Brenda Seymour has a Level II certification – she’s a professional firefighter, unlike most of her volunteer cohorts in Spaniard’s Bay. She’s also a city councillor, who rightfully brought it to the town’s attention that rookie firefighters were being thrown into dangerous situations they weren’t qualified for.
She was right to worry about lax security standards by the way: a poorly trained rookie drove a fire truck into the fire hall, damaged the hall so badly it had to be repaired, and during that repair, a maintenance worker was injured and “he’s probably never going to walk correctly again.”
Lost in all of the media frenzy around the Spainiard’s Bay firefighting debacle is the fact Brenda simply spoke out about some very valid points: lax safety standards, untested equipment, and improper training. In doing so she was labelled “an upstart troublemaker.”
And when Brenda raised fair allegations of discrimination, one woman in Brenda’s town wrote “She is the only woman in a firehouse with grown men. She can’t expect them to sit down, eat chocolates, talk about Fifty Shades of Grey, and tampons.”
What Brenda can expect, is for her voice to be heard and respected, and that’s all she’s after here. She was never the one “causing trouble” or a media frenzy, that was all us: the public and media. She simply asked men to stop treating her differently for not being a man, like joking that they’ve masturbated into her equipment.
The great question at the centre of the controversy is this: why show a porn clip of a woman female-ejaculating onto a kitchen fire, to put it out, during a legitimate training session? It strengthens our culture’s depiction of woman more as sexual beings and professionals.
It doesn’t matter if you, personally, thought the video was funny. A woman with more training than most of her peers sat in a room and watched everyone laugh about how women put out fires. It was unprofessional and senseless: no one’s going to put out a fire like that, and who watches porn at work, unless your workplace is a hypersexualized male-run firehouse?
She was asking for respect, and respect of her personal boundaries, and the result of her speaking out was that 20 men resigned and accused her of being a troublemaker. Half the town are saying “she did all this because she’s gunning for the chief’s position.” If a man, a male chief, had’ve been the one asking for more safety measures and gender sensitivity to be put into place, we would have called him a saint.
Brenda was brave enough to stand up for change so that future firefighting women – your daughters by the way! – could enjoy more respect in their workplace. Everyone should have stopped and respected that.
Instead pictures emerged of a town divided and women and children holding signs declaring we “support our men.” What a deflating thing to see mothers teaching their daughters. The wife of one firefighter, instead of scolding her husband, called her Brenda a “conniving witch.”
So, Brenda is a conniving witch because she asked men to help her feel comfortable in her job? That’s a leap.
We’re at a critical juncture in the feminist plight where more people need to be involved in it. To the men (and to the women too), who think you need to roll with sexism in the workplace, or laugh at your co-workers backwards remarks, in order to fit in and keep your job: you’re a part of the problem. It’s easier, yeah, but it’s keeping the cycle going.
Sexist men clearly don’t respect women like Brenda enough to listen to them. So men have to play a part in putting these people in their place, preferably in a clear and friendly manner so the sexist dinosaurs listen, instead of getting their backs up.
Scold someone and they’ll get defensive and confrontational. Enlighten them, reason with them tell them how their behaviour negatively influences the way the world is, or the way women feel in the workplace, and maybe they’ll get it and change.