By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.–Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)
The evil in this case is the continued harassment of women who have chosen to become firefighters. And as a man who spent 30+ years in the active fire service, I’m getting pretty sick of seeing stories like these on an almost daily basis:
- Women face multiple hurdles within Tampa Fire Rescue
- Critics: Sexual harassment a big problem in Philly fire dept.
- Women firefighters claim harassment, abuse on Forest Service fires
- Tampa Fire Rescue personnel chief retires amid sexual harassment investigation
- 2 FFs suspended in sexual misconduct investigation
My fire service colleague, District Chief Cheryl Horvath, wrote a compelling piece for FireRescue1.com entitled, Same old story: The biggest issues facing women firefighters today, back in May 2013. In her piece, Chief Horvath presented the story of Carol, the sole woman on her department, and the harassment that she received on the job. Carol’s story is all too familiar.
Why is this still so in 2015? Why are women subjected to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and yes, rape at the hands of the men in their own firehouse? Because the men of the fire service in the United States continue to “look the other way.” They are the “…good men who do nothing.”, that Burke spoke of two hundred years ago.
To those fire chiefs, and more importantly, fire officers who are accepting responsibility of the actions and attitudes inside your firehouses, and making the appropriate course corrections, thank you. You are few and far between.—Horvath
I’m sick and tired of hearing about fire stations that don’t have accommodations for the women in a department. By gosh, if the men had to go outside to use an outhouse instead of having a bathroom with indoor plumbing, there’d be funds available to fix that problem! Where are all the DIY (Do It Yourself) skills that so many male firefighters pride themselves on possessing when it comes to making simple and basic modifications to a fire station to give a woman the same privacy and facilities that they enjoy?
And sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape in a firehouse? Who raised these types of men and how did they become firefighters and officers, in to many cases high ranking officers in a department? Where do male firefighters and officers get the idea that, for a woman working or volunteering in a fire station, the atmosphere should resemble a Saturday night frat house party? Where’s the leadership?
Women in the fire service are not the problem and they are not the solution. Only the men of the fire service can make the necessary cultural changes so that everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality or creed, is accepted for who they are and judged solely on their ability to do the required job.