Lessons from Female Firefighters

When confronted with yet another story of family-unfriendly policies, prejudice, corruption, or abuse of power by men at work or elsewhere, women often seem to lament: If only women had more power, the workplace -- and the world -- would be a better place. Women should rise to the highest positions of power in every field, I believe, but despite my pro-female leanings, I've never agreed with what seems to be this somewhat naive view. I've never come across evidence, anecdotal or scientific, that women are inherently more kind or fair than men. Power can corrupt anyone; perhaps women appear less abusive only because we have less access to power.

Case in point: Minneapolis achieved a unique milestone two years ago. The city had the highest percentage of female firefighters (70 out of 447), the country's first all-female fire company and the first openly lesbian fire chief of a major U.S. city.

Firefighting -- although a rare choice for a woman -- is in some ways an ideal job for a working parent. The pay and benefits are good, and the schedule (a few days on followed by several days off) allows for lots of time with your children. Minneapolis, which had zero female firefighters until 1986, was applauded for its progressiveness.

But that spotlight has turned up some ugly allegations.

On December 5, The Washington Post reported in Minneapolis Likely to Oust Lesbian Fire Chief that the fire chief, Bonnie Bleskachek may lose her job after being charged with four lawsuits by employees alleging sexual favoritism, harrassment and gender discrimination. (Personal disclaimer: One of the lawsuits was filed by a family friend who I haven't had contact with in eight years.) Bleskachek's ex-partner of six years, with whom she shares custody of two children, filed a suit that has been settled; another is by a longtime friend who dated Bleskachek's current girlfriend; another by a female firefighter saying she was punished professionally for declining the chief's advances; and the final case by a male firefighter alleging that lesbians received preferential treatment in the department under Bleskachek. All this in less than two years.

"She's a very bright, competent individual who train-wrecked her career by letting personal relationships and abuse of her office cloud what could have been an enormously promising career," an attorney in the case said in the article. Bleskachek's view, as quoted in the piece, is "They have no evidence at all; this is all based on conjecture and hurt feelings." Minneapolis Star Tribune reports in No simple solution in fire chief case that Bleskachek will probably receive a negotiated settlement or be removed by the Minneapolis City Council.

Who knows where the truth lies, since Bleskachek has not told her side yet. She is just one person, from whom no larger lessons about gender and power can be inferred. But the situation raises the point that there are great leaders of both genders who understand the importance of fair management and the value of offering employees work/family balance. And there are terrible bosses who are single, married, child-free and parents. Gender stereotypes hold little value in today's workplace -- if they ever did. As women rise to positions of influence, whether in fire departments, corporate America, or politics, we will continue to see confusing cases like the one in Minneapolis, proving that wonderful and disappointing bosses are part of everyday work.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 13, 2006; 9:10 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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It seems that we Americans (or at least in media) are obsessed with highlighting and reporting on our differences. Even stories about what Americans think (polls) must be dissected to reveal what blacks, whites, men, women, young, old, suburban, gay, straight, republican, democrat, atheist, catholic, etc. think.

The WP headline "Minneapolis to Oust Lesbian Fire Cheif" is a fine example, as if they must highlight her sexual orientation to make the story interesting.

We like to argue, we like to blame, we thrive on difference. It is exhausting. It is unproductive. But it must be what the people want.

Posted by: Split | December 13, 2006 9:47 AM

"Women should rise to the highest positions of power in every field, I believe"

I don't agree with this blanket statement. There are some jobs that are very much more suited to men and some much suited to women. For example, I would not like to see a male lactation consultant. Similarly, I would not like to see a female NFL nose guard. No doubt there are rare exceptions to the rule, but women are in general more nurturing and caring, and should go with their strengths.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 9:51 AM

"women are in general more nurturing and caring, and should go with their strengths."

Thierry, please cite your scientific sources for this statement.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 9:54 AM

I would be more interested to see a study comparing the effectiveness of female vs. male firefighters. The fact is that firefighters must carry over 80lbs of equipment into a fire. The work is extremely physically demanding and very few women have the body to do that. There is a smaller pool of qualified women to choose from to begin with.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 9:54 AM

JS, I don't have any scientific sources, and I don't need any. When does every statement have to be backed up by "science"? Just look around and recall your experiences. You will admit that that general statement is true: Women are nurturing and caring.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 9:56 AM

"Gender stereotypes hold little value in today's workplace -- if they ever did."

Leslie, I disagree so strongly with this statement and on so many different levels that I'm not even sure where to begin. How can you make this claim when only 14 of the 100 seats in the Senate and 68 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are held by women? When (although women make up almost half of America's labor force) only two Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents, and 90 of those 500 companies don't have any women corporate officers?

I've got to think about how to articulate my position, but I will be curious to see the postings today.

Posted by: Grrrl | December 13, 2006 9:56 AM

Thierry, may the best person for the job advise consumers on lactation and achieve multiple clean tackles on the NFL field.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to control my more nurturing and caring side, later this morning when I use every iota of our client's leverage to sqeeze every last dollar out of, and allocate virtually all risk to, the supplier with whom we are negotiating.

I hope that you have no authority over hiring since you seem to let gender distract you from the more critical interview assessments of qualifications, performance, reliability and temperament.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 13, 2006 10:00 AM

Thierry - just because there may be a smaller pool of women to choose from - the average woman may not be as strong as the average man - many women are that strong and shouldn't we be judged as individuals? The test is carry x pounds.

The comment wasn't it should be exactly 50/50 but that the tops in all fields should include women. And Leslie was generalizing so of course there are exceptions where it won't work, however there are many fields where there are no women at the top where there is no inherent reason, like a linebacker.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | December 13, 2006 10:01 AM

Hey NC lawyer,
I want to be on your team...he he he.

I can easily carry 80 lbs of equipment. It is the 80 lbs of squirmy kids that have tackled me on occasion.

Posted by: dotted | December 13, 2006 10:02 AM

"Women are nurturing and caring."

Clearly, you've never met some of my female relatives. Caring and nuturing they ain't.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 10:10 AM

I agree with split -- our media thrives on controversy. I also wonder if we hold anyone who is a vanguard - first minorities, women, etc in a given role to a higher standard.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 13, 2006 10:12 AM

HA! Dotted, your comment about squirmy kids is right on the money!

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 13, 2006 10:13 AM

Hopefully this case of egregious favoritism will do something to swing the pendulum away from the anti-male fervor of radical feminists. Further, while I see no problem with qualified women becoming police officers, I do see a problem with undersized women (or men for that matter) with inherent limits to upper-body strength working as firefighters. This is not to question the bravery and courage of women. Rather, if my family and I are in a burning building, please send someone with exceptionally brawny arms and a powerful back to help us. If it is a woman, I'll be surprised but grateful. If it is giant strong man, Hallelulah!

Posted by: Mediaskeptic | December 13, 2006 10:18 AM

The problem starts when feminists think there is no difference between women and men. That both genders are completely interchangeable and can play both roles equally well in every field. That is when all the trouble starts.

We already know medical research has to be specifically geared towards women because their bodies react differently to medicine, pain, diseases. Interchangeable, same?

I hear of so many type-A career-minded women who as soon as they have a baby, are overcome with such a strong nurturing desire that they say "forget my career for now, I'm staying home with baby for 2yrs". More women than men have that overwhelming nurturing desire. And we are thankful that women are that way.

I say we raise a toast to women for their nurturing side! I am glad that women are not like men and men are not like women. Celebrate the gender differences because we are wired that way, with those unique tendencies.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 10:26 AM

I agree with you, but I have a little more to add. I have a female friend who is a parttime volunteer firefighter. She is small compared to the average woman. She knows that she cannot handle a lot of the equipment and could probably not be able to use the "jaws of life" at an accident scene. However, she is the one called on to squeeze through small openings, such as windows, when the larger men physically do not fit. Once inside, she can handle the hoses.

Posted by: to Mediaskeptic | December 13, 2006 10:27 AM

I have to wonder how many of the lawsuits may be a result of people not liking the idea of a lesbian in a high-ranking job.

The rhetoric of the religious right has become so toxic over homosexuality that they've spawned a whole subculture that will do anything necessary to "halt or subvert the homosexual agenda."

So, you really have to take these stories with a bit of salt until the facts are known.

Posted by: pittypat | December 13, 2006 10:36 AM

Thatcher was no "nuturing and caring" PM. She was a warmongering, powerhungry bithc who stepped on anyone who got into her way. And Thierry - it's called basing your blanket statements in reality. What ever you --perceive-- to be true does not make it true. Hence the reason you were asked for the science to back up your claims. Obviously you can't do that, so your claim is invalid. That is the way the real world works, Thierry. Try joining us some time.

Posted by: Maggot Thatcher | December 13, 2006 10:36 AM

Hey, they gave us "quotation marks"!

Posted by: Maggot Thatcher | December 13, 2006 10:39 AM

Agree with Split. I think there was a recent study that found there are more differences within the sexes than between them. But we seem to thrive on drawing distinctions and gossiping over bad behavior -- and, as Product of a Working Mother notes, we seem to take special glee when the bad behavior is from someone in the vanguard, who has worked hard to break stereotypes.

I suspect this situation has less to do with gender and more to do with personality/ambition -- i.e., if someone is driven enough to be the first woman at the top of a male-dominated field, I suspect that warm fuzzies aren't her dominant personality trait (of if they were, she learned long ago to bury them to get ahead). Don't really suspect that Jeffrey Skilling was a warm fuzzy type, either, but in his case, that lack doesn't seem to raise any eyebrows, because of course everyone expects a male CFO to be all about the $$$.

Also, Grrrl, I read Leslie's comment differently than you. I don't think she was saying that gender doesn't have an impact in practice (which your numbers clearly show it does). I read it as saying that there's just no excuse anymore for companies to make work-related decisions based on gender stereotypes, given the realities of the modern workplace -- that it SHOULDN'T have an impact, even though in practice it still does. So maybe 100 years ago, when the available jobs were things like heavy manufacturing (lift 100-lb barrels or whatever), there was at least an argument that women could be excluded because of their smaller size. But now that so many jobs are so far removed from that kind of heavy physical labor, there's just no excuse for employers to rely on gender stereotypes anymore.

Posted by: Laura | December 13, 2006 10:39 AM

Male Lactation Consultants! Ha, ha ha! My wife, Fredia, is a lactation consultant. The subject of males doing this job is an occasionally subject of conversation. One of the supervisors, who has not consulted a client in the last 20 years, if ever, thought that this is a great idea. My wife and the others who have client contact every day KNOW what a STUPID idea this is!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 10:44 AM

I said general statement women are more nurturing and caring. There are always exceptions, but just survey 1000 women in the USA and ask "do you think women are more nurting and caring than men?" I will bet you the majority will say yes.

Regarding the small woman firefighter who is called on to do midget duty, that is great. You know, there are also small men that can do the job. Does not matter if it is a man or women, just get the job done.

I have not been saying that women should not be firefighters. All I have been saying is celebrate the gender differences because they are hardwired. Go with your strenghts. There are of course exceptions. The majority of women are not muscular and built like men. That is why I love women so much! When I go to the mens club, they sometimes have a Miss Bodybuilder type. You know, the men look for a minute out of curiosity, then leave. She does not get many tips. We love the pinups. ooh-la-la!!

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 10:45 AM

BTW, I would love to be a lactation consultant. Mmmmm...!!

