“Boys Will Be Boys” is a Dated Excuse for Not Letting Girls Be Women

"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 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.

Written By
More from Chad Pelley

The City’s Disastrous Decision to Slap Small Business with the Burden of Making Up for Hard Times is a Nightmare Move

Targeting small business in tough times is not the “fiscally responsible” decision...
Read More

11 Comments

  • This is more than ignorance. Unbelievable that people would actually organize a rally to support this group. What are they teaching their children then? That its ok to abuse others?
    Good for youBrenda to stand up for your rights. What I have learned is when you stand up /speak out about what is right you won’t win any personality awards, but you will have a clear conscience!!

  • The Firefighters Resigned In Support Of The Fire Dept Liason, Female Liason, Because She Was Being Bullied/Harassed By Ms. Seymour….When The Liason Resigned The Firefighters Followed Suit…This Part Of The Story Has Not Been Told In The Media.

    • I would love to hear more. Was Ms. Seymour trying to correct the Liason’s complicit attitude towards sexism by chance?

  • The video is barely even labeled “porn” and doesn’t have anything to do with the way a female fights fires. It’s a silly video with no real meaning or purpose other than to create a short spell of laughter at most.

    The video isn’t hard to find, & I understand it’s not professional and whatnot, but if this bothers you that much I can only imagine what some circumstances would do to the poor lady if there were a serious fire where people are burning alive or something of that magnitude. She would likely end up with ptsd. Firefighting, police work, and medical work all require nerves of steel. But to start a mass shitpile with the two main reasons for starting it being, 1) immature teasing that the men ejaculated on her balaclava. And 2) A very short video portraying a stupid harmless joke of a woman squirting to put out a kitchen fire.

    It just seems to be a bit overly sensitive for someone who’s supposed to be fighting fires.

    The fact that many people I know personally have many stories of how she has no trouble fighting dirty or being a pathological liar to get her where she wants, what she wants, or what she wants others to do. I don’t agree with sexism in anyway, but to play that card over such foolish nonsense in an adult setting is pitiful. It’s not right, no. They shouldn’t have done those things, no. Should she have waited 2 years to bring the matters up, coincidentally at the same time she wants a higher position in council? Fuck no.

    Looks just as bad on both sides.
    Everyone should shake hands, move on, and go back to helping the community.

    • If the department behaved in a professional manner, or at least, responded to the issue in a professional manner, this WOULDN’T be so out of control. It could’ve been resolved long ago by the SBFD taking responsibility immediately for the inappropriate workplace behaviour and making the appropriate adjustments and apologies. Instead, the community is rooted in the idea that Brenda should “let it go”. Letting it go is for the weak. Brenda is strong.

    • Dylan, you lost me at Whatnot. It is not a word. Your ignorance to harassment is case in point as to why we have to come up with policies to ensure professionalism in the workplace.

  • I applaud her bravery. I was a woman working in s male dominant workplace 15 years ago. There were no harassment policies in place and I felt I had no one to tell, so I put up with “boys will be boys”… Meanwhile I felt belittled and horrible. I had just as shocking things said to me. My only “trouble making” was the fact that I was the only educated person in the job, and everyone else were there based on experience. They felt threatened by me for that fact alone. I can not Believe this is actually happening in today’s society. It just goes to show the ignorance of the people involved. I will never forget when I walked in a meeting the union leader yelled out “here she comes, a woman in a man’s job”… I calmly said back “it obviously takes a woman to do it right!”
    Stay strong, Brenda!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.