Firefighters and Rapists

Words are important. They grab our attention and invoke emotion. They influence every aspect of our lives. They teach us how the world works.

I recently read an article about a town that is officially changing its use of language to be more gender non-specific. As a result, the word fireman will now be firefighter on all official documents.

Personally, I changed my use of that word a long time ago because of the strong young women who volunteered in our town. I also wanted my daughters to know that firefighting was a career option for them as well. If we continue to call them firemen all of the little non-boys won’t know that they can grow up to be firefighters. And they can!

You might have an issue with the change. A lot of folks do. Years ago when the Fireman’s Mutual Benevolent Association changed its name to Firefighters’… a lot of the fireMEN took issue with the change, citing tradition, wanting to keep things ‘the way it’s always been’, etc..

Some traditional folks take issue with gender non-specific language. If you do, that’s your prerogative, but take a moment to ask yourself why? Do you subconsciously believe that no women can fight fires? Do you feel that some women can’t fight fires as well as some men can? If you do believe that, of course that’s also your prerogative. But why do you believe it?

Is it possible that you feel this way because for most of your life you only heard the word fireman? And because of that word only little boys were allowed to dream of fighting fires?

I know a few strong women who have fought fires. I also know a lot more men who would never fight fires than men who do. And I think ALL children should be given the chance to dream and to work toward something, if they are physically, mentally, and emotionally suited for it.

So, firefighter it is! Because words are important. Especially to children. Words teach them how their world works.

Lately, and yet again, I’ve been triggered by the words that the media chooses to use. They sensationalize everything. They mold and twist language to fit their ad generating narrative. They perpetuate stereotypes and capitalize on our fears. And they constantly reinforce the patriarchy and rape culture.

I hate the word rape. I was raped as a child and I didn’t let that word pass through my lips until I was almost 50 years old. Probably because the word was never used. Or if it was used, it was shamefully whispered, like a curse word. If I had known the word when I was younger I might have spoken up when it happened to me. But I was a child, and I didn’t know the word. So I didn’t know how the world worked. Words are so important. Especially to children.

Recently Jeffrey Epstein has been in the news for crimes he allegedly committed. An article says that he ‘hired local underage girls for erotic massages and sex at his South Florida mansion’. It sounds much nicer than saying Epstein raped children at his house, then paid them to keep quiet. Underage women are actually children. Transporting a minor is actually kidnapping. The words ‘erotic massages’ and ‘sex’ make them sound like consensual acts. It’s not consensual with a child. Ever. It’s always rape. Always. Words are important. Especially to victims.

Likewise in the case of George Nader, the news reports that he ‘transported a minor from Europe to the US, to engage in criminal sexual activity’. This should read, George Nader abducted a child and trafficked him across the ocean and then raped that child. He was a child. He was abducted. And the ‘sexual activity’ was rape. Words are important. Especially to juries.

The words we choose to use, and the words we choose not to use influence people’s perceptions. They influence their opinions. They influence their choices, their voices, their fears, their silence, and their dreams. We must try to always choose our words with care and compassion, because they are so very important. Especially important.

Words teach us how the world works. And how it doesn’t.


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