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 10:46 AM

Most (if not all) firefighting organizations require the candidates be able to carry the equipment weight plus an adult weight human dummy in a "fireman's carry" through an obstacle course. This is supposed to simulate the need to rescue someone from a building where the equipment can't be ditched first.

If a woman can meet that requirement, then all power to her and she should be as eligible for the job as the man who passes the same test. There's nothing wrong with requiring candidates pass a minimum physical test in order to get a particular job, as long as you don't assume no woman can pass it in the first place.

However, as an aside, when I was in the Navy several (many actually) years ago, the physical exams were different for men and women, even though they were both expected to do the same things once they were in the military. I don't know if the standards are now equal or not, but I've heard from some who've gone through boot camp that the women are often given assistance and are not held back when they do not meet the physical test requirements.

Posted by: John | December 13, 2006 10:47 AM

... but if I applied, I would be turned down immediately. gender discrimination?!

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 10:47 AM

"So maybe 100 years ago, when the available jobs were things like heavy manufacturing (lift 100-lb barrels or whatever), there was at least an argument that women could be excluded because of their smaller size. But now that so many jobs are so far removed from that kind of heavy physical labor, there's just no excuse for employers to rely on gender stereotypes anymore."

When I was researching my dissertation, I read a RAND study on women in the military - not in combat, but in positions like cooks, mechanics, et al. When conducting interviews of servicemen, the scholars heard a lot of comments like, "I got nothing against them in theory, but they can't lift these 100 lb sacks of potatoes/carry a 100 lb box of tools/push a vehicle into a garage." When the scholars asked what percentage of the cook's duties included hauling 100 lb sacks of potatoes around, or how frequently the mechanics had to tote 100 lb boxes of tools, the answer was, invariably, never.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 13, 2006 10:47 AM

I think that this case is less about gender and more about the chief's sexual orientation. The title of this blog entry is extremely misleading....it's not talking about the issues that female firefighters faced, but rather this particular case in point. I don't see any worthy "lessons" to be learned from this piece....other than "don't sexually harass those who work for you."

I would be interested to read about the actual work and family related issues faced by female firefighters, cops, etc.

Posted by: montgomery village | December 13, 2006 10:50 AM

Leslie, today is much better topic. I am actually having fun!

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 10:51 AM

NC lawyer: "Thierry, may the best person for the job advise consumers on lactation and achieve multiple clean tackles on the NFL field."

I'm a woman and this is an over the top statement. There ARE gender differences -- deal with it, enjoy it, revel in it, but don't hate it.

Posted by: therapy | December 13, 2006 10:51 AM


I am always disappointed at how much people misunderstand Feminist Theory. The point of contemporary feminist theory is not to be the same as men but to recognize and celebrate the exceptional qualities we have as women and to not be held back due to gender bias. Therefor, hire the best person for the job due to their individual strengths and not assume anything due to their sex.

Posted by: FeministMom | December 13, 2006 10:53 AM

"BTW, I would love to be a lactation consultant. Mmmmm...!!"

Thierry --

This is why no one here takes you seriously.

You ultimately reduce everything to a male sex fantasy using your stupid lecherous Frenchman persona.

Grow up.

Posted by: pittypat | December 13, 2006 10:56 AM

I have been to many fire stations. Everybody sleeps in the same room. There is no privacy. So if women is there, must have special accomodations. Also, this culture has a lot of sexual harassment lawsuit. Male firefighters have to be walking on eggshells careful not to say or do anythiing that can be construed as sexual harassment. You know, they work 48hour shifts, so they are in close contact for a long time, eat sleep do everything together. It is possible, and it is fine. I support women firefighters as long as they do the work just as well as any other firefighter. equal standards, equal evaluation, equal opportunity. but i say again, i will toast the gender differences.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 10:56 AM

Thierry, you state that not everything has to be backed up by science, and then you make quasi-scientific statements like:

"Celebrate the gender differences because we are wired that way, with those unique tendencies"

What do you mean, wired? Do you mean chemically? Hormomally? Neurologically? Psychologically? How do you know?

If you are going to make a claim that I have a certain characteristic because of my two X chromasomes, you're just going to have to be prepared to show me how my two X chromosomes cause that characteristic, or at least show me the basis for that claim. For example, I'm sure that there is medical data that supports the contention that certain drugs affect women differently from men because they are women rather than men.

But come on: "There are always exceptions, but just survey 1000 women in the USA and ask "do you think women are more nurting and caring than men?" I will bet you the majority will say yes." If there is a better example of "truthiness," I've yet to hear it.

And yes, Thierry, if you were cut from the lactation consultant pool just because you are a man, that would be discrimination, just as it would be if a gynological program refused to take any male applicants.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 11:04 AM

I have to admit: when Thierry shows up and comments like he's doing, I turn off the blog. It isn't worth the time to debate.

Posted by: dotted | December 13, 2006 11:06 AM

"My wife and the others who have client contact every day KNOW what a STUPID idea this is!"

Serious question here, really. My kids are grown and I never used a lactation consultant, so I don't really know what they do. Why couldn't a man do it? If women are supposed to be able to do any job they are qualified for without regard to gender, why couldn't a man be a lactation consultant? Is it that he could, but in reality no woman would use his services?

I have also noticed that the OB/GYN profession is becoming dominated by females. Based on my personal experience, a male OB/GYN is just as good as a female, but men seem to avoid going into that specialty. An informal survey at a recent social gathering of women recently showed that only 3 of the 14 women present went to a male OB/GYN. I wonder how many female proctologists there are.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 11:08 AM

JS "If you are going to make a claim that I have a certain characteristic because of my two X chromasomes, you're just going to have to be prepared to show me how my two X chromosomes cause that characteristic"

look in the mirror. see breasts? ok.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 11:09 AM

I agree with you, Dotted. Thierry and the other trolls ruin what little chance we have to have a good discussion. And to WP, either make us sign in under a username or give up pretending this is a worthwhile blog.

Posted by: whatshername | December 13, 2006 11:11 AM

Man, it is not even noon and this blog is taking a turn for the worse. Leslie, I would have liked to see more on the balance issue. I also think fire fighting sounds like a good job for men wanting to balance work and family. But I would be interested in hearing the pros and cons of 48 hour shifts with several days off in a row. How does that help/hurt family balance? Relationship with spouse? Childcare needs? Long term planning?

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2006 11:11 AM

For everyone who thinks Thierry is a troll, there is another who thinks he makes it interesting. I find the blog boring when everyone is agreeing with everyone else and just telling their own personal stories relating to the blog topic.

Posted by: amused | December 13, 2006 11:13 AM

"I am always disappointed at how much people misunderstand Feminist Theory. The point of contemporary feminist theory is not to be the same as men but to recognize and celebrate the exceptional qualities we have as women and to not be held back due to gender bias."

So true, FeministMom. However, it's more a problem of WILLFULL misunderstanding.

I don't think there's been much (any?) research done to illuminate precisely how and to what degree the mere notion of feminism terrifies men. They don't want to understand it because it's just too threatening. So, they cast it in a way that makes it possible to denigrate it. THEY define it in ridiculous terms, marginalize those who try to clarify, and then dismiss it as just so much female hormonal craziness.

But don't ever forget that they do this because feminism scares the sh*t out of them.

Posted by: pittypat | December 13, 2006 11:14 AM

What's up with the women who are insulted at the idea of being more nurturing and caring?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 11:14 AM

foamgnome "I would be interested in hearing the pros and cons of 48 hour shifts "

why? how is that relevant to the majority of us? the only folks i can think of working 48hour shifts are medical residents, firefighters,...??? most of bloggers are white-collar 8-5 women.
work/life balance with 48hour shifts is just irrelevant information.


Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 11:16 AM

yesterday was boring and also depressing. talking about dying is very downer because poof, you are gone. nothing after that. i do not think about death becuase it makes me sad, nothing to live for. i try to enjoy life full every day because death can come anytime unexpectedly and then nothing. so i live like it is my last day and have fun and enjoy wine, women and song. especially the women!

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 11:19 AM

"... midget duty..."

Thierry, that was funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 11:22 AM

Thierry, I would like to hear about it because work life balance is the point of the blog. Even if it affects just a few people, currently, it is something to learn about other professions. When my kids are growing up and we are discussing possible professions, I could illuminate some work life balance issues faced by different type of jobs. Thierry, if you don't want to talk about work life balance issues, why do you even read this blog? If you only care about your own profession, why read a blog? Don't you already know the pros and cons of your particular profession?

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2006 11:23 AM

If it were my last day, I would not be posting on line...

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 11:23 AM

"Serious question here, really. My kids are grown and I never used a lactation consultant, so I don't really know what they do. Why couldn't a man do it?"

From what I've seen, lactation consultants often get very involved in helping with the mechanics of getting the baby latched on properly, which can involved a lot of visual (and possibly even physical? I don't know but it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibilities) contact with the mother's breasts. So I would imagine that some mothers would not be comfortable enough with a man in that role to be able to effectively get the help she needs.

I think the same is true with ob/gyns - a lot of women are just plain more comfortable talking about those health issues with another female - it is not a reflection of the male's qualifications or abilities, but of the patient's inhibitions and comfort level.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 11:24 AM

"What's up with the women who are insulted at the idea of being more nurturing and caring?"

I think what women object to is when this idea is used as an excuse to limit our options career wise - ie, women are more nurturing and caring and therefore should be nurses instead of CEOs - or to say that we should always be the primary caregiver to our children and not the fathers. I don't care if you think women are more nurturing, so long as you don't then try to limit what I or my husband can do because of that assumption.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 11:29 AM

Pitty - I don't know one man that is SCARED of feminists. Irritated and annoyed - yes, scared - please! Whatever the original intent of Feminism - it has been marginalized by the women that demand special rights because they are female, not equal rights.

My 2 cents - bring it on!

Posted by: cmac | December 13, 2006 11:29 AM

Thierry, I'm not asking you about breasts, although I can see they're one of your favorite topics. I'm asking you what, exactly, you mean when you say women are "wired" to be more caring and nurturing.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 11:30 AM

the firehouse in falls church has seperate bedrooms for everybody. no big deal. no "special" accomdations for women. next arguement.

Posted by: quark | December 13, 2006 11:31 AM

" From what I've seen, lactation consultants often get very involved in helping with the mechanics of getting the baby latched on properly, which can involved a lot of visual (and possibly even physical? I don't know but it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibilities) contact with the mother's breasts."

Megan, male plastic surgeon's get a lot of visual and physical contact with their female patients' breasts. My guess as to why some think that a man can not be a lactation consultant has to do more with women being comfortable going to a professional who has been in her position (someone who has actually breasfed a child).

Posted by: montgomery village | December 13, 2006 11:31 AM

A lactation consultant could certainly be involved in physically positioning a woman's breast and her baby, to get the baby latched on correctly. But they also do things like phone consultations, help people with pump selection, etc... So I think there are aspects of the job that could be easily done by a man, but I don't think a man is going to be as effective at walking into a hospital room and making a new mother feel comfortable with breastfeeding.

I guess I don't really get the point of today's article-- certainly we all knew that women could be guilty of sexual harassment?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM... | December 13, 2006 11:35 AM

It may be that some women are more comfortable talking about ob/gyn issues with a woman doctor with a man, and the same can be true with lactation consultants. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't let men be ob/gyns or lactation consultants, nor should we keep women from applying to proctology programs.

