Breast pumping story is about dignity, not special treatment

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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.

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