Love Those Calendar Girls

A note from Billy G: We received a few letters in the past 90 days about us boys and girls in the fire service, specifically about behavior as well as exhibit displays at conventions and conferences, sex at the shows, the beautiful sexy calendar, scantily clad bunker gear babes-you know, all that stuff. I have addressed this before but I thought given recent issues, headlines, and social media, I would address it again. Enjoy!

Dear Nozzlehead,

I just came back from a regional fire show and, while I thought it was a cool program, I was surprised at several exhibitor booths that had half-dressed women, some claiming to be firefighters, working their booths and displaying their bodies. I’m confused. Part of me loved looking at them and part of me felt it was stupid. It certainly doesn’t give any of them credibility if they truly are firefighters.

Maybe it’s me, but what’s the deal with exhibitors having these women show off their front and rear ends at fire conferences? Honestly, I love looking at them (including the hot calendar chicks), but I am so confused about the mixed messages between the shows, the fire station, firefighters being offended, firefighters getting in trouble with the laws, etc. I don’t know what to stare at!

-Conflicted in Colorado

Dear Conflicted,

Over the years, others have written very similar letters, and my response has not changed. While I joke about a lot of stuff and try and keep things in perspective, quite frankly, the more I see women firefighters posing at these shows, the more I have difficulty accepting the role of those women in the fire and rescue service. That’s just how I feel.

There is absolutely no reason for those women firefighters (or pretenders) to be dressed the way they are other than to exploit themselves. And while exploiting their gender may be good in some cases, in this case they are strictly using their physical appearance to attract men to the booth. And some of them are not firefighters but rather just hot women hired by the company to display their bodies to get firefighters to “take a look.”

Because I feel the same way about this issue now as I did several years ago, what follows is an excerpt from the April 2003 Nozzlehead column, “Fire Hotties”:

“I have attended fire shows for nearly 35 years and have always gained information and knowledge from the items on display. I also enjoy watching the many different methods the exhibitors use to sell their products. They remind me of those old Wild West or turn-of-the-century movies where different community businesses did whatever it took to attract customers-early marketing strategies. Sometimes they would display a nice wooden sign with the word ‘Saloon’ and a drawing of a beer carved into it. Others would show off a striped pole, indicating the business was a barbershop. Still, others had women lounging around on the front porch or hanging out a window with their front-end discharges busting out of their dresses and blouses.”

Were they advertising? Ya think? They were advertising what they had for sale, or should I say what their business owners were pimping (er, selling). Marketing. Like it or not, that’s the way it was and sometimes still is. And that’s exactly what some of the exhibitors look like at almost all of the fire shows and conferences.

Vendors at professional fire service trade shows aren’t advertising women for the same purposes as mentioned above. So then, what are they using these women for? Let’s focus on what exhibitors have to do-surround their booths with Kimmy K’s twin cousins-to get some of us to look at their booths and accidentally see their products. To me, that’s the issue.

Many excellent fire service manufacturers and sellers exist. The majority in the business spent years developing their products to ensure they will make a difference in our jobs. With that said, there are also a lot of crummy products out there that can only be sold using extreme marketing tactics, such as having Miss Fewclothes 2016 stand in front of the booth so some boys and some girls will pay attention to their product. Simply put: If manufacturers have to use a woman (and that’s exactly what they’re doing, using the woman) to spark interest in their product, they may want to reconsider the product’s value.

When I brought up this point to a vendor, he said, “Just look at them lining up at our booth!” OK, Kanye, yeah, they line up but not to see your turnout coat. They line up to see Miss Scantily Clad 2016. The vendor went on to say, “Yeah, but once we have them in the booth, we can sell, sell, sell!” I doubt it. I’ll bet those aren’t the decision makers. Sure, a few firefighters who don’t get out much may become overwhelmed by that woman’s “features” and get conned into buying that vendor’s stuff, but they are few and far between. In fact, don’t be naive. Quite frankly, in 2016 there are numerous fire department leaders who will absolutely NOT look at a product for that reason.

I AM SO CONFUSED.

Another concern you mentioned is the skin calendars. Some manufacturers allow calendar girls and boys to use their booths to sell their calendars for charity. Some official fire department foundations even do it to raise money. I understand that the charities are operating to raise money for burn victims and related good causes. But here’s the deal: In one newspaper article, I read that a firefighter is upset and suing because he was/is offended by these kinds of pictures at the firehouse. On the other hand, the same fire department’s foundation is selling pictures of half-naked Bobby Buttocks and Betty Boobs in bunker gear. Confused? Join the rest of us.

Am I against women, men, and manufacturers having the right to do this? Well, this is America. Do what you want with anticipated results. Do I think it’s offensive? These days, it seems everything offends someone, and it’s a shame that we’ve become that sensitive in some cases. However, with so many good women and other nontraditional fire service members working hard to simply succeed, this doesn’t help the cause at all. Not at all.

Sometimes deciding the right or wrong in all of this is as simple as imagining your Mom on one of your shoulders and your chief on the other-sort of like the devil and the angel. Or having your wife, partner, husband, daughters, or Granny with you, watching you all the time. Now, with them watching, what’s the best way to behave, operate, sell, or market?

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