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Editor's Note
by Rick Markley, editor-in-chief

Breast pumping story is about dignity, not special treatment

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

By Rick Markley, FR1 Editor-in-chief

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. 

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Heather Keith Heather Keith Wednesday, August 06, 2014 11:46:13 AM She should have pumped in front of them. They would have found a place for her. I respect fire fighters but these folks' priorities are all in the wrong place.
Susanna Schmitt Williams Susanna Schmitt Williams Wednesday, August 06, 2014 12:18:32 PM Rick, Thank you for the support. Your comments above need to be read and absorbed by all. It saddens me to see the hateful comments that are typically posted after stories like these. I agree with you, we are better than that, it is who firefighters are at their core. We are driven to helping those in need yet most often don't provide that need to one of our own. Let's start living what we are at our core for both the internal and external customers!
Sara Hall Sara Hall Wednesday, August 06, 2014 12:40:12 PM What a sensible, articulate, humane article. Thank you Rick.
Richard Worrell Richard Worrell Wednesday, August 06, 2014 8:45:01 PM I think the situation speaks for itself. If we're going to have female firefighters then we need to make to appropriate accommodations for females. Along with that should come respect for your team mates need for privacy at certain times. Really, lets stop looking for differences and inconveniences and work for the harmony that the brotherhood/sisterhood in firefighting that it is all about. We all need each other every minute of every day, not just during the next job. We should be looking out for one another as though our lives depend upon it. Let's stop fighting and let's work together, helping one another whenever the need arises. The fire service is changing every day. We, each and every firefighter, need to change with it for the good of the organization. "Let's do this."
Clarence Bragg Clarence Bragg Thursday, August 07, 2014 4:55:32 AM Well put, Rich. We had many go through the academy over the years and I would stand with many of them in any situation.
John Drady John Drady Thursday, August 07, 2014 11:18:09 AM If you don't want to take care of your own, why would I expect you to be there to back me up when the crap hits the fan. Come out of your caves guys, it's the 21st century.
Tanya Williams Butoryak Tanya Williams Butoryak Thursday, August 07, 2014 11:18:56 AM Does this dept not have separate bedrooms? The dept my hubby works at each firefighter has their own bedroom with a door that closes for privacy. I agree that each person needs their privacy. Do all these firefighters sleep in one big room?
Tina Ravyn Newman Tina Ravyn Newman Thursday, August 07, 2014 1:54:49 PM Not sure about Tuscon... but my department doesn't have separate bedrooms for anyone, except the Battalion Chief and *maybe*, in *some* houses, a senior captain. Everyone else sleeps in one room, some with lockers between each bed, the rest, not. Hell, only ONE house actually has a "women's" bathroom, and only three (out of 12) have a "handicapped" bathroom that is, by common consensus, considered the "women's" bathroom... and there were many, many times where guys would hog that bathroom just to screw with me and prevent me from having any bathroom at *all*. Even when I *did* have access to a bathroom, I had to go through the house before I used it, and tell everyone that I was going to, to keep anyone from walking in, because most of them did not have locks... and some of the ones that did? Guys had removed the locks... because "GUYS don't need no locks", doncha know.
David Jobes David Jobes Friday, August 08, 2014 5:56:22 PM Rick, I'm glad you added your story/comments to this situation. When I read the original story on, I wanted to comment along the same lines you mentioned but didn't know where to start. I really thought this could have been handled at a "company level", without going to the chiefs, and without becoming national news. It didn't, and this is how we learn so history doesn't repeat itself. I like what Heather Keith wrote below about pumping in front of them! Reason being....I was thinking, if a women is legally allowed to breast-feed in public, then there should be no problem breast-pumping? Of course, it should be up to the individual firefighter how much privacy she wants....and that privacy should be given to her, as long as it doesn't interfere with "performance of duties". After all, our Muslim firefighters are allowed privacy for prayer (usually done in the privacy of his/her bunk). Not to get off subject but in many European countries, this isn't even an issue. We are all adults. This issue should have been handled with maturity, and the thoughts & feelings of the firefighter. One added note-I'm sorry to say, my department has no rules/regulations for maternity issues. There's a can of worms that's yet to be opened!
Ken Henke Ken Henke Saturday, August 09, 2014 7:49:45 AM My question is, "Why is this even an issue?" Very easy to tell rest of the station, then go into the bunk room for the 15 minutes it takes. I think there's more to the story than we're told.
Rena Texidor Rena Texidor Thursday, September 18, 2014 3:41:33 PM Beautifully said, and from a male perspective: 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.

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