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This Article applies masculinity theory to explore the aspects Ricci v. Destefano and its political reverberations. Empirical evidence showed that virtually all written tests have a disparate impact on minorities, that a neighboring city had reached less discriminatory results using a different weighting system, and that other fire departments used assessment centers to judge firefighters' qualifications for promotions. While the black male and all female firefighters were made invisible by the case and the testimony, the fact that Ricci's and Vargas' testimony lionized a particularly traditional form of heterosexual masculinity was also invisible. While the command presence required of a police officer may differ from that required of a firefighter, Cooper's advice is valuable to employers establishing assessment centers because it will enable employers to make visible the invisible race and gender biases in the assessment that assume that command presence and leadership skills describe a particular masculine type of man. An understanding of the case and its political response requires a historical and contextual approach using a multi-faceted lens that considers not only race, but also class, gender, and politics. It then offers suggestions to public employers faced with decisions regarding how to proceed after Ricci. It argues that municipalities should consider the lessons learned from history and masculinity theory in establishing its methods of evaluating candidates for firefighting and supervisory positions in the future.

Publication Citation

33 Harv. J.L. & Gender 581 (2010).