(Not that I'm accusing you of saying this, Megan--just sayin')

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 11:37 AM

"I don't know one man that is SCARED of feminists."

I know lots of men -- and women -- who are scared of feminists, or at least the perception of feminists. A Diversity Committee at my office was created due to that specific fear (or at least, the fear of lawsuits that could be brought by "feminists"). And I do agree with you that the original intention of feminism has been marginalized by women who want special treatment because they are women.

Posted by: Grrrl | December 13, 2006 11:39 AM

To the person who asked why women are concerned with the assumption that women are more nuturing and caring. It is the assumptions that go with it. Women are more nuturing so they should be the SAHP, they should go into certain professions (nursing, teaching, social work) as opposed to ones where you need to be tough, trial attorney, police officer, etc. It means when a woman expresses that she doesn't like little children, her female credentials are called into question as opposed to just chalking it up to her unique personality, etc.
If you say you admire me because I am nuturing and caring thank you, but only say it after you know me, not because you assumed I am because I am a woman

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | December 13, 2006 11:39 AM

"I don't know one man that is SCARED of feminists."

No, cmac, you wouldn't. It's not the kind of fear a man is going to talk about -- not to another man and certainly not to a woman.

Actually, it's not even anything men are aware of, so they wouldn't communicate it in any of the usual ways. It's a fear that is deep-seated, visceral, and probably inaccessible. But it's there.

It shows up in men's reactions to certain women, to political scenarios, to domestic situations, to work-related issues, etc., etc. It shows up in the gifts they give their wives and girlfriends. It shows up in the TV shows and talk-radio shows they choose. It shows up pretty much everywhere. But it's the elephant in the room that nobody will -- or can -- acknowledge is there.

I know you'll have some sort of outraged response to this, cmac, and frankly I'm tired of your attempts at arguing every time I post an opinion. So, I'm signing off for the day. Whatever your response, I won't see it.

Bye, all.

Posted by: pittypat | December 13, 2006 11:42 AM

"Leslie, I disagree so strongly with this statement and on so many different levels that I'm not even sure where to begin. How can you make this claim when only 14 of the 100 seats in the Senate and 68 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are held by women? When (although women make up almost half of America's labor force) only two Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents, and 90 of those 500 companies don't have any women corporate officers?"

In part, because many (not all, of course) women take their careers less seriously than men, especially if they have children. Many of us choose to slow down once we marry, because we nurture--our husband, our children, our pets, and our homes. It is a woman's CHOICE to focus on family, career, or whatever combination of the two. Women are (in general) given the same opportunities as men. For example, in politics, the starting lines are the military and law school. I don't know much about the military, but in law school the acceptance rate is about 50/50 between genders. We all have the opportunity--some of us choose not to take it. Me, I'm going to get all the politics I can stand in and after law school. I wouldn't want to go further...but if I did want to, I could.

"I think the same is true with ob/gyns - a lot of women are just plain more comfortable talking about those health issues with another female - it is not a reflection of the male's qualifications or abilities, but of the patient's inhibitions and comfort level."

My first gyn was a male, and he was funny and nice. But I felt much more comfortable with my second gyn, a female, because she wasn't as funny, but she was gentle and calm. Was there some subconscious extra comfort because she was female? Likely. She recently moved, and I'm hoping the next doc I get will be like her. However, if it's a male, as long as he treats me with respect and dignity, it probably won't make much of a difference to me. In short, I agree with you--both were equally qualified, but I was more comfortable with the woman. Sad but true.

Posted by: Mona | December 13, 2006 11:43 AM

"It may be that some women are more comfortable talking about ob/gyn issues with a woman doctor with a man, and the same can be true with lactation consultants. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't let men be ob/gyns or lactation consultants, nor should we keep women from applying to proctology programs.

(Not that I'm accusing you of saying this, Megan--just sayin')"

JS, I totally agree with you. I think that the best way to deal with this issue is to find ways to make women more comfortable with their sexuality and their bodies so they don't need to feel embarrased or inhibited talking about any health issues - I think this actually an issue that extends beyond ob/gyn care for many women.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 11:43 AM

"However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't let men be ob/gyns or lactation consultants, nor should we keep women from applying to proctology programs."

OK, I'll ask - why would anyone, male or female, WANT to be a proctologist? Is it just the money? When I say I work with a%$holes all day, I'm just glad I'm not being literal!

Posted by: pat | December 13, 2006 11:45 AM

" know you'll have some sort of outraged response to this, cmac, and frankly I'm tired of your attempts at arguing every time I post an opinion"

uh, Pittypat, don't you think this has been a two-way street? You attack and argue with cmac every bit as much as she does it to you. And I highly doubt you won't come back to check and see if there are responses. HA!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 11:47 AM

Grrl...could you explain more what you mean about gender stereotypes? What I meant is that people's assumptions -- positive or negative -- about employees based on their gender don't do anyone any good. But I'm curious what nuance or offensive statement you read in my line -- I am clueless on this one and I'd really like to know more about what you think. Thanks.


I'm with the people who think Thierry's sometimes obnoxious, sometimes silly comments occasionally are worth reading. And just like holiday newsletters -- just skip 'em if you hate 'em.

Female firefighters, like male firefighters, have to pass an extremely rigorous physical test -- that most Americans (even most humans) would fail. Women applicants don't get special exemption.

I really appreciated the story of the small female firefighter who could get into small spaces. Goes to show -- diversity has unexpected benefits for everyone...

Posted by: Leslie | December 13, 2006 11:48 AM

This article reveals some true motivation. It's not about balance, it's about pushing an agenda. Please stick to real family/work/life issues and stay away from being a mouthpiece for NOW.

Posted by: come on! | December 13, 2006 11:48 AM

My wife prefers a female OB/GYN because, she says, the doctor "gets it" when she discusses female issues with her. The male drs she had tended to be less understanding.

Now, I'd prefer a female proctologist, I think. Smaller fingers!

Posted by: John | December 13, 2006 11:49 AM

Ok - I'm a female who prefers a male GYN. FWIW - whatever.

Re: women preferring lactation consultants. It is ok for a woman to want a woman because she is more comfortable. It is Ok for a woman to not choose a man because she is uncomfortable.

BUT - why is it then NOT OK for a man (or another woman) to ask a BF'ing mom to cover up in public because they are uncomfortable?

Think about it ladies. If you don't want a male lactation consultant because you are uncomfortable, maybe you should just "get over it" because it is all about "feeding the baby".

Posted by: ducking for cover | December 13, 2006 11:56 AM

"Women should rise to the highest positions of power in every field, I believe"

I know a lot of women who believe this statement until it come to religion. Women support the catholic church but don't seem to care that a woman has no chance of a leadership role. If a woman worked in a company where upon getting the was job was told "Sorry, but don't even think about becoming a manager, we don't pick women," would they take the job? Would they shop at stores where this was the policy?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 11:58 AM

"What's up with the women who are insulted at the idea of being more nurturing and caring?"

I haven't gotten the sense that anyone is "insulted" at the idea that some women are assumed by some to be innately more nurturing and caring. I'm not insulted. I am, however, puzzled that anyone who has crawled out of his cave and lived a little finds such assumptions to be valuable and accurate when applied to real people in the real world.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 13, 2006 11:59 AM

"My wife prefers a female OB/GYN because, she says, the doctor "gets it" when she discusses female issues with her. The male drs she had tended to be less understanding."

I found the reverse to be true while I was seeing male and females on the OB rotation. The males were understanding and the female was unsympathetic. Her attitude was "women have babies every day. It's not a big deal" no matter what my concerns were or what I was questioning.

Posted by: xyz | December 13, 2006 11:59 AM

"Re: women preferring lactation consultants. It is ok for a woman to want a woman because she is more comfortable. It is Ok for a woman to not choose a man because she is uncomfortable.

BUT - why is it then NOT OK for a man (or another woman) to ask a BF'ing mom to cover up in public because they are uncomfortable?"

OK, without stating a position on the whole public breastfeading debate, I will say that that these two scenarios are too different to be properly analogous. One involves a private medical decision that affects the mom, the baby and the consultant. The other involves the way we as a society interact in public, and the obligations we take on when entering the public sphere. They're apples and oranges.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 12:06 PM

eewww!!!!
Enough for today.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 12:07 PM

8 more hours till the clubs come alive.

male/female OB does not matter. it is all generalization, ok? everyone's experience will be different. even the same OB could be having a bad day. so quit the generalizations. male lactation consultant is a nice job. see breast all day. get to squeeze them too! and no tipping required.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 12:10 PM

Well, I will just have to call my wife to see if she has even heard of any male lactation consultants in her 20+ years in the job. Maybe I do need to have her write a guest column.

Patient contact is the primary function of the job. Tele consults and pump selection are relatively minor functions in the total time spent on patient care.

The fact is that new mothers and their mothers, aunts, sisters and other female relatives are much more comfortable with a female LC. And, I guarantee that the visual stimulation is very fleeting.

On the other hand, my wife loves her male OBGYN. I strongly doubt that she would go to a female just because the dr. is female.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:11 PM

BTW, the best (I mean least painful) prostate exam that I had done was by a woman dr! Must be the small hands!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:14 PM

Re male OB-GYNs - my (female) high school friend is an Army OB-GYN. Most military doctors retire after the minimum military service to pay back their education. Her male colleagues have a hard time finding a group practice that wants to hire them... most want to add a female doctor to their practice. FWIW my doctor is male and over 50 but I love his practice and wouldn't switch to a woman doctor. I have been to both and don't feel any more or less comfortable with either gender.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 13, 2006 12:14 PM

"The fact is that new mothers and their mothers, aunts, sisters and other female relatives are much more comfortable with a female LC."

Thank God, we've finally found a reliable source for factual truth: Fred's opinion based on his wife's job! This will make everything so much easier! Thanks, Fred!

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 12:15 PM

Yes, it is what is called empirical evidence.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:19 PM

Yes, it is what is called empirical evidence.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:19 PM

Yes, it is what is called empirical evidence.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:19 PM

Sorry about the dupe posts!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:20 PM

"My wife prefers a female OB/GYN because, she says, the doctor "gets it" when she discusses female issues with her. The male drs she had tended to be less understanding."

In my experience, I've found both male and female ob/gyn who either "get it" or don't. The gender of my care provider is not as important to me as their ability to really listen to me and not dismiss me because I'm young and not planning on having children soon.

Posted by: montgomery village | December 13, 2006 12:23 PM

To "ducking for cover", I think JS is right that the two situations are different in the amount of exposure and contact and the societal implications. But FWIW, I personally had so little sense of modesty left in the days immediately following giving birth and was so exhausted that I don't think I would have cared so long as I felt the LC was competent and was actually helping me. My modesty has since returned, however ;)

On OB/GYNs, I've had some female docs with terrible bedside manner and male docs with great one. But I think another thing that contributes to the preference for women is the fact that so often we have to just blindly select a name for a list of doctors in our insurance coverage. I've found that with each move and change of insurance, I've ended up selecting a woman from the list just because I figure my chances of being comfortable with her are higher, (realizing that this is based largely on my own inhibitions, not that I think males are incapable). Whereas if I could get a recommendation from someone I knew and they recommended a male I would probably take that recommendation. I don't know if that will make sense, but these days when people change jobs, cities, and insurance companies so frequently, it's a lot harder to get referrals and I think we're more likely to rely on generalizations and stereotypes even when we know that they're not necessarily valid.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 12:24 PM

Question, back on the topic of female fire fighters. I'm speaking off the cuff here because I don't know if tests are modified based on gender. Maybe someone with more knowledge on the issue can enlighten me.

