I wondered why a July 6 2019 Ethics Hero post was suddenly getting lots of visits. The reason was disappointing: Presley Prichard, the inspiring paramedic who built herself up from a slim, 120 pound paramedic into a160 pound athlete so she could meet the strength and fitness requirements to achieve her life goal of being a firefighter — “This is how female empowerment is supposed to work” I wrote, saluting her determination—
—was fired by Evergreen Fire Rescue in Flathead County, Montana for posting provocative photographs of herself on Instagram.
I thought we had settled this. When Pritchard’s Ethics Hero post was written, I noted that Pritchard had used photographs of her dramatically upgraded physique to inspire others on social media , but that some people complained. (Why? Why?) This prompted a board review of her employment, for which “Pritchard prepared a Powerpoint slide show, including her workout and bathing suit photos compared with various calendar photos of male firefighters. She also read from the Montana Annotated Code for gender and sex discrimination. Speaking for the board later, Evergreen Fire District Board Chairman Brodie Verworn said that Pritchard’s online photos ‘were not a concern.'”
They shouldn’t be. Though sexually provocative photographs online can constitute legitimate problems for some occupations (See the large and varied stories under the Naked Teacher Principle tag), they should not for firefighters, male or female. How does a firefighter’s web modesty or lack of it affect her ability to do her job? I can see a possible objection to extreme photos on social media sites if they could be reasonably said to undermine the reputation of an organization and the public’s trust, but that would be a “Porn Star Fire Fighter Principle,” and nothing like that is occurring here.
Pritchard now has over 100,000 followers on her Instagram account. (It was about 30,000 when I first wrote about her.) She regards herself a “fitness influencer,” posting inspirational messages, information about her partnerships with wellness brands, and photos and videos of her workouts, as well as photos of herself that show off her physique, like this one…
Evergreen Fire Rescue began reprimanding her for her Instagram shots, and when she defied a direct order to remove them, it fired her despite her department lacking a social media policy.
Now Pritchard is suing—GOOD—alleging that she was the victim of “sexism and a double standard favoring men.” She also alleges sexual harassment on the job.
This should not have happened to Pritchard, who is still an Ethics Hero here. I’m rooting for her, and looking forward to the next chapter in the Presley Pritchard Saga being a happy ending.
15 thoughts on “The Presley Pritchard Saga, Continued: No, There Is No “Too Sexy Firefighter Principle,” And Evergreen Fire Rescue Messed With The Wrong Woman”
I’m somewhat skeptical that there’s a fitness regimen responsible for the increased…um…body mass above her sternum.
That seems to be the product of skilled surgeons rather than diet and exercise, but Ms. Pritchard’s decision to augment that area is not unreasonable. She bulked up her muscles quite a bit and may simply have sought to look more curvaceous instead of athletic.
If there is any relevant ethical concern, it would be the unrealistic beauty standards imposed by mass media, where surgery and photoshop-modified bodies are the norm.
She gained 40 pounds of muscle and fat on a 120 pound body. As many women will attest, that kind of weigh gain often has spectacular results on certain areas of the female body. Many actresses see their cup sizes go up and down like the stock market with weight changes—look at Jennifer Connelly, once spectacularly curvaceous, whose most admired assets virtually vanished when she too up jogging. I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume the ex-firefighter has had “work done.’
This is post weight gain and she doesn’t look as endowed.
I stand corrected! You will agree, however, that this also is none of the fire department’s business.
It is also true that a lot of bulked up women opt for breast enhancement, because it balances out their physiques, and if they used steroids to gain muscle, a side effect is breast reduction.
I agree with your post 100%. With so much made of the sexuality of male firefighters, this is absolutely gender bias.
I’d agree this was gender bias if it was a simple case of her being fired for posting photos on her personal social media. However, this article left out some important info. Namely that Prichard was using the tax-payer funded facilities to promote her personal side businesses, including her social media that she received sponsorships in relationship to, and a personal website that apparently included an online store. If what she says is true, then I’d say some mistakes were made by her chain of command, such as her supervisor supposedly giving her permission to do a photoshoot at the firehouse as long as she left out any firehouse logos and such (claimed by Prichard). This photoshoot was designed as an advertisement to sell tee-shirts on her personal website. After that, someone higher up in the chain of command asked her to remove any of her social media content involving the fire department. Prichard lawyered up and chose to refuse the request prior to being terminated. I wouldn’t call this gender bias until details emerge proving this same county allowed males to use government equipment and facilities to help run a side business. Remove the involvement of photos and ask yourself if any government employee should be allowed to use government resources to run any side business they choose for personal gain.
I’m suspicious. There were photos of her on her work site in 2019, when she was told her photos were no problem. The problem an employer has when it engages in discrimination or harassment is then they can’t fire the victim even with cause, because it can be claimed as retaliation. It sounds to me like they did more than make mistakes—I think they gave her the upper hand. That and the lack of a written policy was incompetent.
We’ll see what comes out in the suit, if the fire det. doesn’t settle.
They might not have had a policy directly related to social media use, but the fire department apparently did have a policy against the use of the department’s facilities and equipment for personal gain. From what I read, this was one of the policies highlighted during Prichard’s termination. She was making money directly from her social media, website, and her online store. My understanding is she was cleared regarding the photos to social media until it came out that they were being used to make money. This seems like a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario for the fire department. Taking action against Prichard is a PR nightmare. Not taking action makes it more difficult for that county to uphold that policy against others in the future.
Of course, keep in mind everything I’ve commented is based on various news articles. I’m in no way claiming to have any sort of first hand knowledge of the incident. If the termination is linked to the use of fire department property to make herself money, then I say they had an obligation to request that she remove the pictures related to the fire department. If they’re turning their eye from others doing the same thing, then I hope she gets a huge settlement.
I think that’s right. I also think those policies about using workplaces are archaic and doomed in the era of digital cameras and selfies. It also is a policy ripe for First Amendment attack. The federal law preventing one from using the Capitol in commercial ads is virtually a dead letter, I think.
My friend was actually on a VFD calendar a few years back, in a sports bra and little else. A quick google firefighter calendar search shows lots of men and women posing about as covered as she is. . That said, clothing is a cultural norm, and perhaps it is locally “shocking”. Although with Social Media local isn’t local anymore. I want to shout get with the times, people!
Babylon bee is, as always, funny and relevant.
Where I am from, showing Sid boob is always in poor taste. Just sayin’
Side, side dammit! 😡
That Sid Boob…always an embarrassment.