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Female Firefighters Racially and Sexually Harassed

July 10, 2009

When Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes came into work Tuesday morning on July 7th 2009 and found racist-sexist graffiti in the women’s quarter of fire station 54. The N-word and die was written on the doors of their lockers. In addition, a picture of Draycott’s daughter who died three years ago in an accident had the word dead written on her face,  and on Draycott’s face was the word die. The graffiti has been interpreted by the Houston Black Firefighter’s Association as a death threat. Draycott is white and Keyes is black, —both are females.  Houston has one of the lowest numbers of female firefighters for a large city. Only 2.7 percent of the 3900 Fire Department employees are women. The data did not break down how many of those women are black.

There is a history of vandalism at the fire house 54’s women’s quarters. In the not so distance past, someone disconnected the cold water in the women’s shower in an attempt to initiate a scalding. A complaint was filed. Also, urine was found sprayed on the walls and in the sinks. None of this has happened in the male’s restroom or sleeping quarters.

Only people with FAA clearance have access to the fire house.

Sexual harassment is no stranger to the Houston Fire Department. A retired female firefighter who does not want to be identified was also sexually harassed during her tenure as a Houston firefighter.

The 12 year veteran firefighter says it isn’t easy talking about what happened to her inside a firehouse in 2002.

“I went to go to bed and there was a banana duct taped to the mattress erected up,” she said.

She didn’t file a complaint. Instead she confronted a man who worked beside her putting out fires and hoped it wouldn’t happen again. It didn’t, but months later, she says something else did.

“He was on his knees beside the couch doing his thing just in his underwear. That’s all I saw when he jumped up and jumped back into his bed,” the retired firefighter said.

She filed a complaint two years later because she was afraid of coming forward at the time.

“You got to take it [the harassment] so you can keep your job. It’s mentally abusing. It plays on you. It makes you very angry.”

This female firefighter eventually retired. She claims the firefighter who harassed her was reprimanded and has since been promoted to captain.

Some believe men have increased the sexual harassment because the Houston City Council has recently approved $60,000 for sensitivity training. It almost seems that the men feel like they have to get their licks in before sensitivity statements must be signed and filed in their personnel records. You know one of the favorite defenses that men, especially white men like to claim is, “No one told me! How did I supposed to know something we have been doing forever was wrong. I think they are picking on me because I am a man, –and white.”

And I noticed how the media did not bother to blur out Draycott’s license plates on her SUV in the video. Like fireman Bill cannot call policeman Joe and find out where she lives.

15 Comments
  1. July 10, 2009 12:16 pm

    I have had particularly bad experiences with male firefighters. Men in packs – the way they house firefighters barracks-style – are so dangerous. Imagine if male board members were housed together. They can barely get together for just a lunch or dinner meeting without gathering at a strip club/brothel.

    • July 11, 2009 1:14 am

      Supposedly, most firehouses have separate quarters now for men and women. And yes there are men who try to whine and say “she has the whole bathroom to herself” and will be the first to turn around and use it against her. For instance, when I was the first female to go through particular training for future combat instructors (I don’t want to name the school/training), I was given an entire “Butler’s Building,” “Sea Hut” “ Barracks” (not sure what to call it but it was a very old building) to myself which included a large shower area with several shower heads and toilet stalls and sinks. After a day or night in the field, or a run or what have you and we were to shower and report to a certain location at an assigned time, so many men would complain how I was never late because I had plenty of hot water, shower heads, and sinks. I told them they were more than welcomed to use the showers and sinks and toilets after I was done, since so many of them were still milling about un-showered by the time I was through. But you know why they did not accept my offer? Because at the end of the program/training, the entire barracks and shower areas had to be spotless, and they did not want to have to help me clean the showers. They got more pleasure knowing that the job was entirely my own. Yes, on the last day they all thought it was so funny because they were through cleaning their showers and barracks hours before I was done. Not to mention how I was not given the place clean to begin with, and how it was obviously used by men before it was assigned to me, men who did not leave it clean, did I say that already? That is why I can so believe about the urine on the sinks and walls. Nasty bastards.

  2. July 10, 2009 2:42 pm

    Yeah, law enforcement/safety stuff really feeds into the dominance and entitlement that are already there. My male cousin is a cop and man, he is someone who should NOT be walking around with a gun.

    I have a friend who works in the trades and this is the kind of shit she has to deal with, though less extreme because at least she gets to go home every night. But the men complain that she has her “own” bathroom (because she is the only woman in the department — yeah, that’s really HER fault), they go in there and mess it up with their piss, they talk sexist racist crap constantly, AND she gets paid less than similarly qualified men. (She works for a public institution so all the jobs and pay grades are public record.) And you can just imagine what her employer’s reaction has been when she has tried to get these problems addressed.