I think we can all agree that if the male and female applicants had to pass the identical physical tests in order to qualify, then both males and females should be qualified to work there.

However, what if the tests were different? What if, for example, males were given less time to complete the tasks, or had to do more pushups, situps, etc in order to qualify?

If that is the case, doesn't it speak to the invalidity of the tests? If a person who does 50 situps a minute is equally as "qualified" as another person who does, say 35 or 40 situps per minute, then I think it shows that these tests are not true measures of ability to do the job.

Anyone care to comment?

Posted by: dc | December 13, 2006 12:25 PM

To draw authentic widespread conclusions based on observation, the observation has to be conducted within the confines of the scientific process. Otherwise, it's just stating your opinions as fact. If I can produce a lactation consultant with 20+ years on the job who says that some women are fine and comfortable with competant male consultants, do we have my lactation consultant fight your lactation consultant to see who's right?

Sorry to harp on such an off-topic topic. It's a pet peeve of mine, when people treat their own experiences as the gospel by which we should all live our lives. I'll stop now.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 12:27 PM

Completely agree with your last post Megan! My husband just visited our new doctor (selected just as you described), and boy was he unhappy!

Posted by: montgomery village | December 13, 2006 12:28 PM

DC, I think that, as long as the test requires qualifications that are actually needed to be a firefighter, then I think people of both genders should be required to meet those qualifications without assistance. In other words, if a firefighter really needs to be able to perform 50 situps to do his/her job competently, then all applicants should have to be able to do 50 situps to qualify.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 12:30 PM

"The fact is that new mothers and their mothers, aunts, sisters and other female relatives are much more comfortable with a female LC."

OK - I'm going to play Devil's Advocate.

"The fact is that male CEO's upper management are much more comfortable with a other male CEO's and upper management."


It just sounds so sexist. And, I do recognize that corporate work and patient care are not apples and oranges.


Posted by: ducking for cover | December 13, 2006 12:30 PM

OK, since you did not ask for it, a true breastfeeding story from my experience!

When our 4th child was born, I was being a good dad sitting in the hospital room with wife and baby. (the others were at school). The OB/GYN nurse comes in to ask if spouse (Fredia) needed anything or had any questions about the birth. Since this was no. 4, we did not have any. So the nurse says to Fredia that she understands that F. is a L.C. Fredia says yes. Nurse says my baby is 6 months old and I am having this trouble BF him. So, Nurse ask F. questions a, b, c, d and e. Fredia answers questions a, b, c, d, and e.

I am sitting there being ignored but I answer the five questions in my mind.

I scored a 100%!

I know way too much about BF for a business major!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:31 PM

"To draw authentic widespread conclusions based on observation, the observation has to be conducted within the confines of the scientific process. Otherwise, it's just stating your opinions as fact."

JS, GIVE ME A BREAK. This is a blog on the Washington Post, not the National Academies.

Posted by: CKPost | December 13, 2006 12:32 PM

JS,

Look up the work empirical. Pls note that I qualified my statement as such!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:34 PM

Jokester - I love you.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 12:36 PM

"What's up with the women who are insulted at the idea of being more nurturing and caring?"

It's often irritating to be mistaken for something you are not, even if it's not an inherently bad thing you're being mistaken for. People usually don't enjoy being mistaken for younger or older than their real age. Married people don't like being mistaken for single. Non-pregnant people don't like being mistaken for pregnant. In general people don't like to be misjudged.

(In case it's not obvious, I am a woman who is not at all nurturing. My dominant traits are stubbornness, pride, and aggression. As with all traits these are assets in some ways and liabilities in others.)

FWIW, re the question of ability testing, when I was in the Canadian army women had to pass the same tests as men. Our battalion was about 2/3 male and 1/3 female. On balance the guys found the heavy rifles and packs easier to shoulder and the girls found the long marches easier to endure, but there were successes and failures among both sexes in every exercise.

Posted by: worker bee | December 13, 2006 12:38 PM

JS,

First I would like you to produce a male LC that is in practice--you know, not just a research guy.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:38 PM

How many here consciously chose a female pediatrican for their child? How about a male pediatrician? On what did you base your choice?

Posted by: a question | December 13, 2006 12:39 PM

In the US Air Force, the physcial tests are different for men and women. The females are not required to run as fast and do as many push ups.

(JS, if you need some facts, I can give you the official website.)

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:41 PM

I meant "word" not "work" empirical

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 12:43 PM

On the LC issue - There's a pretty well known (in Canada) breastfeeding advocate who's male, Dr. Jack Newman. My SIL's friend went to him for an issue and although he was a little abrupt she thought it was really helpful. I don't have a problem with a male in that role - my male ob/gyn sees even more private areas. Personal experience might be helpful but on the other hand I find that sometimes people who think there's one right way - the way that worked for them - are less responsive.

On today's topic I think trailblazers always have a harder row to hoe, but there's no guarantee, either, that being a lesbian means you don't behave badly either.

My perception about certain jobs that are traditionally blue collar is that they may be easier to balance in some ways because they have been heavily unionized and/or regulated in some way - overtime is always paid, a shift ends pretty much when it is supposed to (not, obviously, in emergency team situations). On the other hand I think those jobs are probably incredibly inflexible when it comes to taking kids/elderly relatives to the doctor or taking mat leave, etc.

Posted by: Shandra | December 13, 2006 12:43 PM

"How many here consciously chose a female pediatrican for their child? How about a male pediatrician? On what did you base your choice?"

I'd be interested in others' input on this. We have a son, and when we moved to a new state, he got sick and I needed to find someone quickly, and we ended up with a female (I actually chose based on the size of the practice, since I liked our previous two-doctor practice). I remember being very uncomfortable with my male pediatrician when I was an adolescent, so I've thought about whether I should seek out a male doctor for my son when he gets older, even though I feel like I don't want to perpetuate this type of thinking/division and I do think the individual doctor's personality is more important than their gender in large part. What do others think/do about this/

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 12:48 PM

It would be silly to choose a pediatrician solely based on gender, even when everything else (eg. qualifications) is equal on paper. Base it on personal recommendations. Talk to co-workers, friends, acquaintances, anyone you know with kids. Personally, I prefer one with many years of experience (10+) and has practiced in a rural setting. Doctors are always learning, and the more cases they see, the better they become.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 13, 2006 12:48 PM

"How many here consciously chose a female pediatrican for their child? How about a male pediatrician? On what did you base your choice?"

We have chosen our pediatricians, in each instance, based on personal referrals from friends or physicians, or both. Each practice we've supported has had a mix of talented professionals of either sex. Our kids, one of each sex, have connected with some and not others based on personality and bed-side manner. There's been no gender pattern.

and, hear, hear, worker bee. You've captured the problem succinctly and accurately.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 13, 2006 12:48 PM

"In the US Air Force, the physcial tests are different for men and women. The females are not required to run as fast and do as many push ups."

Thank you Fred. I, for one, fail to see the logic behind having different standards, based upon some statistical theory. Again, it makes me question the validity of the standards. Let's use the Air Force as an example.

The Academy Web page states that Men must run 1.5 miles in 12:25 while women must run it in 14:17

So - a woman who can run 1.5 miles in 14:00 is qualified to enter the academy whereas a man who does the same thing is not.

Can anyone actually justify such discrimination? In the heat of battle, what does it matter whether someone is male or female, it only matters that they meet the SAME basic minimum standards.

Posted by: dc | December 13, 2006 12:50 PM

no point telling people to stay on topic today. the side discussions are interesting.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 12:51 PM

"How many here consciously chose a female pediatrican for their child? How about a male pediatrician? On what did you base your choice?"

We picked a practice because of reputation. We saw a male pediatrician who I loved. He was so great with my newborn that had RSV. We always went to him. Then he moved from the area and I switched practices. Saw different doctors (men and women) -- decided to see one more than the others -- young, black, homosexual woman who spent as much time as needed answering ALL of my questions -- I like all of the doctors there, but she is my favorite

Posted by: Marie | December 13, 2006 12:54 PM

I chose my pediatrician based on several factors such as location, office hours, whether or not my insurance was accepted. At the time, my friends and coworkers with babies didn't live close enough to seriously consider their recommendations. I chose several preliminarily and then interviewed. Then I chose the one whose personality I liked best during the interview.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 12:59 PM

to: dc

I agree: this discrimination actually undermines the women who make it into the Air Force. Many of them might be able to achieve the men's higher standards but without having proved it, they won't be able to quash the naysayers.

From my standpoint it's not important to have a particular target for balance between the sexes in any particular job: what IS important is allowing everyone the same opportunities, and letting individuals attempt what they wish and succeed or fail on the same set of standards. In practice this will likely mean many professions have an unequal gender mix but who cares, so long as the best people get the jobs and everyone gets a chance to at least try out for what they most want to do.

Posted by: worker bee | December 13, 2006 1:00 PM

Speaking of choosing pediatrician's, when it is time for orthodontia, choose an orthodontist who is close to the child's school. There are many quick 5 minute adjustments and being close to school really minimizes the amount of school missed.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 1:01 PM

"The Academy Web page states that Men must run 1.5 miles in 12:25 while women must run it in 14:17

So - a woman who can run 1.5 miles in 14:00 is qualified to enter the academy whereas a man who does the same thing is not.

Can anyone actually justify such discrimination? In the heat of battle, what does it matter whether someone is male or female, it only matters that they meet the SAME basic minimum standards."

DC, I don't really know enough about this issue to say much, but one question that comes to my mind is what the real purpose of the standards are.

If the issue is really that you need to be able to run a certain distance in a certain time to be effective in combat, then I don't think there is any excuse for different standards. It seems like that's the case for firefighters - they need to be able to carry the equipment and an unconscious person out of the building to be able to do their job, whether they are men or women.

If the issue is more that the Academy wants people who are in top physical condition, not that there are specific requirements for combat, then different standards may not be an issue. In that case, the purpose of the standards is to ensure that they are selecting the most fit people in each category, not to ensure that they can perform a specific task necessary for the job. THerefore, because of the different average physical builds of men and women, different standards might be ok.

So I don't know what the reality and purpose is behind these standards, but that's the only way I would see that it would make sense.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 1:03 PM

The 1992 President's Commission on the Assignment of Women in the
Armed Forces looked closely at the issue of physical strength and
endurance requirements. The Commission concluded that, since physical
fitness standards are established to promote the highest level of general
wellness in the armed forces and are not aimed at assessing capability to
perform specific jobs or missions, it is appropriate to adjust the standards
for physiological differences among service members.

Posted by: GAO | December 13, 2006 1:05 PM

Megan - good points. Then it makes the tests seem arbitrary, really. But then again the Bar Exam was pretty arbitrary too!

Posted by: DC | December 13, 2006 1:07 PM

"How many here consciously chose a female pediatrican for their child? How about a male pediatrician? On what did you base your choice?"

When we lived in Maryland, I chose a pediatrician (male) for my son with whom I just clicked at the hospital. I'd actually selected a different pediatrician (female) before the birth, but I instantly liked and trusted the other doctor in a different way. We'd still be going to him if we hadn't moved to NC. Here, I chose a practice that was close to my house. I have been reasonably satisfied, though not thrilled, with the service and attention there. I don't think the gender of a pediatrician -- or any doctor for that matter -- factors into the decision for me.

