When Your Gender Draws Fire

, , , | Hopeless | June 16, 2017

(I always wanted to be a firefighter, though I am a female. I apply, but they just laugh at me. Later after that, I attend a meeting in a government building where the fire chief will be there to give a speech. To my surprise, she’s a female! After the speech, I sidle up to her.)

Fire Chief: “And how are you, young lady?”

Me: “I’m fine. I must say, it was an honest surprise that you would be speaking today.”

Fire Chief: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, I’ve always wanted to become a firefighter but when I applied, they just laughed. I think it was because I’m a woman.”

Fire Chief: “Well, that’s not very nice! Keep at your dreams. Look at me; I’m a female and I made it!” *walks away*

(The cynical side of me wanted to think that maybe she had connections or something like that. But her words gave me a bit of hope. Maybe someday…)

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  • BR

    You go! I’m sure you’ll make a great firefighter!

    • allahboleh

      What do you base that belief on? Giving up the instant things got hard? Sounds like a great quality in a firefighter

  • Xodiac

    Apply again. If they laugh again, ask them what’s so funny, and point out who their chief is. Don’t be a b**** about it, but don’t back down. Is it because you’re overweight? Not strong enough? Why are they laughing? Some of the possible reasons might be legit, and some you can do something about. If they can’t give you a reason, though… you might want to consult a lawyer.

    • Laren Dowling

      OP, have you looked at the physical requirements? Like, how much you’re required to lift and carry? The runs times to qualify? Things like that.
      Find out what they are, and then start training. A job as a firefighter is certainly possible, but you have to be physically capable, and that takes hard work. And I hate to say it, but it takes even HARDER work for us ladies, because most of us aren’t naturally as strong or fast as the guys.
      You CAN become a firefighter, but only if you put in the work. Hop to it!

  • Amber Harding

    Keep on trying! We need more courageous and capable life-savers out there, man or woman. =)

  • Jackie Fauxe

    I don’t know who “they” are but you need to replace them (I originally typed “fire them” but I didn’t want my point to be overtaken by a pun).

    Your dream is very doable if you want it. Right now about 7% of firefighters in the US are female, but many people are trying to bring that number up. If you’re still a teenager you should check and see if your area has a Girls Fire Camp. If that doesn’t work for you, there will definitely be resources in your state to help you. If you want to share your state and age range (older or younger than 18), I don’t mind doing some research for you.

    • Laren Dowling

      It’s also a good idea to start working on EMS training. In many areas, firefighters are required to be EMTs or even Paramedics before applying. And even if it’s not a requirement in your area, it’s still going to look great on your resume, and help people take you seriously.

  • Kitty

    What backwater location are you at that women aren’t firefighters? Or this is a very old story, back from a time when women really were not that common as firefighters?

    • Powers

      But if the chief is a woman you can’t use “women aren’t firefighters” as an excuse.

    • Paul Nieuwkamp

      We only have OP’s word that she *thinks* it *may* be because of her gender. There is no substantiating evidence provided, so I don’t know what to make of it.

      It appears to me there *are* female fire fighters there; even their chief if one…

      • Laren Dowling

        One has to wonder if it wasn’t so much because she was female, but because she’s diminutive in stature. Firefighter gear weighs a lot, and you have to be able to carry not only your own gear, but sling another fully-geared firefighter over your shoulder and haul them out. Not to mention wrestling the firehouse, swinging an axe, moving debris, and carrying civilians.
        Had to have a similar discussion with one of my godsons; he wanted to be a firefighter, but he’s easily startled, does *not* keep his head in an emergency, and is very slender and not terribly strong (and is such a picky eater, he often just refuses to eat, which is part of why he’s so small). I had to be honest with him; if he really wants to be a firefighter, he needs to eat more healthy foods, do a lot of exercise to strengthen up, and work on his temper/panic issues. Unless he puts in a lot of effort, he simply will not be able to be a firefighter.
        So perhaps the OP has a similar problem. It’s not because she’s a girl, but because she’s obviously lacking the physical/strength requirements for the job.
        If that’s the case, OP, find out exactly what the weight-carrying requirements are, and get to work on your own training regimen. Remember that it may take a long time – years even – to work up to where you need to be. But lives are literally on the line in that job, and it’s up to you to be capable.

  • Deadpool

    If you can’t overcome some people laughing at you, you’re probably not cut out to be a firefighter.

  • sakasiru

    “Maybe someday” is no way to go. They won’t come and beg you to join them. Apply again and stand your ground. Let them see you mean it.
    BTW, women as firefighters are not that uncommon. You need the physical fitness to work in all that gear, which is hard, but if you really want it, you can work towards it.

  • Powers

    I don’t get it. That’s a bizarre reaction from the Chief. I’d have thought she’d be angry and offer to take your application then and there.

    Fire departments are always looking for new members, regardless of gender. And I’d think a female chief would be very upset if her crews were laughing at potential recruits of any gender.

    • Leiko Burningbear

      I agree that the Chief’s reaction is odd. You’d think she’d at least want to know the names/location of the peeps who laughed at OP. Hearing something like that would be cause for a everyone-has-to-attend lecture on the proper way to treat applicants. Even if someone is obviously not physically capable of handling the job, you don’t laugh in their face.

      This story is very much a let-down for the happy-feel-good I was expecting. The Fire Chief did diddly squat for OP.

      • allahboleh

        Makes me think there was some other reason obvious to the chief as to why they’d laugh at her

      • ieatworms

        Chief may have had other pertinent things on her mind. She was there for a talk. Not to see why someone was denied a position. OP should have asked flat out if they want it that bad. Expecting someone to read your own unspoken queues almost always leads to disappointment. At least making a statement removes any guess as to what is asked

  • TheLastHonestLawyer

    OK, this is odd. Female first responders have been pretty common for 30 years, and if the department’s chief is a woman, I have to wonder if it isn’t something else about the OP that makes the recruiters act in a dismissive way towards her.

    • Serabeth

      Maybe she’s really tiny/petite, and they think she wouldn’t be up to their fitness standards? But yeah, I think it may not be her gender, specifically. For example, if that is the reason they laughed at her, they may also have laughed at a skinny, scrawny male that applied.

      • TheLastHonestLawyer

        Or really thick glasses, or something like that.

      • Anne

        I was going to say the same thing. If OP is petite and has no muscles, gender isn’t going to matter.

        Of course, being petite doesn’t mean that one has no muscles. I know someone who, despite being short in stature, probably could’ve lifted and carried nearly the weight of two fully geared firefighters when they were younger. They were seriously into weight training at the time. But that’s something that takes a LOT of effort to achieve. It sounds like OP may not have the desire to do that.

        • Lanes

          Exactly. My sister looks like a stiff wind would blow her over, but she can dead-lift more than me.

      • LadyBelle

        My thought was maybe the OP was a teenager, that was why she got dismissed, and why the chief just told her to follow her dreams. Both interactions seem like what would happen when a young child applies to be a fireman, not a woman

        • Laren Dowling

          Or perhaps she *looks* even younger than she actually is. So she might be technically old enough to apply, but looks like she’s 12. I’ve known a few folks like that. One friend who’s nearly 40 still looks so young, I’ve heard people asking if he’s old enough to even have kids, or did he marry an older woman and adopt her. Nope. They’re all his. And he didn’t get married ridiculously young, either.

  • ieatworms

    Did you ask her for contacts or just expect her to read your mind?

  • Kay Lee

    Female as a noun is not appropriate when speaking about humans, unless perhaps in a scientific setting.

  • Michael

    If I’m trapped in a fire, I just want someone to be there to save my life; no matter what their gender is.