Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I want to give a special shout-out to all our sisters out there doing the same job as us guys – yes, I said same! To show my support, I posted a painting that puts focus on tough women on Facebook, and the response has rustled up some spirited conversation – and emotions. Unfortunately there have been some shortsighted comments that prove women still have much to tolerate in this male-dominated profession, not to mention a few vile suggestions that I received via personal messages – you should be ashamed!
So, as I’m known to do when riled, I put pen to paper. This is a cartoon I created out of outrage, contempt, and frustration for what our sisters must still deal with. Men, enough – we can no longer be the gorilla in the room! I think most of us get it, but based on what I’ve read and heard over the past two days, some still don’t.
I could write more, but it would just be more of the same rant, and quite admittedly writing is not my strength. So, I have asked Chief Becki White to share her thoughts. I have known Chief White for a couple of years now, and she has proven to be one of the smartest, most dedicated, passionate, toughest, and biggest advocates for training that I have met, and I am damn proud to call her my sister! She is an inspiration not only to me, but to women in the fire service everywhere, and it’s an honor to tag-team this post with her.
Chief White… the floor is yours.
Since the 1600s, the term “firefighter” has been used to describe the people who risked their lives to save the lives and property of their fellow citizens. Many people don’t realize that there were women in the fire service as far back as 1818, and that there were all-women companies by the 1900s. Yet, even today, I get asked the most absurd questions about being a female in the fire service. “Do you have to take the same classes that the men take?” “Do you really get to drive the truck?” It used to annoy me that people were discounting my abilities like that, but I realized it was a reflection of our society. We have to work, united as a service—brothers and sisters side-by-side—to change that perception.
We need to celebrate the women who are in the service, give them opportunities to share their skills and talents so they can excel. We shouldn’t be granting any special opportunities or breaks that we wouldn’t provide anyone else, because it just discounts the view of women across the fire service who could – and DO – meet those standards every day. It reinforces negative beliefs about women and their contributions to the fire service. Men aren’t often evaluated on the failures of other men, but as a woman, I hear story after story about other women who couldn’t cut it.
Discounting women’s roles in male-dominated fields isn’t new. In fact, our culture perpetuates it. We can deny it, but it’s there. Expectations on what women bring to the table are deeply rooted in our culture, those “traditional” and “nontraditional” roles that women should or shouldn’t occupy. We use terms like mailman, policeman, and fireman; even though they aren’t meant to exclude, they do. Phrases like, “throw like a girl” are used to show that the throw (in this case) doesn’t live up to standards.
It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, full-time or volunteer. What matters is if you’re a firefighter, you have a desire to be the best, and you surround yourself with the best.
STAY FIRED UP!