Megan, interesting idea about selecting a same-gender doctor for your children as they get older. I've heard my friends with older kids talking about this and most have done so. I think that it's a good idea. I also had a male pediatrician when I was a child and I remember feeling weird about seeing him once I hit puberty . . . (That was before nurses stayed in the room during exams.)

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 13, 2006 1:07 PM

We choose our pediatrician based on insurance acceptance, location, recommendation from OB, hours of operation, number of doctors and PAs, etc... After choosing a practice, we tried several of the pediatricians. This was fairly easy to do with a new born because they go to a lot of appointments. For my DD's main pediatrician, we ended up choosing one of the female pediatricians. But there are several other pediatricians there. For every day sick appointments, I don't care if my kid sees another doctor or PA. I think either of them can tell you what to do for stomach upset etc.. The other thing I loved about this practice is they have a 24 hour nurse hot line. You can generally call and get a lot of general medical advice without having to take your child in. Megan, as your son gets closer to puberty, you might consider finding a male specific doctor. But for little kids male or female does not seem to matter. My DD has the same reaction regardless of gender. Funny enough, she prefers asian women teachers and speech pathologists. But I think it is because it reminds her of me.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2006 1:08 PM

On the LC issue - There's a pretty well known (in Canada) breastfeeding advocate who's male, Dr. Jack Newman... and in the U.S., Dr. William Sears is a well know expert. My wife had books by both of them (until Katrina took them away.) There are many male doctors who specialize in or support BF. I am speaking of an LC not an MD in my above posts.

I did call my wife and she does not know of a single male LC among her professional contacts.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 1:13 PM

The Minneapolis case is not about gender or sexual orientation. Its about a predator or at least a bully in a position of power. Neither that this manager abused her power or that the elected officials looked the other way for this long are a surprise in view of the general bullying management culture that has been allowed to flourish in the past few years at the City of Minneapolis.

Posted by: Minneapolitan | December 13, 2006 1:15 PM

"In the US Air Force, the physcial tests are different for men and women. The females are not required to run as fast and do as many push ups."

This is really interesting. When I was training hard for kung fu classes, I could do easily as many pushups and sit-ups as the men, outdoing many of them as well. Naturally, I've slacked off, but then it wasn't any harder for me to do pushups than it was for them. And I'm not talking about the girly knee-pushups where you only lower yourself an inch. I'm talking chest to the ground, face-forward, feet on the ground, back-straight-as-a-plank pushups. I don't know why the standards are different for women. All of the women in our class were able to do them with practice. I agree that it's undermining the abilities of the women who are capable of higher standards. Now, I'm not saying women are stronger or faster than men, but 1.5 miles in 12 minutes is not exactly record-breaking, and with training, anyone should be able to do it. Certainly anyone who wishes to participate in our military!

Posted by: Mona | December 13, 2006 1:25 PM

I agree with Megan--I think the underlying issue is the quality that the test is trying to determine. General physical fitness v. the ability to carry someone out of a burning building. If it's the case that the Air Force thinks you must be able to run 1.5 miles in 12:25 to defend our country/fly a plane/etc, then they better hold women to the same standard.

Fred, since you don't seem to want to let this go: you stated that "The fact is that new mothers and their mothers, aunts, sisters and other female relatives are much more comfortable with a female LC." I was taking issue with you declaring that as a fact based on your wife's experience. I was not claiming that there are or are not male lactation consultants in the known universe. That's all. I'm sorry if I struck a nerve or went too far on this issue--as I said, it's a pet peeve of mine.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 1:28 PM

"Megan - good points. Then it makes the tests seem arbitrary, really. But then again the Bar Exam was pretty arbitrary too!"

DC - LOL! Ain't that the truth!

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 1:30 PM

JS,

As I said my wife's comment is based on empirical evidence.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 1:32 PM

Kudos, Mona! You sound awesome.

Posted by: worker bee | December 13, 2006 1:33 PM

Kudos, Mona! You sound awesome.

Posted by: worker bee | December 13, 2006 1:33 PM

I think the biggest problem is that women have defined equality with being the same as men. We've lost what was special about us - our inherent moral authority, our nurturing - now women can be just as obnoxious, lacivious and unkind as men. Doesn't seem like success to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 1:35 PM

Lunch special at the Mens Club: $4.99. No cover, but no girls either.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 1:36 PM

wait - women have inherent moral authority? Since when? and what is "inherent moral authority" anyway?

Posted by: dc | December 13, 2006 1:37 PM

"We've lost what was special about us - our inherent moral authority"

What? How did I miss out on the fact that I have an inherent moral authority based on my sex? It must be somewhere with my SAHM paychecks I never got...

And why don't all the men know about our inherent moral authority? And who's authority wins when two women disagree on a moral issue?

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 1:39 PM


JS, a joke for you (and others may think about how this is related to our discussions about male LC.)

A Princeton economist comes down to Louisiana to research crop yields. The economist listens a long time while the farmer explains in detail the techniques of a bountiful harvest. The economist thinks about this for a while and then says, "Well, it works great in practice but will it work in theory?'

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 1:40 PM

"Kudos, Mona! You sound awesome."

Actually, she sounds like she's bragging again.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 1:41 PM

Megan - I love it, you and I seem to be on the same team here!

Posted by: dc | December 13, 2006 1:42 PM

"our inherent moral authority"

I spent most of my undergraduate years studying Nazi Germany. Reading a few books about the women's organizations that the NSDAP set up, and how oversubscribed they were, will relieve you really quickly of any idea that women are inherently more moral than men.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 13, 2006 1:42 PM

"Women have inherent moral authority."
that's what my momma told me.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 1:43 PM

"We've lost what was special about us - our inherent moral authority, our nurturing - now women can be just as obnoxious, lacivious and unkind as men"

How about admitting we never had a lock on the moral authority in the first place? You're saying we never used to be obnoxious, lascivious or unkind? Hmm...

Posted by: worker bee | December 13, 2006 1:45 PM

right on, DC!

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 1:47 PM

"I think the biggest problem is that women have defined equality with being the same as men. We've lost what was special about us - our inherent moral authority, our nurturing - now women can be just as obnoxious, lacivious and unkind as men. Doesn't seem like success to me."

We never had any inherent moral authority. Only God has inherent moral authority. To the extent women, rather than scholars and policy makers of either sex, define "equality", they most often define equality as the condition of being assessed, evaluated and promoted based on individual characteristics and proven performance rather than based upon gender-driven assumptions that may or may not have any validity. You're trotting out a straw man in order to shoot it down.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 1:50 PM

I think the blanket problem with the navy and air force tests is that they are not tied closely to the jobs... especially given the technology changes in these branches.

You take these tests for jobs in the navy even if you are a cryptographer, computer tech, etc. I am more worried about the math-SAT scores of those at the naval war college than I am about their mile-times.

On the flip side you should not allow someone to be a SEAL, etc. without holding them to a much higher physical standard than these tests.


Posted by: stupid tests | December 13, 2006 1:51 PM

Lizzie // NSDAP... will relieve you really quickly of any idea that women are inherently more moral than men.//

Anything inherent can be easily corrupted. It is amazing that a statement complimenting women can be pounced upon and shredded to bits so readily on this blog.

I think women IN GENERAL are compassionate, empathetic, emotional, nurturing, loving, sacrificial and supportive. I learned that from my mom, sisters, aunts and teachers. I am making a GENERAL statement based on personal but unscientific evidence. Is it valid? It is to me. You can now go ahead and shred that compliment to bits with counterexamples of unkind women, attach ulterior motives to me (like I'm trying to prevent women from holding corporate jobs), whatever.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 13, 2006 1:51 PM

1.5 miles in 12 minutes?! That's freaking slow....and I'm a woman! (and an avid runner.) You'll be suprised what getting in shape...and a little training can do!

Posted by: huh? | December 13, 2006 1:51 PM

Jokester, you're on a roll today. Loved that last one!

Leslie, there's an interesting article on the abcnews website that I hope becomes a post on this blog. It's about what children think about moms and dads staying at home and working.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=2721046&page=1

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 13, 2006 1:56 PM

Mr.Honda, I'm usually with you, but to characterize the original statement as a compliment to women doesn't seem quite an accurate read. Here it is, from Thierry, which of course carries all the baggage of his numerous other sexist statements:

"No doubt there are rare exceptions to the rule, but women are in general more nurturing and caring, and should go with their strengths."

It was, at best, a back-handed compliment designed to bolster the directive that we should "go with our strengths". Even the most even-handed assessment would have to acknowledge that his suggestion was that we should make life and career choices consistent with those caring and nurturing qualities. For those who have those qualities, including men, that's a great suggestion. To those who lack those qualities, or in whom those qualities are far less determinative than other qualities, it's balderdash. Does that make our reaction any more understandable to you?

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 13, 2006 1:57 PM

1.5 miles in 12 minutes?! That's freaking slow....and I'm a woman! (and an avid runner.) You'll be suprised what getting in shape...and a little training can do!

-------------------------------------

These are general fitness rules required across all jobs - even the desk jobs. The navy also requires all officers to take calculus... I presume there are more specific requirements for individual positions.

Posted by: to huh? | December 13, 2006 1:58 PM

Thanks for the joke, Fred!

I agree with all the above comments regarding women's "inherent moral authority," if for no other reason than the idea that Paris Hilton has "inherent moral authority" make me cry.

Posted by: JS | December 13, 2006 1:59 PM

To huh?: I don't think your comment was fair. You said yoursef- you are an avid runner. That is the point. That is what the armed forces are looking for, someone in great shape. It is not a "slow" time at all.

To the average American, that is a difficult time to beat, not to mention the many who probably couldn't run that far without fainting.

Posted by: CD | December 13, 2006 1:59 PM

"the final case by a male firefighter alleging that lesbians received preferential treatment in the department under Bleskachek."

Oh, like how white men have done for decades to other white men???

Posted by: Dee | December 13, 2006 1:59 PM

"It is amazing that a statement complimenting women can be pounced upon and shredded to bits so readily on this blog."

Because any statement that lumps all women together, other than "Women are generally good at bearing children," is inherently condescending. Would you say "Those blacks have excellent rhythm?" Would you say "Those Chinese are certainly good at numbers?" Maybe you'd say "Those Latinos sure are a fertile lot." All complimentary, and all condescending and rude.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 13, 2006 2:00 PM

""THEY define [feminism] in ridiculous terms, marginalize those who try to clarify, and then dismiss it as just so much female hormonal craziness.

But don't ever forget that they do this because feminism scares the sh*t out of them. "

Sexism, like racism, is obnoxious when regardless of the target. The above comment is as insulting as anything Thierry has posted.

Even for those few women who believe the above statement to be accurate, feminism scares the sh*t out of an equally significant number of women. Read this blog on a daily basis and you'll agree in short order.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 13, 2006 2:08 PM

Wow, I am missing a good one today. I can't wait to tell my husband that he is afraid of feminists! He gives good (practical) gifts so maybe I will wait until after Christmas to tell him

Pittypat, I have to agree with cmac today. All men aren't afraid of feminists. Why so many generalizations today?

Posted by: scarry | December 13, 2006 2:08 PM

Good grief! Only on this blog can someone say "women are kind, compassionate, caring..." and get criticized for that compliment.

