I NEVER do this: I don’t typically blog about something I find infuriating when I’m in-the-moment mad… but this time I am. In fact, I don’t even know if I’ll publish this post since it’s so off-brand for me, but it feels good to write out my frustrations and what I believe needs to change. If you’re reading this, it’s because I wanted to vent, but also because I thought of a small way we can step forward towards an equal opportunity future.
And it all starts with a figurine.
My two-year-old son Xavier loves firetrucks and firefighters. Whenever we see a fire engine while we are outside for a walk, the occupants (admittedly, they are almost always men) are so kind to us. I always tell my son that our family is lucky because we know and are friends with real firefighters too: our pal Mike is a volunteer at a firehall in Niagara, and our friend Chloe is a firefighter in a nearby city. I also used to be a server and worked with a handful of kindhearted bartenders who were (and still are) firefighters. And, of course, I can’t forget my great-grandfather: he was a fire warrior too, and I grew up hearing of his heroics. I could go on and on about how valiant I think firefighters are, and it’s something I mention to Xavier often. That, however, isn’t the point I’m going to make, and you’re probably wondering what sparked this topic for me to begin with.
Firefighting is traditionally a male role, but it’s changing: I recently did some research on the firefighting profession, and it’s clear that the role of firefighters has evolved and changed over the years, with more and more women now entering the field. When my great-grandfather was a first responder, his position was always associated with physical strength and fitness. Nowadays the field has become a more professional environment. According to i-women.org, “It’s not unusual for firefighters to have at least a two-year degree in fire science or some other field, and chiefs of most major departments are expected to have master’s degrees. Fire departments, colleges and specialized training programs provide ongoing education in command and management skills for company officers and chiefs.” Firefighting may be a traditionally male field, but is increasingly becoming unisex. Our badass friend Chloe is a prime example.
Old habits die-hard though, and while change is constant, it’s often hard to break through the glass ceiling. In the past few weeks, I noticed Xavier talking about his “fireman” toys, as opposed to saying “firefighter”. This may seem petty, but it bothers me. “Women are firefighters too,” I tell him. My husband Ian and I try to correct him by saying “firefighters” instead of “fireman” or “firemen,” but it occurred to me that it would be easier to do so if he actually owned a female version of his firefighter toys to play with. Doesn’t that seem like a natural place to push gender equality education?
Here’s the thing: I’m not delusional… I know that only 7% of firefighters are women. I knew it wouldn’t be as easy to find a female or an androgynous fire fighter figurine or toy as it would be finding a male. I just didn’t know how hard it would be.
So, what were my findings, you ask?
As it turns out, the fact that firefighting is a profession that is no longer just for men, isn’t represented in the world of toys. I found that most companies carry clearly male firefighter “people” or figurines, with no females in sight. I am sure you can argue this with lots of professions and how they are represented in toy culture, but in this particular blog post (and for the sake of time), I’m narrowing in specifically on firefighters.
It was such a struggle to find female and androgynous versions of these toys for Xavier, which is unacceptable. It was such a struggle, in fact, that I wanted to include the alternative versions to the traditional fireman toy I did find for you below, in case you also know a child who would benefit from them.
Mega Blocks– (This one looks androgynous, which is great) http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=110987436&imageIndex=7
Fireman Sam– https://www.amazon.com/Fireman-Sam-Figurines-Double-Exclusive/dp/B00LP9Y0TC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&refRID=0RMRGEDVJA9K00F00WVM&dpID=41tGx1-1VyL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160,160_&linkCode=sl1&tag=momlif04-20&linkId=9018c5d42b23f9d593aecbc1db888309
*If you have had luck finding any others, please let me know! All of the above links include a male and a female (or androgynous) versions of a firefighter, however it looks like the Fireman Sam version isn’t available anymore.*
Toy companies: I urge you to continue making toys that any child can identify and play with. I don’t want Xavier growing up thinking only one sex can become one profession. Do your part!
Thank you for reading my rant. Hopefully you understand my point here, and why I think having female firefighting toys (among other traditionally male professions represented in toy culture) is important to moving the dial on gender equality.
I recognize that I hold a strong opinion on something that may seem insignificant to you, but I think getting our heads around equal opportunity starts with simple scenarios like this. A big shout-out to the above companies for realizing that kids should be taught that it doesn’t matter what sex they identify with, because kids should dream big and grow up to be anything they want.
*For information on the great organization supporting fire fighting women in Ontario, check out https://www.fswo.ca/