Editorials

Say goodbye to the tired ‘sexy firefighter’ trope

Video shown at SLO Chamber of Commerce dinner draws allegations of sexism

A video shown at the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce annual dinner on Jan. 20, 2017, in which chamber employees jokingly refer to “hot,” “Fully Monty” and “shirtless” firefighters, has resulted in at least one personnel complaint filed against
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A video shown at the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce annual dinner on Jan. 20, 2017, in which chamber employees jokingly refer to “hot,” “Fully Monty” and “shirtless” firefighters, has resulted in at least one personnel complaint filed against

The investigation is complete, the principals have been punished and fresh apologies have been offered for the “sexy firefighter video.”

Let’s learn from what happened — whether we’re in the public, private or nonprofit sector — but then can we please, please move on?

Continuing to denigrate San Luis Obispo firefighters as “snowflakes” who can’t take a joke gets us nowhere. Neither does demonizing city officials for a lapse in judgment.

We have no doubt that the video produced for a Chamber of Commerce event was intended to be a lighthearted spoof.

But we’re not going to defend the tired “sexy firefighter” trope that was the basis for this ill-conceived effort. It’s from another era, and it’s time to let it die.

As City Manager Katie Lichtig said so well in her apology, “I didn’t recognize the impact that the video would have on others.”

Yes, it would have saved the city — and taxpayers — $70,000 in investigative costs if firefighters had not taken the step of filing formal complaints over the video.

And yes, the complaints very well may have been another salvo in the ongoing battle between firefighters and the administration over personnel issues, including the administration’s decision to hire three additional firefighters rather than continue to pay enormous sums for overtime.

But putting the blame on the complainants and brushing this aside as just another example of political correctness run amok will only divide the city into separate camps: firefighters and their supporters versus fed-up taxpayers.

Putting the blame on the complainants and brushing this aside as just another example of political correctness run amok will only divide the city into separate camps: firefighters and their supporters versus fed-up taxpayers.

It also fails to recognize the city’s policy, which forbids “inappropriate sex-oriented comments on appearance, including dress or physical features ...” That policy makes sense. It fosters professionalism, and it should apply equally to men and women.

We agree with the City Council’s decision to dock the pay of the city manager and fire Chief Garret Olson.

We also agree with Mayor Heidi Harmon’s statement that Lichtig’s participation “was a wholly uncharacteristic lapse in judgment.”

And finally, we fervently hope something comes of the city’s directive to Olson to work with Human Resources to “implement a plan to move the Fire Department forward productively.”

Moving forward is the right direction. Rehashing old grievances is not.

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