Posted by: LazyBone | December 13, 2006 2:12 PM

OK. I will try to avoid complimenting women on this blog so I do not offend anyone.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 13, 2006 2:15 PM

Lizzie, I don't get these chicks that can't take a compliment. They are sooo unique that they can't be lumped together even in a positive sense. By the way, in general - tall people are better at basketball, pretty women are good models and smart people do smart things. Gimme a break. God forbid someone would consider you nurturing and kind. Ye gads - what an insult - what if your employees found out or maybe you are just really a dude.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:15 PM

LazyBone, Please promptly read Lizzie's 2 p.m. response. Methinks you were too busy to read the entire blog before posting this kneejerk comment.

Posted by: to LazyBone | December 13, 2006 2:16 PM

Can we please ban the word MEthinks from the blog?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:19 PM

I wanted to comment on the concept that women have more moral authority than men. I think that historically, this concept has been a part of the way in which we think of women. In the 19th century, it was a widely held belief that women were the civilizing force in society. They kept the home fires burning. They did the nurturing and raising of children and keeping of families. They had the moral high ground and kept society from savagely devouring itself. The men were out in the world, fighting the wars and dealing with conflict. The women were the peace makers. In a way, this duality was also a method to keep the women at home and in their place, and away from the outside world which was seen as too contentious and corrupt for women. Women were exalted as the moral authority and peacemakers at home, but their influence was not felt outside because their role outside the home was so limited. I think we still have a view of women as the nurturers and caretakers, which of course some are, but this stereotype is limiting when applied only to women. There are plenty of women out there who enjoy dealing with conflict and confrontation. There are plenty of women out there who are not wired to be nurturers. And there are men out there also who are nurturers, and who prefer not to deal with conflict and confrontation. The idea that women are more suited to take on nurturing roles is just simply wrong, and a throwback to outdated views on women from the last couple of centuries. I think most people now see this, but a few apparently don't.

Posted by: Emily | December 13, 2006 2:21 PM

"By the way, in general - tall people are better at basketball, pretty women are good models and smart people do smart things."

This ridiculous statement makes our point. In fact, tall people aren't any more adept at basketball than they are at gymnastics. but we tend to encourage tall people to learn basketball in the event that they show talent for all the skills required by the game in addition to blocking goals. Pretty women aren't necessarily good models, although good female models are always pretty women. and my favorite silly comment: smart people to smart things? Not! Smart people do a great many dumba** things, and don't have any better record than dumb people at doing smart things. I recall a book published in the last several years about smart women making dumb choices, but surely you know a few book-smart, life stupid folks.

Think. Then Blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:24 PM

"Women were exalted as the moral authority and peacemakers at home, but their influence was not felt outside because their role outside the home was so limited."

This was actually the suffragettes' rationale for giving women the vote - they thought that women should extend their civilizing influence into the public sphere. It was never framed as an issue of equality; they fully embraced the idea of women as more moral actors than men.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 13, 2006 2:25 PM

In fact, tall people aren't any more adept at basketball than they are at gymnastics.

Why are there so many tall players then?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:28 PM

Lizzie,
Yes, that's so true about the suffragettes. In a way, I believe that they had to buy into that moral authority point of view because asking for outright equality during that time would never have happened. It was too threatening a concept. But it is interesting how the idea of women's rights has evolved over time.

Posted by: Emily | December 13, 2006 2:29 PM

"Can we please ban the word MEthinks from the blog?"

To anon at 2:19. Customarily we restrict ourselves to banning ideas on this blog, except for Thierry who proposes to eradicate entire guest columns and off-topic discussions not to his liking, but have permitted each poster to select his/her own preferred language. Is there some reason why this freedom to communicate is too radical a concept for you? "Methinks" isn't on my short list of great words, but this seems petty even by "our" usual standards.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:32 PM

Men are generally ill suited to bearing children as well as nursing them.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:35 PM

Why are there so many tall players then?

Posted by: | December 13, 2006 02:28 PM


Do you know anything about sports, man? Over the last two decades, we've aggressively encouraged tall players to try out at the high school level so that IF the tall guys have any talent, we can develop it. IF they are good, they'll have a better ability to block shots (and goal-tend) than someone shorter. If they're not good, they get beat up and down the court by guys 6 - 9 inches shorter. The best ball-handlers are the guards, not the centers. The best scorers might be the centers, but typically are forwards.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:39 PM

Is there some reason why this freedom to communicate is too radical a concept for you? "Methinks" isn't on my short list of great words, but this seems petty even by "our" usual standards"

Didn't know you were in charge of the blog. Maybe you should post some rules and standards then.

Posted by: Methinks is a dumb word. | December 13, 2006 2:48 PM

JS,

I would tell more jokes but Jokester keeps telling ones that I had heard years ago!

P.S. the guy who stood at attention for the funeral procession of his wife was a golfer, not a hunter!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 2:48 PM

MeThinks
Meetings
MeStinks

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 2:51 PM

Good point raised by "to Mediaskeptic" re: small women being able to fit into windows the big man can't.

Posted by: Mediaskeptic | December 13, 2006 2:56 PM

do you think a small man could fit into the windows that the small woman can?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 3:00 PM

Thierry -- usually your comments grate on me but the last one made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that

Posted by: Lisa | December 13, 2006 3:03 PM

"OK. I will try to avoid complimenting women on this blog so I do not offend anyone."

Mr. Honda, it is not a compliment to say all women have a certain characteristic. It is a generalization that may or may not apply to a particular woman, and it is one that has often been used to restrict women's access to political and economic rights.

As someone else said, if you think I am compassionate because you know me, that is a compliment. If you think women in general are compassionate, that's fine too, so long as you don't rely on that generalization as a reason to tell me what I am and am not capable of. It is far more important to me to judged based on my individual characteristic and abilities than to have someone make a blanket statement than can be used in both positive and negative ways.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 3:03 PM

"do you think a small man could fit into the windows that the small woman can?"

Absolutely. The point I was trying to make was that a woman could bring value to the position even if she wasn't capable of doing everything the man could. For some parts of firefighting, larger size and brute strength are important; for others, smaller size is better. The initial comparasions were between a (larger/stronger) man and a (smaller/weaker) woman, not between a small man and a small woman.

Posted by: to Mediaskeptic | December 13, 2006 3:05 PM

pittypat, we know you are reading this

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 3:07 PM

She only posts to argue with cmac anyway.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 3:08 PM

In response to the story of the fire chief in Minneapolis - would this have even been reported if the Chief's sexual orientation wasn't mentioned? Why is this making national news? I find it sickening to think that this woman's sexual identity is being reflected all over the media, especially in a time where gay rights are being obliterated in every state by putting marriage amendments on election ballots. This is not newsworthy. How come we in the South never heard that she had been chosen for the job in the first place?

Give us and her a break!

Posted by: Angie | December 13, 2006 3:10 PM

I think people are missing the bigger picture that some women can be just as nasty and abusive as some men in power.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 3:11 PM

"I think people are missing the bigger picture that some women can be just as nasty and abusive as some men in power."

No, I'm not missing the picture. I see it here all the time, every day.


Posted by: LazyBone | December 13, 2006 3:13 PM

I think the reason why her orientation is being discussed is because the people in the lawsuit are claiming bias based on her sexual orientation, and because one of the women said she harassed her.

I really don't think it is any different than the media talking about a man who does the same thing.

Posted by: scarry | December 13, 2006 3:15 PM

Hmmm. I left for a few days and I think the current topic is whether tall people are better at basketball. (?!?)

I'd like to theorize that left-handed pitchers are inherently better, because they are rarer and therefore harder to hit.

To tie back to work-life balance, this is why I will be demanding that my son to be ambidextrous, and shipping him off to baseball camp every summer.

;-)

Posted by: Proud Papa | December 13, 2006 3:16 PM

"I really don't think it is any different than the media talking about a man who does the same thing."

Scarry, I think that's true to some extent, but I think the question is whether the media is devoting more attention to this case because it involves a gay female than they would to a case involving a man - in other words, would this even be covered if it were a male boss getting sued for harrasment? Or is it only getting coverage because it's a female or because it's a lesbian? I don't really know the answer (I'm not enough a newsie to judge) but I think that's what Angie was getting at.


Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 3:27 PM

My concern is that the news media sometimes does not scrutinize some appointments in business and government because the individual is one of the first women, minority member, etc. in that position. For example, a woman has been named police chief in Washington, D.C. recently, and the three daily papers have written about her multiple college degrees and her status as a single parent. However, very little has been written about her work as a police officer and manager. Only James Jones in The Washington City Paper has written something substantial about her police work. Would a man get such little scrutiny? Perhaps the fire chief in Minneapolis received a lot of positive coverage when she was appointed, but maybe her work record was poorly covered.

Posted by: Jeff | December 13, 2006 3:41 PM

Jeff, just like the media keeps talking about Pelosi's stylish wardrobe every day. Even Barbara Walters highlighted it the other day on 20/20 most fascinating people.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 3:45 PM

Leslie said: "I've never come across evidence, anecdotal or scientific, that women are inherently more kind or fair than men."

Huh? So that whole roar post awhile back about whether women make better bosses WITH a few anecdotes thrown in is just my imagination?

Posted by: Liz D | December 13, 2006 3:46 PM


I'm quite surprised how many people think a male lactation consultant would be just fine, if women were more comfortable with their bodies.

A lactation consultant helps a new mom get the mechanics of nursing right, a challenge that is more tinkering and craft than book-learned prescription. Of course ample experience seeing issues that arise for moms is needed, but to my mind the first qualification, to bond with new moms and support them through what can be an exhausting, worry-filled experience, is to have been in the new mom's shoes herself and have established a successful nursing relationship. Would you hire as a crochet instructor someone who has never personally crocheted? As a football coach someone who's never played? *Doing* teaches in ways that can't be taught indirectly.

I have a similar feeling about midwives and doulas. These are primarily mentoring and support roles, for someone who deeply understands the birthing woman's feelings and experience and helps her through. Having experienced labor one's self gives credibility, especially in dealing with pain and coping strategies unique to the experience.

I myself only see women doctors when female issues are involved, after some dismissive experiences with male doctors (I know, some bad apples don't impugn all). My feeling is that if you at least have the same body parts, and can imagine yourself physically experiencing the symptoms and pain involved, you'll likely empathize more and take the patient seriously. Problems with body parts you have are visceral; problems with body parts you don't have are in many ways hypothetical, somebody else's complaint.

Posted by: KB | December 13, 2006 3:49 PM

"Oh, like how white men have done for decades to other white men???"

So Dee, is it OK for certain groups to do this while being wrong for others?

Should all white men be punished from now until the end of time just because you can post such tripe?

Posted by: Rufus | December 13, 2006 3:59 PM

Rufus,

I can't believe I am saying this, but I agree with you!

Posted by: scarry | December 13, 2006 4:03 PM

"A lactation consultant helps a new mom get the mechanics of nursing right, a challenge that is more tinkering and craft than book-learned prescription."

Geez. We need consultants for everything nowadays. How did our great-grandmothers ever manage to pop that nipple in without paying someone to help them do it?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:12 PM

Guys poll: how long?

mine: 4 down, 8 up.

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 4:14 PM

"Geez. We need consultants for everything nowadays. How did our great-grandmothers ever manage to pop that nipple in without paying someone to help them do it?"

Because they watched their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins or other women in their lives do it. Most women today don't have that background - many new mothers have never seen breastfeeding up close before, so they don't necessarily know how to position the baby, what to do if it doesn't feel right, etc.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 4:16 PM

"I'm quite surprised how many people think a male lactation consultant would be just fine, if women were more comfortable with their bodies."

