9/23/05

Scroll Down for Naked Firefighters

The other day, during an emergency lunch-hour haircut in preparation for a fancy fundraising dinner that evening, the man cutting my hair commented that he enjoys working on the street our offices share because of the fire station nearby. "Oh?" I said, as he expertly snipped at my overgrown headscape. "Oh, yes," he answered, "We love it. Not so much for you, but for us it's great fun to look at all the firemen going past our window in the springtime."

*****

At the dinner that night, I was equally outnumbered by people who prefer males to females. It was a fashion show of sorts, in support of a very good cause: providing disadvantaged women with suits and self-confidence to help them get better jobs. It's such a good cause, in my opinion, that Penelope and I happily donate our design and writing services to the organization for brochures and ads and so forth, which is how we got the invite for the dinner.

The show featured prominent local businesswomen, as well as women helped by Dress For Success in the past few years, all gussied up in the latest styles and strutting around on a runway in this big ballroom. Before the strutting, though, we watched a short video documentary about all the good being done by the group, and it was truly inspirational, featuring slow cross-fades, cheesy piano music and hilariously impassioned vocal stylings that nonetheless worked perfectly and had Penelope, me, and everyone else digging for our checkbooks.

When the lights came up, it was announced that donations would now be collected by a squad of volunteers. And that these volunteers would be no ordinary group of volunteers; they would be: the Indianapolis Fire Department. Foolishly, I hoped for dalmatians.

Sure enough, strapping gents streamed into the room, each one toting his overturned fire helmet, working his way amongst the tables and outstretched arms waving donation envelopes. There was minor hooting by the assembled businesswomen, which the firemen seemed to take in stride, smiling continually and scanning over the tops of all the perfect hair-dos for more waving envelopes. "Good cause," I would have been thinking to myself if I had been one of those firemen. "Good cause."

Later, though, I had to ask Penelope: "What's the deal with firefighters?" Why is this occupation now unanimously considered such a hunky thing to be? I already knew the answer - they're public servants who exist solely to perform heroic acts. That's more or less the masculine ideal, as long as you don't develop emphysema from smoke inhalation or get accidentally burned anyplace visible. They're like cops who never pull you over, or soldiers who never fight wars you disagree with.

The bigger question burning in my mind, though, was this: why is it okay for a room full of women to openly ogle these guys? And why is it automatically expected that every woman in attendance will want to? Surely not every one of the 700 local businesswomen there was heterosexual. I'm starting to sound like a hypersensitive knee-jerk liberal, I know.

Seriously, though — "Okay ladies, remember: you're supporting a great cause and you get to look at some firemen!"? To me that indicates our society has gotten very comfortable with the idea of objectifying men. And that's disappointing.

Everyone knows there are men who get together in groups and stare at collections of women. The difference is that the places where these men do this don't have any windows.

Would the local Freemasons host a dinner featuring roving nurses? Not openly, they wouldn't.

You may say that exploitation based on gender has always existed, and always will, and that forcing people to conceal it doesn't really solve the root problem, and I'd agree. But it's a start.

I look forward to a time in which women treating men like pieces of meat is considered just as inappropriate as the inverse, and I'd rather not think about what it says about human nature when the half of the population that is only now beginning to get equal respect and make its voice heard immediately uses that voice to commit the same dumb crimes against its former oppressors. It reminds me of fraternity/sorority hazing, and that asinine practice's sad perpetuality.

And don't get me started on the dumb guy/brilliant wife stereotype found in half the sitcoms on TV. I realize it goes back to Fred Flintstone and up through beloved Raymond, but mark my words, there will come a day when moronic husbands propped up and manipulated by their all-knowing spouses (and unabashed fireman-lust, while we're at it) are in the same category as nerdy Asians, miserly Jews, snarky homosexuals and slutty blondes. Oh - and drunk Irishmen, while I'm at it.

It'll go from clean joke to dirty joke to not even funny.

For some reason I just thought we were already there.

9 comments:

jill said...

Colin: Just to let you know: If I'm understanding your post correctly, and I think I am; If I had been in that room when the firefighters came in, my head would have gone done (not like that either!) and my eyes shut. I'm not a prude, just really shy, and to me that is something that should be between two people in private. Was it advertised this would happen? I'd have been really upset if it wasn't and probably not donated, or return in following years.

Anonymous said...

They were all clothed. In full uniforms up to their necks. No naked firefighters... Just for the record.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole-heartedly with the fact that it is sexist, clothed or unclothed. Maybe the firemen asked if they could contribute to the cause though... I dunno.

-p

Anonymous said...

Naked firefighters and pirates... this blog is the BEST.

xo Wee

Anonymous said...

in my mind, they really truly and still are naked. And prancing.

xo Wee

Anonymous said...

both the pirates AND the firefighters.

x Wee

Anonymous said...

because I am a witless neanderthal. :D

xo Wee

p.s. I really don't get the firefighter thing. I have friends who are all a-twitter about firemen, but mostly I just think a) they are almost uniformly too bulky and b) i just can't help but imagine all the sleepless tortured nights I would experience as the partner of one of these heroic he-men, wondering if tonight was the night that my beloved would become a crispy critter. I realize that it IS a heroic and necessary occupation, but still... I just can't imagine living my life with that the constant threat of widow-hood hovering over me. I'm plenty neurotic enough, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Colin-
Well said. One of the reasons I keep the tube off is the ridiculous stereotypes, my own particular teeth-grating one being the "precocious" (read smart-ass) kids. They do show up in radio commercials, and I just cringe in the car.

Prejudice, based on age or gender or race or ethnicity, is wrong and really quite stupid. I remember when you were in kindergarten, you asked me what color you were. I said beige.

As one who experienced job discrimination full-on ("We don't hire women for engineering positions"), wage discrimination full-on (at AUL, the guy working next to me, with the same degree and 6 months' less experience, made twice my salary), and other more subtle forms of gender discrimination, I am so insulted by females who think they can turn males into objects and think it's fun.

I'm glad you wrote this.

Love and hugs
YM

Luke Renner said...

Why nurses?
I think the lodge should ogle over cleaning ladies.

I like big butts and I cannot lie. :D

Cheers!
Luke