULOUS PERSON" AND THIS ACCURATELY DESCRIBED THE CBRE BROKERS.   LECHNER DEMANDS INFORMATION TO FILE COMPLAINT OF POLICE HARASSMENT.   VANCE POLICE MUM.

Binkconn
Binkconn topcommenter

Women are oppressed and have all the emotions; men are soulless robot scum whose dreams come true instantly thanks to our secret handshake; same old story...

Gordon L. Kurz
Gordon L. Kurz

One sports.....No men or womens....forget best person for the job....force half players to be women on teams....it will make sports the tops or best.

Celina Leroy
Celina Leroy

shitttt---- now, i don't know about the woman Paul Mannix knows, but, I happen to be one brolic-ass-woman. i could hose down a fire any day.

robertgsmiley
robertgsmiley

Firefighting is a man's job for obvious reasons. Strength! A fireman has to be able to carry a 160 lb victim down a ladder from a burning building. I would not be pleased to have a female firefighter  sent to my building if there were a fire unless she is a Russian body builder.

jkovert
jkovert

The white Liberal drive for social experimentation is merely annoying in most cases.  But in a field such as firefighting, it's deadly.

If firehouses are bastions of hypermasculine white male privilege, then so be it.  The guys can put up pictures of John Wayne and pinup calendars on the walls, and keep back issues of Guns and Ammo in the breakroom all they want. They can "bully" women and blacks and transsexuals, refuse to accommodate the disabled, and tell off-color, racist jokes to their hearts' content.

If I am incapacitated a burning building, I don't care what my rescuer believes or thinks.  He could carry a copy of "Mein Kampf" in his pocket for all I care. The only thing that would concern me at the moment would be his upper-body strength, and sheer physics.

All other considerations belong elsewhere (in the pages of the Voice, for example).

J. William Pope
Hoboken, NJ


melissadanby
melissadanby

Terrible article tries to dredge up controversy but really only succeeds in pointing out that women get more than a fair shake.  That one candidate getting six tries to pass a very easy 12 minute 1.5 mile run is beyond ridiculous.

melissadanby
melissadanby

Why if there are so few women in the department are 3 of 5 possible candidates for chief female.  That is clearly discriminatory.

Joedee
Joedee

Stop with the affirmative action shit. It's so fucking annoying when feminists claim it's sexism or discrimination when they simply cant do the job. Of course it's more important for them to be firefighters and say "see it told you so" than someone's life. Women aren't firefighters because they physically cannot do the job. It's the same reason they've been kept off the front lines in combat. Gender isnt always a construct.

fireproof1918
fireproof1918

If the physical aspect of the academy is designed to keep women out, then how did these women get on the fire department? How did the women who graduated in the last two fire academy classes graduate if it's so impossible? Funny how this is never addressed, or asked. It's simply because it isn't impossible, it's just very hard and you have to put in a lot of work for it - work that many people, women and men alike, aren't keen to do if you aren't hungry for the job.


If the abuse is so bad, then why isn't any documented? Why no pictures, videos, recordings, etc? If it's so extensive and happens frequently, it shouldn't be too hard to catch *something*. But all that is here are stories and conjecture. This is just a puff piece designed to further the UWF's agenda of more women members at any cost. It's a disgrace to women firefighters and potential women firefighters everywhere because it's basically telling them that they ARE weaker then men - that they are unable to meet the physical standards that current firefighters have met, even though we KNOW that to be untrue because women are passing the academy, even when there are men failing out! This article ranges from doubtful conjecture to outright falsehoods.

pg1984
pg1984

Eric crawl back under the rock your came from. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about and you yourself probably couldn't handle firefighting.

pg1984
pg1984

Lol you're a moron

pg1984
pg1984

Looking at your Facebook profile pic I highly doubt it, maybe if you were in some sort of shape. Even then though I still don't think so.

obscure
obscure

@robertgsmiley  


BTW,   it is  an unavoidable fact that  lesbians are the women who are most likely to make good firefighters.  They  are  less  afraid  of  being  disapproved-of  for acting  male. They  tend to be  physically strong  too.


But also, you can bet  what  an oppressed existence  a gay male firefighter has . He cannot  just  tell his comrades that he is gay.  He has to pretend to laugh at their  homophobic jokes .   

Right now  there is a controversy about   a  gay  football player whose   teammates and coach      touched him inappropriately  and    made  anti-gay comments  in order  to  humiliate and  harass him.


What makes you think that  firefighters  don''t do the same?


Do you live in a Utopian world?

FF83
FF83

@jkovert"They can "bully" women and blacks and transsexuals, refuse to accommodate the disabled, and tell off-color, racist jokes to their hearts' content"

Career big-city firefighter here. Also a straight white guy.  No, that, shit is not all right. The fact that you think the only thing that it takes to be a firefighter is the ability to drag a victim out of a building (that is one of the requirements - one) is ridiculous. 

We are public servants, and being openly racist/bullying black people/admiring Hitler while on the job is not acceptable. Regardless of how you feel about the rest of this stuff, the fact that you think it is all right as long as we're strong enough to carry heavy shit is absolutely idiotic.

obscure
obscure

@jkovert  

I bet you would mind  if  that  big strong guy  decided to leave you where you are because you are gay, or maybe  he would decide to leave your  brother  or nephew or cousin  or best friend    in the fire longer  because he thinks he ought to rescue  Christian  Irish people first.  


I would not argue that   all  women can do such a job  as good  as men. They cannot.  But  the  fact is  that  firefighters  are  men  in a very   stereotypical  environment.  

