No respect

Published on January 23, 2016
The Telegram

It’s amazing how many ways one can rationalize playing a pornographic video at the end of an instructional session for firefighters.

• It was just so everyone could relax after a long day.

• It was only a joke.

• It was related to the theme of the session.

• It was only 23 seconds long.

Those were the explanations given by an instructor who played the clip at the end of a day of training for firefighters in Spaniard’s Bay.

Jeremy Hall has since been removed from Fire and Emergency Services’ list of trainers.

Here’s one thing Hall seemed to miss — something that completely erases all the other mitigatory factors: it’s a pornographic video.

Let that sink in a bit. When was the last time an instructor played a pornographic video in a class you were taking?

There are a lot of men, let alone women, who would find that cringeworthy. Now imagine you’re the only woman in a shop full of men watching it.

There are no words.

The truth is, there is simply no way to justify playing a porno flick at a training session, unless you’re training porn stars.

Now, Spaniard’s Bay is in turmoil. Residents’ lives have apparently been upended by Brenda Seymour — a woman who says she wants to make sure things are done properly at the fire station, and inexplicably doesn’t want to put up with lewd taunts.

But hold on a minute.

We’re being told we don’t know the whole story. There’s another side to it. What is it? Well, it’s hard to tell, since most of the 20 firefighters who stepped down in protest this week aren’t talking. And that includes fire Chief Victor Hiscock.

A few have broken their silence: the instructor. of course, and one of the former firefighters, as well as a number of wives and other supporters of the old guard.

Sadly, what they’ve said so far has only dug the hole deeper.

In their minds, Seymour is the problem. She’s too ambitious. She’s in a conflict of interest because she also sits on council. She hates the chief for no good reason. She’s no good at her job (or too good). She can’t take a joke. And the list goes on.

Perhaps blinded by emotion, these people have somehow lost the plot.

So here’s a refresher.

You don’t sexually harass a woman in the workplace. Ever. You just don’t.

You may be the bravest firefighter in the province; that doesn’t give you licence to be a Neanderthal back at the shop.

If some people find Seymour abrasive or condescending or hard to get along with, that’s another issue. But nothing excuses the behaviour she’s faced at the fire hall. Nothing.

“Support our men” was the message on several signs at a protest Thursday night.

Have these women seen or experienced the devastation sexual discrimination can cause? Do they realize how long it’s taken for women to gain even a shred of respect in ordinary workplaces, let alone unconventional ones?

Respect our men? Let’s see them earn it first.