Your Place Is in the Kitchen, Not on a Fire Truck
As shocking as Aimee’s experience is, it is commonplace among women in the fire service and other traditionally male occupations. Even after legal reforms in the 1970s required the gender and racial integration of firehouses, change came slowly, especially because officials of the U.S. Department of Justice - which enforces civil rights laws - actually believed that women were physically incapable of being firefighters. The DOJ came around eventually, but even today, women continue to be kept out of firehouses through means like subjective hiring and promotional systems that provide a cover for discrimination, as well as physical ability tests that favor brute strength and speed but don’t really measure the skills firefighters use every day. Women are also kept out - or driven out - of the firehouse by a slew of other forms of discrimination ranging from hazing and ostracism to physical and sexual assault. As a result, the proportion of women in the fire service is tiny - estimates range from two to four percent.