I think the point is that it is ironic that women on this blog generally believe that women should do/be anything and men hold them back, but don't really like the male lactation consultants/ob/gyns. Men are just as capable of these professions as women are. There are female OB's who deliver babies who haven't had babies themselves, so they don't have personal experience either.

And I'm sure that many lactation consultants were able to BF without help, so they don't necessarily relate, either.

Posted by: to KB | December 13, 2006 4:18 PM

You gals.... just chill, ok?


oooh wow, what an insightful comment. I'm like, awestruck at your intelligence. And then when the men on this board get all bristly when women say men are insensitive and clueless I'll just pull this little entry right up and be like, see, it's all true.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:18 PM

Megan, I never was up close to breast-feeding, but I was able to do it without a lactation consultant.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:21 PM

3 down, 6 up

it's not the length, but the technique.

Posted by: asian | December 13, 2006 4:26 PM

"Guys poll: how long?"

3 down, 6 up

it's not the length, but the technique.


Posted by: asian | December 13, 2006 4:27 PM

Megan, I never was up close to breast-feeding, but I was able to do it without a lactation consultant.

-- But many women do appreciate the help, whether it's from a consultant, their mom, a nurse.

There's rarely one right way to do anything.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | December 13, 2006 4:29 PM


Sadly, I think Bleskachek's gender and sexual orientation are essential elements of this story, and I say that as a strong supporter of gay rights. I was thrilled when Bleskachek got the appointment because she has been at the forefront of a landmark fight for equal opportunities in the Minneapolis fire department and because she had won the respect of her fellow firefighters as a leader and as a firefighter.

I am sorry that story apparently didn't get more play around the country.

But, this is not just the story of a fire chief getting fired, it's the story of the country's first lesbian fire chief getting fired. And, if the allegations are true, then her sexual orientation is absolutely relevant to the way she abused her power.

I do hope this does not set back opportunities for women and gays in the fire department, the police force, and similar jobs.

What this has to do with work/family balance -- that I couldn't tell you.

Posted by: Another Minneapolitan | December 13, 2006 4:29 PM

Re "Guys poll" --

Thierry's lying.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:29 PM

If you consider that there have been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 (plus) deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 for the same period.

That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington immediately.

Posted by: GunStat | December 13, 2006 4:30 PM

4down 7up and works perfectly

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:33 PM

Anon said "How did our great-grandmothers ever manage to pop that nipple in without paying someone to help them do it?"

Some of them didn't. They hired wet nurses if they were wealthy, or watched other family members nurse children and caught on. And a certain percentage of women today have no trouble breastfeeding, but some do have problems, and thank God for lactation consultants!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 13, 2006 4:33 PM

"Megan, I never was up close to breast-feeding, but I was able to do it without a lactation consultant"

Bully for you, I also did not consult an LC and am still successfully nursing. Doesn't mean that it isn't legitimate for other women to need one, particularly given the lack of public information and exposure to the details of breastfeeding. There are probably things that you've needed help figuring out that other women have not, does that mean you were somehow wrong?

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 4:33 PM

it is interesting and perhaps this was leslie's original point or one of them; somebody who has been discriminated against gets into a position of authority & does what? you would like to think that having felt discrimination that the fire chief would have bent over backwards to be fair but that isn't what appears to have happened. if the accusations are true then she was just as bad as others.

Posted by: quark | December 13, 2006 4:37 PM

i believe js gave a very complete explanation of why your individual experience really is no basis on which to make across the board judgements. pay attention, please.

Posted by: to 4:21 poster | December 13, 2006 4:41 PM

Guys poll: how long?

mine: 4 down, 8 up.

gross and probably a big fat 8 inch lie.


Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:41 PM

""Kudos, Mona! You sound awesome."

Actually, she sounds like she's bragging again.

Posted by: | December 13, 2006 01:41 PM"

Ah, my anonymous fan is back! Seriously, it did sound like I was bragging, but your phenomenal reading comprehension skills fell below the mark again. The point I made (and no one else seemed to have a problem picking it up) is that the military standards for fitness should not differ between men and women. I am a small woman and could do as many pushups as the men in my class when I trained hard. So what? So could EVERY OTHER WOMAN IN MY CLASS, or did you miss that part? Need I spell it out for you? Okay: The military should not have separate physical requirements for men and women. Women can run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes, and they can do as many pushups as men, if they train as men do (by, you know, practicing). Got it?

Posted by: Mona | December 13, 2006 4:44 PM

4 down can't get up

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:44 PM

"The point I made (and no one else seemed to have a problem picking it up) is that the military standards for fitness should not differ between men and women."

Mona,

If that's the point you were making -- the ONLY point -- why didn't you respond with a patronizing slapdown to the poster who called you "awesome"?

Yeah, yeah. I know. "What am I supposed to do?"

Heard it before.


Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 4:50 PM

Not insulted by assumption that women are more nurturing and caring...just don't think it is true!

Wouldn't mind a male lactation consultant if he were good. Why do have to be a breastfeeder in order to be good at teaching others? The objectivity might actually help.

As far as I know, the firefighter tests are not different for men v. women. Fires don't discriminate...

Thanks Working Mom X for the abc story! Looks good.

Posted by: Leslie | December 13, 2006 4:51 PM

"Bully for you" - well, I'm surprised at you. that was slightly nasty.

When I said "Megan, I never was up close to breast-feeding, but I was able to do it without a lactation consultant", I was only responding to your statement about how women (our grandmothers) were able to bf in the past. You were the one who stated that they learned by being up close to others. I was only pointing out that you can successfully BF without being around others or needing an LC.

Posted by: to Megan | December 13, 2006 5:00 PM

Just FYI. When my wife delivered, we asked the delivery nurse if she had ever seen a male l&d nurse. She replied that the hospital actually has one but he's retiring after 20+yrs and actually had the most compliments from patients! He was the most requested and star performer. BTW, our nurse was a single 40+ lady who never had a child, yet she was a wonderful l&d nurse.
Just goes to show that having personal experience does not necessarily make you better in that profession.

Have a good day.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 13, 2006 5:01 PM

I question the motives of males who want to be gyn or lactation consultants. Really, why?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:01 PM

Guys Poll:

Poll closed. Looks like I win! Ha! Ha!

Taking the tube home for a nap, then to the club. see you tomorrow!

Posted by: Thierry | December 13, 2006 5:02 PM

Well I don't know about LC's, but male gyns have many reasons - they are nuturing and compassionate (had to get that one in), they love helping to bring life into the world, they have female relatives who have lived and died with gynecological problems and they want to make a difference for other women(ever hear of breast or cervical cancer).

My male gyn commented once that he was glad he was able to deal with such positive things with his patients, such as childbirth and happy patients, whereas an oncologist deals with more losses among patients and much sadness even among those who are cured.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:07 PM

My best OBGYN was a man. I woudn't have traded him for a hundren doulas or female OBGYNs, but that is just me.

Posted by: scarry | December 13, 2006 5:08 PM

Scarry, I'm with you. I don't think the female OB/GYNs are not as good, but I will always choose a male if it is not an emergency and I have a choice.

Posted by: xyz | December 13, 2006 5:10 PM


to KB wrote

>I think the point is that it is ironic that women >on this blog generally believe that women should >do/be anything and men hold them back, but don't >really like the male lactation consultants/ob/gyns.

No, I think most women argue they should have equal chances to do work which is, almost always, gender-irrelevant (for example, designing bridges has nothing to do with one's gendered parts). Some women argue that gender has peripheral salience in some fields: that, for example, as more women practice law, legal issues that harm women differentially may draw more notice and professional engagement. That is, as some fields become open to new populations, those populations may ask new questions and bring new points of view to bear, and change the way some professions are practiced. That would be progress toward gender-neutrality from a default which looked only from male eyes before.

But in the few instances where the very field of expertise is a gender-specific experience, I just don't see the irony. If someone's going to assure a laboring woman that she'll feel much better if, for example, she stays up and keeps walking, that attendant will have much more credibility if she's lived the experience and is not just reciting the AMA standard line. I similarly feel male patients should not be pressured to accept women urologists (nor elderly patients to accept young never-been-ill doctors they can't relate to). I don't think a woman doctor evaluating, for example, the seriousness of an impotence side effect is any more welcome than male doctors placing value/urgency judgments on intrinsically female experiences.

Posted by: KB | December 13, 2006 5:11 PM

". I was only pointing out that you can successfully BF without being around others or needing an LC."

Apologies if it came across as nasty. My first post did not say that women COULD NEVER learn to breastfeed without help, what is said was that women who haven't seen it "don't necessarily know" the specifics; it was not a categorical statement. Your response came across to me as saying that because you could do it without having seen it, so should everyone else, which is a fairly common theme on this blog and one that to me really lacks compassion. Hence my strong response; sorry for the misunderstanding since that's apparently not what you meant.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 5:14 PM

So along with men, then women who've not had children and women who've had children but not breastfed can't be LCs? Sounds like people who don't have children can't be pediatricians?

Where does it stop?

(And I agree with Leslie's comment about women can be lousy managers just like men can be.)

Posted by: lactationconsultants | December 13, 2006 5:15 PM

'If someone's going to assure a laboring woman that she'll feel much better if, for example, she stays up and keeps walking, that attendant will have much more credibility if she's lived the experience and is not just reciting the AMA standard line'

Well, I have to say that I am starting to believe that some of the highly educated people think way too much. When I was advised by my male OB to walk while I was in labor, it never occurred to me to question his credibility because he had never been in labor. I had faith in his abilities based on his education, training, and experience.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:16 PM

"I don't think the female OB/GYNs are not as good, but I will always choose a male if it is not an emergency and I have a choice."

Why?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:18 PM

"I don't think the female OB/GYNs are not as good, but I will always choose a male if it is not an emergency and I have a choice."

Why?

I will choose a male because I am more comfortable with a male.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:20 PM

I can see men choosing the ob part but gyn and lc just seems pervy

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:22 PM

Why does it seem pervy?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:23 PM

When you're having a heart attack, will you will do what the EMS tech tells you to do, or will you first ask him if he's had first-hand experience surviving a heart attack?

You're crazy.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:29 PM

I don't think he's pervy. He just has a strong nose.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:30 PM

"Where does it stop?"

I think that's a good question and real limit on the reasoning that only someone who has been there can advise. I definitely understand that with LCs, obs, midwives etc there can be a degree of instant credibility or connection based on having a shared experience - as I've said, I've tended to prefer female docs when choosing without a referral. But even this is limited - an LC may have breastfed but not experienced the particular problems a client is experiencing, and yet still have high-quality advice based on her experience as an LC. A midwife may have given birth but never experienced back labor, or some particular complication, and yet from her training and experience she can give advice. It seems like it will not usually be the case that a care provider of either sex has experienced exactly what you are experiencing, so at some point the relevance of sex-based experience comes to an end, I think.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 5:30 PM


lactationconsultants wrote

>So along with men, then women who've not had >children and women who've had children but not >breastfed can't be LCs? Sounds like people who >don't have children can't be pediatricians?
>
>Where does it stop?

Just to respond for myself --- I'm not making 'can't be' proclamations, just saying these professions involve relationships, they are client/provider relationships where the client can choose a provider who 'gets it' and connects well with them. The client chooses among many qualified providers the 'best' match for them.

