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Into the Fire

Into the Fire: Disaster and the Remaking of Gender

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Into the Fire
    Book Description:

    Thoughtfully engaging yet theoretically sophisticated,Into the Firereveals how disasters bring traditional patterns of gender relations to light and often serve as catalysts for social change.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6684-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. 1 Black Fridays
    (pp. 3-17)

    There was no sun on the day I made my first trip to the regional forestry office. Known for its hot, arid summers, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia was uncharacteristically cool that year. As I started my two-hour commute, I wondered what the day would hold. Since it was overcast and chilly, the possibility of new fires was diminished, and the chance of finding firefighters at their base was reasonably good. After two weeks of interviews and fieldwork elsewhere, I had become accustomed to last-minute schedule changes and to empty offices, the firefighters having been called to a fire...

  7. 2 Methodological and Theoretical Road Map
    (pp. 18-33)

    Crises provide an opportunity for disruptions in the everyday production of gender. But how does one go about studying the doing and undoing of gender in these moments? What are the methodological practicalities of such an endeavour? Here I discuss the ways in which an empirical analysis of the intractability and malleability of gender can be undertaken, and describe in some detail the methods used in this case study.

    I began by identifying key contacts through newspaper reports (following Cornwell, Curry, and Schwirian 2003), the BC Ministry of Forests’ website, and personal connections with local residents. I invited the contacts...

  8. 3 Firefighting Is a Man’s Game: Organizational Cultures and Practices
    (pp. 34-49)

    As far back as the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, structural firefighting was symbolically and numerically a world of men. Public visibility and the nature of the work — fighting the most feared of nature’s elements and saving lives and property — meant that the firemen of yore were celebrated as exemplary models of chivalrous and heroic manhood (Cooper 1995). This tradition lives on in the iconic image of the quintessentially courageous, strong, and selfless male firefighter (Childs, Morris, and Ingham 2004; Tracy and Scott 2006).

    Wildland firefighters do not enjoy the same cultural prestige (Desmond 2007); nevertheless, the occupational culture...

  9. 4 ‘We Felt Like We Lost’: Explaining Failure and Rescuing Masculinity
    (pp. 50-65)

    Firefighters are mandated to protect communities, natural resources, and lives. This imperative is reflected in the mission statement of the forestry administration centre in which the fire occurred: “We will protect life and property and natural resources from catastrophic wildfire impacts” (BC Ministry of Forests, Protection Branch 2004a). This ethic of protection is also evident in job and organizational titles, such as Forest Protection Officer and Protection Branch. Likewise, structural firefighters feel that they have an occupational duty to protect people, homes, and other structures. The first statement on their website reads, “The goal of the Kelowna Fire Department is...

  10. 5 Navigating Hierarchy and Contesting Masculinities
    (pp. 66-86)

    Structural firefighters have long been admired by the general public, a phenomenon that did not appear to wane after the Mountain Park fire. Wildland firefighters, by comparison, were keenly aware that they did not garner the same respect, praise, and resources as did the structural firefighters, despite their extensive efforts to contain the fire. This generated a great deal of intergroup tension and animosity, which continued to smoulder nearly a year after the last flames had been extinguished. I heard numerous disparaging comments (largely unsolicited) that were often, although not exclusively, directed at the City of Kelowna firefighters, especially the...

  11. 6 Working with the Other: Resistance, Accommodation, and Reproduction
    (pp. 87-104)

    Losing the battle against the Mountain Park fire, and the presence of a social hierarchy, presented challenges for the doing of gender in the firefighters’ workplaces. However, these potential catalysts for gender change were largely contained via the structural organization of the firefighting efforts, the work of the media as reputational entrepreneurs, and the firefighters’ discursive attempts to reconstruct themselves as competent and appropriately gendered workers. The picture revealed thus far is a relatively discouraging one for gender change. What remains to be examined, however, is the way in which the men reacted to the women firefighters who laboured by...

  12. 7 Out of the Ashes
    (pp. 105-120)

    The project began with a focus on gender instability and change. I have proposed that crises like the Mountain Park fire disrupt the mundane and, thus, have the potential to destabilize gender relations. I have identified several crisis tendencies that made the regular day-to-day doing of gender problematic, and I have made the case that these tensions could be catalysts for gender change. Specifically, I suggested that widespread damage to property and valuable resources troubled the notion that current configurations of firefighting masculinity were necessary for success and threatened to rupture the link between proficient firefighting and masculinity. I also...

  13. Appendix: Dilemmas, Tensions, and Contradictions in Feminist-Inspired Research
    (pp. 121-132)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 133-136)
  15. References
    (pp. 137-156)
  16. Index
    (pp. 157-167)