Diversity: The Elephant in the Room

By: Tara Massarelli

When we firefighters are in mixed company and are present during conversations that make each other uncomfortable, why do we continue it?Feminist man poster

Every time you participate in off color conversations, it reflects the dark side of yourself. Every time you laugh, nod, agree, insert your two cents, sit quietly uncomfortably reading your iPhone HOPING IT ENDS SOON, looking at the speaker or simply clearing your throat you are participating in the conduct that is unbecoming of a firefighter. Did you know that?

Don’t agree? I want you to take a minute to think about things in a completely different way.

I’ll put it this way for my Generation X kiddos. You and Barbie go to rob a bank. Oh, you thought you were just going to the bank. You find out that Barbie has robbed the bank when she comes rushing to the car with her hands full of cash. She gets in and says “DRIVE! GO!” You drive and you go.

Your logic was handicapped because of emotion. You would never rob a bank, but you just did because you were an accomplice.

who-needs-feminismEvery single time you allow things to take place in your presence that you don’t agree with feminist-man_2684936bor that violate your morals or beliefs or are against policy or against the law, you rob yourself. As a firefighter, you rob yourself of dignity, respect and every damn thing you worked for in your career, whether that career is one year or 30 years long. You see, it is not acceptable nor has it ever been acceptable to speak off-color within mixed company.

We–both men and women– just haven’t had the “balls” or the courage to stand up for what’s right.

We don’t need to sacrifice these qualities we originally “brought to the table” to fit in. We don’t need to put down other men and women who do standup courageously and fight for a workplace free from not just from the fear of physical attack or abuse, but also free from the language of hate and intimidation. Because there is power in words.

We do not need more diversity training.  What we need are for courageous leaders—both men and women, firefighters and officers alike—to have ongoing “training” with every conversation, in every firehouse, and in every department in this world.

My friends and colleagues, until you can speak up, you are an accomplice in the crime.


About the Author

Tara Massarelli has been a firefighter/medic since 2003 and has served with several career departments.


About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.