Often different clients choose different things --- some may prefer a doctor who takes over and tells them what to do; others a doctor who listens carefully and develops a plan more cooperatively with the patient/parent.

But personally, yes, I'd say any experience that gives a health professional a greater understanding/empathy of their patients' experience is likely to make them more effective. I think parenting, especially parenting a sick child, would sensitize a pediatrician and contextualize the way they relate to parents. So, all things equal, I'm more likely to relate well to the ped who's also experienced being in the parent's seat. Experience enriches . . .

But I'm not everyone --- my preferences clearly aren't universal! A prerequisite to being my doctor is no prerequisite for being a doctor at all . . .

Posted by: KB | December 13, 2006 5:35 PM

If you follow the reasoning that only someone who has been there can advise, then a lot of moms here would have used formula rather than breast-feed because of the women who tell them, "I formula fed and my kids are just fine."

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:36 PM

I'd better find an older gyn. These hot flashes and mood swings are tough. :o)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:39 PM

There are many more women OB/GYNs than males because women doctors tend to do primary care medicine (peds, OB/GYN, internal medicine, family practice, etc.) and men are more likely to specialize. When my husband was doing his residency there was one male OB/GYN resident that year and he was the resident who generated the most excitement from the staff. But generally speaking, men are willing to put in the extra years of low pay to get into a specialty or subspecialty, and women are more likely to want to start working quickly. It is hard to have a baby in residency - your mat leave gets tacked on to the end of your term of service, and your co-residents aren't that excited to pick up your slack.

Posted by: MplsMama | December 13, 2006 5:39 PM

"I will choose a male because I am more comfortable with a male."

But what makes you more comfortable with the male?

If you don't think he has better qualifications, then what is it?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:39 PM

Both DC and Jeff hit things right on the money. Why do we *need* a _____ (fill in the blank with a demographic stereotype) fire chief or police chief or House Speaker? WE DON'T! We need someone who is qualified, not a demographic. I am so sick of hearing a story about someone in a position, where the ONLY reason for the story is their so-called demographic. Leslie, you wonder why their is so much animosity here? Please stick to stories about balance in life and STOP stories that do nothing more than push an agenda.

Posted by: Right on DC and Jeff | December 13, 2006 5:40 PM

My personal experience with both male and female gyns. I went to a male gyn before, during and after the birth of my two children for a total of 16 years. I saw all the ob's in his practice during pregnancy and my second child was actually delivered by the female ob. I preferred the males. They just seemed more compassionate and understanding. Maybe it was just personality - she was very businesslike and not warm at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:44 PM

But what makes you more comfortable with the male?

If you don't think he has better qualifications, then what is it?

I'm not the original poster, but there could be a lot of things. Maybe she's never had good relationships with women, maybe she was abused by her mother, maybe she's more accustomed to men in the role of doctor so feels a vague unease with women. I recently started therapy and found that I was drawn towards male therapists; maybe therapy will hlep me figure out why (ha ha)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:47 PM

to Posted by: | December 13, 2006 05:47

Why does a male preference have to be because of negative things? Why can't it just be that I had such a good experience with my male gyn (who I went to on referral from a friend) that I am drawn to male gyns?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:50 PM

Those were just the things that came to my mind based on such a blanket statement, I didn't realize that you were basing it on your experience. But in some ways your reason is also a negative - you didn't like the one female you had very much, that's not so different from the kinds of things I listed.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:53 PM

Also, I should clarify that I hadn't seen your response when I wrote mine, we must have been writing at the same time, so I wasn't trying to second guess you or anything.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 5:55 PM

Well, if any one of you, female or male, needs help with BF, just call my wife! She is happy to help.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2006 6:07 PM

The article talks about "women are inherently more kind or fair than men" (but not supporting this idea).

I don't know about "inherently"; I strongly suspect that "kindness" and "fairness" are learned behavior which are the product of socialization and as such are influenced by socially-assigned gender roles. One suspects that gender equality will over time erase most of this difference, hopefully by improving the level of awareness and empathy among authority figures generally.

Posted by: lart from above | December 13, 2006 6:15 PM

"I think what women object to is when this idea is used as an excuse to limit our options career wise - ie, women are more nurturing and caring and therefore should be nurses instead of CEOs - or to say that we should always be the primary caregiver to our children and not the fathers. I don't care if you think women are more nurturing, so long as you don't then try to limit what I or my husband can do because of that assumption."

True. In some third world families it starts even earlier ("boys and girls are DIFFERENT so we don't need to have our sons AND our daughters learn to read, the girls can learn to take care of their future husbands and babies instead...").

"Female firefighters, like male firefighters, have to pass an extremely rigorous physical test -- that most Americans (even most humans) would fail. Women applicants don't get special exemption."

Good!

"I think people are missing the bigger picture that some women can be just as nasty and abusive as some men in power."

There's even a whole graphic novel series about this (Y : The Last Man).

"So along with men, then women who've not had children and women who've had children but not breastfed can't be LCs? Sounds like people who don't have children can't be pediatricians?

"Where does it stop?"

Medical education takes so long that many doctors begin before they have children. What if your goal is being one of those obstetricians who knows childbirth first-hand but then you can't find someone you love enough to have children with until a couple of years into med school and you don't find out you're actually infertile until you're in the middle of your OB/GYN specialization training?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2006 8:41 PM

Mona~

I don't think your critic was really falling below the mark comprehension-wise...but rather pointing out that when strung together, your posts read like a personal ad. Seriously, who are you trying to impress here? Do you notice anyone else speaking volumes about their looks, weight, intellect, fitness level, or the rigor of their undergraduate major? Cripes.

Posted by: a different non-fan for Mona | December 13, 2006 9:13 PM

xyZ,

We may have/had the same OBGYN!

Why do I like males better? I don't feel that I have to answer, but I will. The woman who delivered my baby didn't listen to me when I told her I was in labor, she didn't listen when I said I didn't want an episiotomy, and she acted like I should just suck it up. After it was over with, I ask her when she had her epidural and she said at 3 centimeters, well, I said that is 5 centimeters earlier than when I got mine. I ask her this because I was tired of listening to her tell me I had a low tolerance for pain, which is not the case at all. I was having a panic attack because by the time I got to the doctor I was 6 centimeters dilated and was afraid I'd have the kid in the car!

Sometimes not knowing how it feels to have a baby, a yeast infection or pelvic pain makes some doctors listen more. My male doctor would have never told me I wasn't in labor, would have respected my wishes on the episiotomy (um, hello, they are only needed if the baby needs to come out ASAP) and wouldn't have said anything in reference to his own experience with pain and childbirth.

Yes, I am biased because I had a bad experience, but it wasn't my first and I bet it won't be my last so know more female OBGYNs for me. I am sorry if this is hard for other women on the board to understand.

Posted by: scarry | December 13, 2006 10:28 PM

should be "no" more.

Posted by: scarry | December 13, 2006 10:30 PM

"Sometimes not knowing how it feels to have a baby, a yeast infection or pelvic pain makes some doctors listen more."

That's a really good point Scarry. I had never thought of it that way but it really makes sense from your story. Thanks for putting that out there.

Posted by: Megan | December 13, 2006 10:40 PM

you had a horrific experience with a lousy doctor, not a lousy female doctor. It's fascinating that you attribute her horrific bedside manner somehow to her sex and not to her utter lack of compassion or training. I hope all of your male doctors in the future have a great bedside manner but, if the do, I hope you'll consider attributing that bedside manner to their character and superior training and not their appendages.

Posted by: to scarry | December 13, 2006 11:26 PM

"Mona~

I don't think your critic was really falling below the mark comprehension-wise...but rather pointing out that when strung together, your posts read like a personal ad. Seriously, who are you trying to impress here? Do you notice anyone else speaking volumes about their looks, weight, intellect, fitness level, or the rigor of their undergraduate major? Cripes."

Point taken. Thanks for pointing it out; I'll shut up about myself for now, and stay on topic. :-)

Posted by: Mona | December 13, 2006 11:52 PM

now*, not "FOR now."

Posted by: Mona | December 14, 2006 12:00 AM

FWIW, I've had both female and male OB/GYNs ... I've been with a male one now for 5+ years and like him. I'm not gonna generalize about them based on gender, and it kind of annoys me when people tell me (yes I've been told this, even by my GP), that I should have a female OB/GYN instead of a male one because they "know what it feels like" to go through childbirth, that time of the month, etc. To me, that is a silly point ... if I had a screwdriver sticking out of my head, I would go to the ER - and I wouldn't care if the doc "knew what it felt like" or not - just get the dang screwdriver out of my head please!!!!

Posted by: Studentmom2be | December 14, 2006 7:45 AM

why does everything have to be about gender? isn't it ironic that the folks pushing hardest for a gender-neutral world are the first ones to see everything in terms of gender?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2006 8:50 AM

I did notice that it is perfectly fine to say you prefer a female doctor to a male but not the other way around.

Megan,

I never thought about the male vs. female doctor thing until I had a few "lousy" female doctors who all had the same traits.

I also don't understand why it is wrong to describe people as female or male. It's not like the male doctor can say, you know, when I pushed out my last kid I needed an episiotomy, so I think you will need one to. The reason why I stated that the doctor was a female was because it was relevant to my post and the story.

I didn't say all female doctors were bad, I just said the OBGYNs that I have went to didn't listen and that I preferred men. I mean, if we want gender equality, why all the push back on women who prefer male doctors. Wait, I know, power to the women! I am going to give back my engagement ring, switch doctors, and make my husband admit he is afraid of the elephant or feminist in the room. (snark)

Posted by: scarry | December 14, 2006 9:54 AM

Scarry,

Your reasoning sounds okay to me. My wife also prefers male doctors, but she has never explained why.

I've also mentioned (ages ago) that I've met and known a certain brand of women that just prefer the company of men. Though they don't always go into great detail of why, I've always assumed it is some part of the whole interaction require set that women do, especially once they get into groups. A few have explained to me that they dislike cliques or enforcing a hierarchical structure that women often ruthlessly force each other into.

Seems reasonable that some of that might also be a play when some women pick certain genders for things. We all discriminate with every choice we make. Not all of it is evil...

Been away from the boards for awhile. Shuttle launches keep us busy around here. Been any big happenings? (for instance, what was that between pittypat and cmac?)

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | December 14, 2006 3:39 PM

Just a small comment on the original topic. A 6'3", broad shouldered, large barrel chested Texas guy like me would sure appreciate an equal sized person coming to get me in a fire if I'm incapacitated. Because then it isn't a matter of parity or political correctness--I'll just be dead.

It's my understanding from my fire fighter BIL that male and female candidates aren't generally held to the same strength and agility standards in firefighting, just as they aren't in the military. That's part of what makes the men in such fields sort of snippy...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | December 14, 2006 3:52 PM

texas dad of 2,

I agree with both of your posts. If you can lift my 130 butt and carry me out safely from a fire, I don't care if you are a cat. If you can't, you shouldn't be able to do the job. That goes both ways too because I have seen some pretty scrawny men in my day.

On the pittypat/cmac issue they just really disagree on a lot of issues. Most of the time, if it doesn't involve politics, I agree with cmac. Not to say, I don't like pittypat, but I guess I am more in line with cmac's views on the women/men issues that seem to overtake the blog at times.

So, you really didn't miss much. Same old stuff, see you tomorrow.

Posted by: scarry | December 14, 2006 8:12 PM

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