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    The Firefighter In A Viral Photo That Sparked A Gender Debate Says His Female Colleagues Are Just As Good

    "That's a woman firefighter," said one tweet dunking on a men's rights activist. One problem: it wasn't.

    As Australia burned this week, social commentator and men's rights activist Bettina Arndt decided to send a tweet.

    Our media is full of images of brave men fighting the ferocious fires. As always, it's usually men who do the really dangerous, difficult work protecting everyone else. Give thanks for the good in men.

    Needless to say, the tweet prompted immediate and predictable backlash. Lots of people mentioned the numerous female firefighters who had been out fighting the bushfires.

    One particularly popular way of dunking on Arndt was to point out that the firefighter in the photograph was a woman. Tweets claiming this received thousands of retweets and faves.

    That’s a woman firefighter.

    Moira Rayner, the former Victorian equal opportunity commissioner, retweeted Arndt's post with the caption "That's a woman firefighter". It was favourited more than 5,600 times.

    Rayner said her experience training firefighters motivated the response to Arndt.

    "I know my subject," she wrote to BuzzFeed News. "Bettina didn't and her tweet was presumptuous, disrespectful to the professional and the thousands of community of volunteers, and a bit silly."

    The person in the pic is a woman. Totes fucking awks ...

    As well as retweets, Arndt's replies filled up with people saying the same thing: it's a woman.

    @thebettinaarndt I'm pretty sure that's a female firefighter.

    @thebettinaarndt Also check your stock footage, this photo is of a women.

    It was a good burn. Unfortunately, it probably isn't true.

    A reverse image search reveals the image was credited by multiple news publications to AAP photographer Darren Pateman.

    On the company's website, a series of Pateman's photographs taken on Nov. 9 2019, including the image shared by Arndt, were captioned with "firefighters work to contain a bushfire along Old Bar Road".

    Pateman didn't know the photograph's subject identity, but believed it was a man.

    "I checked and it's a crewman from Gloucester. I have no name sorry," Pateman told BuzzFeed News.

    A user responding on behalf of the Gloucester Rural Fire Brigade's Facebook page identified one of their volunteers, Dennis Wamsley, as the photograph's subject.

    "Yes, I believe that is me," Wamsley said to BuzzFeed News in a message.

    Wamsley recalls the photograph being taken about 20 metres from the road, not too far away from houses he was defending. The Gloucester resident wasn't aware that the photo had gone viral in an online skirmish about gender.

    He did say that the idea women firefighters are any different to their male counterparts was ridiculous.

    "That's incorrect. We have female firefighters in our district that hold the rein with all the boys," Wamsley said. "We have a number of active female firefighters. They're accepted as the same as everyone else."

    Rayner didn't answer when asked by BuzzFeed News if she knew for sure whether it was a woman or man in the photo before sending her viral tweet — but said it didn't matter either way.

    "Gender is irrelevant to both professional and volunteer firefighting skill, safety and performance," she said.


    A previous version of this post incorrectly stated Bettina Arndt is a psychologist. That reference has been removed. (H/T New Matilda.)