hi, i just wanted to see how many other female firefighters are discriminated against in their own fire house, mine is an every day battle. if you have any advice to get past all the jackholes in my department that would be wonderful :) thanks
Heather, i just went through something at work, not so much discrimination, but harrassment. I can't really go into it for various reasons, but basically the offender thought he was being funny. He has a tendency to pick on the easy target. Being a woman who "just wants to get along" I was definitely that.
I'm not really sure how to put this, but let's try. I always say to keep your head down and work hard, think of moving forward and if you feel you are being discriminated against, face it. Don't be afraid, say something, go to your capt or another officer in the station. If they are part of the problem, go to them anyway and tell them you will go over their heads to the Chief (word it properly of course.. lol). Ask for a transfer, do whatever you have to do to get into a station where you are going to be treated as a firefighter.
There are a few things we have to be aware of. We are women, we are different. There are not many of us in the fire service (are you fulltime, living in the stations adds to the challenges for sure). We are going to be tested, we are going to be talked about, there are those who are going to try to keep us down either outrightly, or with subtlety. It's out there and it's not going to disappear... but neither are we. That being said, there are some fantastic men as well. i have made some great friends and allies.
From personal experience, there are guys who see what you are going through and not sure how to help you. They aren't sure if they will be stepping on your toes if they try to help, as if it's it's own form of discrimination. They may not know what to say and may be afraid of being labelled if they say something. This is all new for them as well. It's not right, but it's not easy for them either.
I'm babbling. Sorry.. lol... after what I have gone through, I am more willing to stand up for myself and speak up. I am more willng to tell someone they are being an asshole. I was confronted by someone who thought he knew what went on in my station (he did not, it's been taken care of after almost 6 months of trying to deal with it), he's a tough guy, very opinionated and willing to test anyone he comes across. i had no problem telling him he was wrong, the more we talked, the more it came out that he felt the same way about my offender.
Anyway, all of this being said. You are a firefighter, you took this job knowing there would be challenges (hopefully) and unfortunately (I wish none of us had to go through this) now you have to stand up and speak up for yourself. It's likely the hardest thing you will have to do. Some will respect you for it, some will say you did the wrong thing, it doesn't matter. You do what helps you and what makes you feel better. It's not easy, but trust me, it's easier than going through bullshit every day!
One capt on my department said it best.... There are firefighters out there who joined the fire service young, and are forever living out their adolescense because they can.
Keep your head down, but your chin up. Speak up or be kept down.
Best of luck Heather... send me a pm if you like. :)
Spanner has given excellent insight and advice. I would pay attention to what she has to say. I would also add to look for allies - those who are not the offenders and, please, do not assume that all the guys are alike or think the same way.
Once when attending an after work company event, I was disenheartened when "entertainment" (er, strippers...) hopped on stage (it had not been advertised as part of the package that night).. I asked for my cover charge back and stepped out of the bar. Do you know that a number of the senior guys from my firehouse stepped outside with me? It hadn't really occurred to me that some of the guys may not be into the show either. And I never would have known that had I not decided to leave. I enjoyed working with my crew and I wanted to continue to enjoy working with them - and that meant for me not to witness what their behavior might be in this environment.
Was the organizer wrong to have entertainment? Well, yes he was. At the very least he should have made it known ahead of time so that those who were not interested could choose another way to spend the evening. Mind you - it turned out that the entertainment was really pretty mild (according to reliable reports), but that aside - I needed for the guys to be aware of what my limits were. I lost no respect whatsoever in the firehouse, in fact, I believed that I gain more respect because of my actions.
Finally, in addition to keeping your head down and your chin up, I would add to carry your weight, not a grudge. The job can be incredibly fulfilling as you have the great potential to make a difference everyday. Don't let someone get inside of your head and take that away from you.
hey thank you for your response too. that story about the strippers was really interesting to hear but i know what you felt. Since i'm surrounded by guys because i'm about the only girl who shows up to calls and fire schools they seem to take 1 of 2 choices. either make fun of me, or sexual harrass me. ugh just so frustrating but i'll remember your advice. thank you again
ummm Heather I don't know your situation but I do know that where I come from @ least the guys don't necessarily "discriminate" they are just really protective of the younger generation to begin with and women in particular. I realize that when they take over & do things "FOR" me, it isn't because they don't think I can do it, they really believe that I shouldn't have to.
#1 - you are young & you are new to the fire service. THAT IS A GOOD THING!! They wouldn't let me be a jr member back in the 70s. I didn't get to actuall join the FD until 1985. I was married & had a kid but I finally got to be a fire fighter after hanging around since I was litterally a child. I treained "jrs" that are now running the FD.
#2 - I"m sorry baby, but fire fighting, particularly volunteer fire fighting, is still a man's world pretty much anywhere you are. You can either try to fit in & do your job and EARN their respect OR you can fuss & whine about being discriminated against because you are a girl & that will cause more of it.
#3 - any fire fighter, particularly a junior/explorer/cadet, whatever you call them OR a female of any age has to EARN RESPECT from your peers.
I'm not sure how many friends your logo on your profile "if I had balls. . . " will get you. That is a boast & a big one & guys don't like to be told a girl is better than they are @ anything. It might be true & you can prove it to them but don't ever tell them that. It bruises their ego and you won't earn respect that way. Stop trying to be better & faster & smarter & you might make some good allies that will help you get ahead.
Now, if you are talking bout real sexual harrassment, grabbing you, making inuendoes etc. . THAT is DISCRIMINATION and there are FEDERAL laws against it.
When I started they told me that when I finished my training it would get better 1994...told me when I got my EMT it would get better 1997.....when I got my paramedic 2002....when I got all my "Instructor" cards 2004-current....years later....not better. I have been set on fire in my bunk, hosed down at the dinner table, had recliners flipped over on me, locked in lockers, spark plugs stolen, handcuffed to a few engines, locked up in the med unit between calls, panties on the message board/bunk gear gone...etc. I played along..."good ole house fun"....but with every new group it seems I have to start over. Not to mention, yet another group of dillholes I have to convince I will never be a shift wife!! And...just to stop it before it starts..no I have not dated any of them, ever. I will admit that I am 5'4 and 110 lbs...small, but I have never been accused of not "being able to lift"...I have never had a pt. complaint, either. I have 2 sons and take that very seriously..I am 3rd generation Fire/EMS. It means more to me than a paycheck. I will change things through my boys......Someone recently told me things will get better when I get into my forties....ugh!!
Are these people telling you things will get better on the department? If so, they certainly aren't helping the situation. Things got better for me almost instantly when i stood up for myself. allow it to happen and it will happen. stop it in its tracks, say your piece. Can it get worse? No more free passes for these jackasses!!! I can't believe you've stuck it out an dealt with this, it sure says a lot about your tenacity. Now use that to put them on notice. we have our share of bullies in our department as well, not backing down does wonders.
wow i really have a lot of respect for you, you're probably the most awesome person to stick through that for your sons. and wow i really think that's bull for what they do to you. that's really bad, i would have been gone by now. well god speed. i really hope nothing ever gets worse for you you've been through enough.