The fact that they can  save people and often do, is one thing and of course  that is what their job is about. You are entitled to  believe  that  a firefighter won't let his prejudices get in the way of his work.  Hopefully that will be the case for your sake.


However, I personally   have  reservations about   men in male-dominated  occupations  even if it is   supposedly for everyone's  own good.

I  am lucky that I have never  had to be rescued from a fire. Hopefully never. 


 If it comes to that  hopefully  the fire fighter   will leave   any   sexist attitude of his  in the  fire house. Of course the  firefighter is  likely to be a he. 


But  I  once read  an article about a female fire fighter and about how the male fire fighters  she was among   had to treat  a woman  for an injury and  it would require  partially removing  the  patient's  clothes and touching her. The males  were 

 apparently thinking  about   it in a non-professional way  and if the female firefighter were not there to   do the task, that female   patient could have stayed injured because  the males  did not know how to relate to a female  other than in a way  that   they  were apparently used to    by  looking at porn and  such. 


It is not such a  cut and dried issue that  because men are  the ones who have the strength to do the job ,  ( and of course  for that reason the fire department has a good reason to  require  that only men become  firefighters)  that   that is all there is to it.

Because  firefighters  have to deal with  rescuing  people of both genders as well as of different orientations  etc,  then  they have  to    avoid   thinking of people in terms  of    gays and non-gays,    "attractive women"and  "non attractive women" etc

I am sure that  male fire fighters   "kid"each other  about    how  they have to rescue ugly  fat     old   women  when they rather  let them burn   and rescue  only the ones that   look  good.


Knowing that    keeps me from   instantaneously   thinking     like you do,  that  it does not matter if the  firefighter   wears a  Nazi armband   and   believes in communism as long as he saves  you. 


He  might not do as good a job.

But  it might make you feel better that   apparently nothing can be done about this either. 



Joedee
Joedee

@jkovert  Thank you. I'd love to see any women walk up 50 flights of stairs with all that gear strapped to them into an inferno like the FDNY did on 9/11. They have earned their "male privilege". If a few did they would probably turn around and call that discrimination and that they were seen as expendable and hence sent to their deaths. 


Enough of man hating feminists who need to horn in and control every last bastion of male dominance because their piss ant ego's are damaged. 

fireproof1918
fireproof1918

@harlemedic @berkfdnyWhat makes her qualified to be Commissioner of the largest fire department in the country? The fact that she's a woman? That she sued to get on the job? Or that she rose to the rank of Captain? Because if that is the criteria you are using then the FDNY is going to go downhill real fast.

Joedee
Joedee

@harlemedic @berkfdny  So, in the name of "equality" you're in favor of making the community less safe? Feminists are truly evil. 

pg1984
pg1984

You're going to be disappointed

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Joedee  you are an asshole....also I give this article 5 of 5 Vaginas brave Anna

Haha
Haha

@Joedee  Did you read the article or the headline? If you did, you would see that all of these women were able to do the job and were still harassed. 

fireproof1918
fireproof1918

@obscure @jkovert

What you wrote is the most ignorant, offensive, and prejudiced thing I have ever read about the fire service. You clearly have no idea what the inside of a firehouse is like, and I'd recommend that once you get your head out of the clouds you actually make a trip to visit one, but your ramblings against what you believe fire department culture to be (which couldn't be further from the truth) makes me think that even if all the evidence in the world was to the contrary, you still wouldn't change your mind.

Joedee
Joedee

@ScottsMerkin @Joedee  What's the matter? Your mangina hurts? Grow a set of balls, pussy, and stop letting women walk all over you.

obscure
obscure

@Haha  


Harassment   should not be tolerated.  It goes beyond the issue of women not being able to do the work as good as a man.   

Because the males   act  like   jerks,      it   compromises    efficiency even more

When in a workplace,  people have to behave  and think  like adults, not    like high schoolers who create cliques. 

There  should be very strong  anti- sexual harassment laws  everywhere.   

Dam   people who say that  it "punishes men for being men."



melissadanby
melissadanby

@Haha  Actually there was little to no evidence of harassment.  The worst thing these women have had to endure is lack of suitable changing/showering facilities.  The anecdote about porn was beyond ridiculous.  This article searches really hard for discrimination but really fails to dredge up anything.


I do agree that firefighters should be required to pass ongoing test though. This probably wouldn't be in the female candidates favor though.  Ms. Srisakul clearly wouldn't pass in her current shape.

pg1984
pg1984

No they were not able to do the job to the standards men have to. It took multiple times for srisakul to get through the academy, finally she just got a pass.

Joedee
Joedee

@Haha  The feminist writer is cherry picking, when in FACT the majority of women who try to be firefighters can't lift a hose when it's filled, can't run into a burning building and pull another human being to safety, and need to routinely hydrate during operations because they cant handle the heat. Can't women just accept they dont have the same physical constitution as men for certain activities? Why must your politics and ego create dangers for the community? Maybe men should start bitching and claim that because women can give birth it's discrimination? Or perhaps physically weaker men should claim discrimination if they cant get picked for special forces? 

fireproof1918
fireproof1918

@obscure @Haha The fact is there simply isn't any real evidence that any of these women were harassed. In fact, there is equal amount of "evidence" that a few of these women were terrible firefighters - including Srisakul, who took two tries to pass the academy and was pushed through, or Regina Wilson, who told a Lieutenant to fuck off while at a job. Any hostility they may have faced was more likely a result of this, then of the fact that they are women - guys would face the same hostility if they pulled these stunts, probably even worse.

 
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