This is nothing new. As a rookie firefighter in the late '80s, I saw it, and kept seeing it throughout my career. From the men who would stand in front of me at briefings, refusing to move so I could see the map, the overhead who would address my male trainee instead of me, to the crew boss on my second fire who told me I should take a male crewmember's creepy comments as a "compliment," it was out there. Many women had it much worse, with actions committed against them that were criminal.
But this is for the good men. The ones who gave me a chance early in my career, and didn't treat me differently than anyone else, as long as I could do the work. The ones who didn't judge all women by one who might have failed. The ones who, although they were skeptical about female firefighters (and believe me, we knew you were), didn't show it in their actions. The smokejumper who parachuted into my first big fire as an incident commander and didn't take over, even though he easily could have. The men who worked all night alongside me on the fireline and treated me as a sister and an equal.
Change is slow. There are still old boys' clubs, people who will talk over women at meetings, and those who think it's okay to make crude comments. Those of us who started long ago learned to keep our heads down, work hard, and not to show emotions. We knew that would help the women of the future who were coming up behind us.
But it's easy to get into man-bashing, and the good men are out there. I'd like to think there are more of them than the other kind. So to all the men who helped me along the way, I appreciate you. You offered me a job, showed me how to fight fire, and treated me the same as any other firefighter. Thanks, guys.
|At a spike camp in 1997. Thanks jumpers for the parachute. What a mess! I was there for 21 days straight.|