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Home > Topics > EMS Management
August 07, 2014
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Editor's Note
by Rick Markley, editor-in-chief

Breast pumping story is about dignity, not special treatment

Responders are built to help, and we should be asking how we can help our fellow responders, not why do they want special treatment

By Rick Markley

The story out of Tucson about the firefighter suing the department for, among other things, not providing a private place for her to pump breast milk is disturbing.

Setting aside temporary, private space for female firefighters to pump breast milk shouldn't be an issue. It shouldn't have to be demanded or sued for.

It is about preserving dignity for a fellow firefighter. That's not something we should have to debate; we're better than that.

Let's be clear. I like Tucson; it's among my favorite cities. I like the Tucson firefighters I've met. And we all know there could be much more to this story than what appears on the surface.

Barring a settlement, it will be left to a judge to decide who is right — I'm not that judge.

That aside, this story raked up a level of misogyny in the fire service that should shock, appall and embarrass all of us. Many of the comments dripped of hatred and resentment toward women firefighters.

A woman's place is wherever she wants to be. If she has the passion and skills to be a firefighter, then her contributions and commitment should be welcomed with open arms.

And if she requires special treatment during or after pregnancy, then she should have it. There are times when we all need a little special treatment; life is full of set backs for men and women alike.

Whether those set backs are expected or unexpected, that firefighter needs a helping hand, and are we truly firefighters if we fail to lend that helping hand?

The conversation surrounding the situation in Tucson should not be, "is firefighter so-and-so getting something that nobody else is?" Rather, it should be, "firefighter so-and-so is having a rough time, how can we help?"

It's my belief that the insecurity, resentfulness and hatefulness aimed at women and other minority firefighters is itself a minority faction. The majority of firefighters are better than that.

And it is up to that majority to stand up for our sister firefighters, even if it is for something as simple as preserving her dignity not to have to draw her baby's food perched on a toilet seat. 

Comments
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Melinda Teaster Williams Melinda Teaster Williams Friday, August 08, 2014 6:31:51 AM Well said, I wish I worked for a service that carried your views, I as a female at our main base can not even garenteed not to be walked in on while changing clothes and have had this happen numerous times and only after speaching my concern to the Director I was told "this is not motel 6 and no one will lay claim to bedrooms" this statemnet was to refer to the Bathroom, however there are 3 in this station, and durirng 730a-330p only 7 people are working. So I can totally understand why this new Mother felt that she had no other choice to sue.
Nancy Lougheed Rose Nancy Lougheed Rose Saturday, August 09, 2014 2:59:08 PM I am very sorry for this female firefighter and especially the folks working beside her. When I returned to work as a new mom, my crew was terrific and after baby 2 my biggest supporter at work was my boss whose wife is a lactation consultant. It was a temporary situation resulting in a healthy baby, and a happy firefighter. Indeed, how can we help each other?

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