    Post feminism my left butt cheek.

  3. July 11, 2009 12:55 am

    Post feminism my left butt cheek.

    Yup. I think I blinked and missed it – all of those ‘outrageous’ gains that women got (according to the MRAs anyways).

    We’re kinda still waiting for that equal pay dealio.

    • July 11, 2009 1:05 am

      I’m not trying to be a smart ass or even a dumb ass, but exactly who claims we are in a post-feminist, post-racist world? I know it has been a joke for some time, but are their people actually writing academic journals and stuff making such a claim? Or are we talking about talking heads, stuff that come out of the mouths of people like what Bill O’ Reilly and Obama’s people ? If someone is actually saying this shit in a serious vein, they really need to STFU!

  4. July 11, 2009 1:01 am

    And of course men will exploit this situation even further. The black men of The Black Firefighters Associations have wanted a change in leadership and are using this incident to make their case. I don’t doubt that black men are mistreated by the white men of the Houston Fire Department, however, I will not be surprise if/when the black men get what they want, the women (of all races) will still experience sexual harassment.

    In addition, there are already reports that the two women are being pitted against each other. Some are accusing the white woman of setting it all up because she has been disgruntled and some are accusing the black woman of setting it all up because she wants to sue. WTF?

  5. melim permalink
    July 11, 2009 2:18 am

    Did I read correctly in one of the articles that the two women are not working/being forced to use vacation time while the boys circle the wagons, oops, I mean conduct the investigation? !

    • July 11, 2009 2:25 am

      melim, your saucy tongue has been on a roll today! LOL! I know the women want a transfer, and I read how one council member (that lovely shaved head council woman J.J. wants an external investigation, I will come back later and fill in her name) but not sure if they are being forced to use vacation time. I would not doubt it. But I will keep reading and tell you when I learn something.

    • melim permalink
      July 11, 2009 2:34 am

      Yeah, my brain is actually functioning today for some reason, so everything comes out at once! Thanks for doing that– if I try to go back and find where I think I read it, my head will explode, and I’d like for that not to happen.

    • melim permalink
      July 11, 2009 2:42 am

      Ha! I prefer acid to saucy! Yes, I saw it. 😉

    • July 11, 2009 3:18 am

      Well I do roll words around all the time, considering connotations, schemata, intonations, etc. LOL! And I thought, is acid quite right?, no, no, acid just is not the same as saucy, but saucy is just not the same as acid. Maybe a saucid!

      You get acid next time.

  6. unmarrieddaughter permalink
    July 11, 2009 2:44 am

    I was a firefighter/medic, and while I shouldn’t be, let me just say I am sickened shocked that after almost 10 years away from the firefighting business, this shit is still going on in the firefighter land.

    The only difference between Firefighters and the Lord of the Flies boys, is that may be the city administrator will eventually say to the men, “knock this shit off, we can’t afford a harassment suit.”

    But more likely the woman will just be told to shut the fuck up and suck it, because she knew what it would be like when she joined up.

    • July 11, 2009 3:20 am

      And you know it all boils down to, “Oh noes it will be proven that the womenz can do the same job that we been crowing so long that no one but us menz can do. So we must get rid of them before the secret is revealed”

  7. unmarrieddaughter permalink
    July 12, 2009 3:36 am

    snip/#

    hat no one but us menz can do. So we must get rid of them before the secret is revealed”/end snip

    Snort! The only secret is that the menz are a bunch of big freaking babies who don’t want their clubhouse invaded.

    Newflash(from a woman who did the freaking job for almost eight years) the men don’t have any chops on the woman. Endurance? Women outlast men endurancewise, especially the older women get. Strength? It doesn’t take brute strength to put out a modern day fire. Brains? Um, men have the attitude of “put the wet stuff on the red stuff”, whereas in modern firefighting, there is much more than attacking a fire with sheer brawn going on.

    Yeah, men can talk about their brawny strength all they want, but in reality their whole he-man act puts more fireghters/civilians in danger than a woman who actually combines strength with her brains because she knows that her strength alone isn’t going to get the civillians out safely, keep her crew alive and put the fire out all at the same time.

  8. atheistwoman permalink
    July 12, 2009 10:39 pm

    Have any of you seen North Country? It covered similar abuse, but in mining. I loved it. I mean god when was the last time a movie was made about a working class woman, never.

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