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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are Religion and Uniforms a Bad Mix?

I am a fan of a Duggars and have been for years.  Their ultra-conservative and almost carnival-esque reproducing skills intrigue me.  As the television show's seasons have progressed the episodes have shifted focus from the mundane daily tasks they complete in adaptive, unique ways, to more out of character challenges that seem fitting with the longevity of the show and a necessary content filler when there are not impending babies.  In the latest challenge the Duggars chronicled the experience of two of the older Duggar daughters joining the local fire department.  When their excessively modest lifestyle collides with the ambulance it creates a dilemma pinning their religious beliefs against professional uniforms. 

If you have never seen the Duggars they, like other ultra-conservative Christains, believe that women should not wear pants.  The Duggar women never separate their legs with fabric, but rather wear below the knee length skirts at all times. 

It is this religious clothing choice that creates the uniform dilemma the girls face in the television episode.  When they join the fire department with ambitions to follow the footsteps of their brother and untilize their first responder training they discover something horrifying to their beliefs.  Pants.  

The traditional uniform in an ambulance for both men and women are specifically designed pants and boots.  The rationalization behind the uniform is like any uniform, functionality, safety, and fostering a cohesiveness amongst the crew that is distinguishable from lay people on an emergency scene.  Basically, if you're at an accident scene you want to be able to easily pick out the EMTs from the injured and the EMTs need to be safe and able to care for others in all different types of weather and situations.  

To bridge the gap between skirt and pant the Duggar girls went to a local army navy store and purchased EMS pants.  They then converted said pants into a below the knee length skirt to wear on the ambulance for the local fire department.  With cameras and television crew in tow the girls walked into the tiny town's fire department and confronted the chief with their outfit in hopes of mass compliments and acceptance of it for ambulance duty.  Topping off their ensemble, each girl's shoes were simple flats that  were a cross between sandals and Mary Janes.  Under the bright lights of the production crew the chief mumbled "ok" in regards to the uniform and as the girls left he could be heard snickering at what had just transpired.  

As a female EMT/firefighter I can't help, but to feel dismayed and disappointed in the Duggar's idea of integration of their beliefs into the EMS and fire service, especially with the intimidation of a television camera.  While the preservation of religious beliefs is very important to me I can't help, but to feel the Duggar's attire as innappropriate for the job they are trying to fulfill.  Skirts are just not meant for the ambulance.

So, why shouldn't skirts be acceptable on an ambulance?  Anyone that has worked as an EMT (as I have for the better part of a decade) will tell you that the job is not an easy one.  Patients can be anywhere from the bottom of ditches, laying in the middle of icy roads, and up five flights of stairs with no elevator.  Skills have to be preformed in darkness and cramped space.  A skirt severely inhibits range of motion and control of one's lower body, which is desperately needed on the job.  Wearing something such as a skirt risks the EMT not being able to provide the best care possible.  Ultimately that is the only job of an EMT.

While the Duggar daughters accepted the fact that they wouldn't be able to fight fires, because they realized they couldn't somehow run into a burning building wearing a skirt, they refuse to acknowledge that wearing a skirt is just as controversial in an ambulance as it is on the fire scene.  
I won't even discuss the shoes....

Safety aside, women in the line of fire and EMS, have worked to utter exhaustion for decades to shed the discrimination and stigma associated with their gender.  For the Duggar daughters, on television broadcasted across the nation, to don skirts and demand distinction in their way of dress from their male counterparts is beyond disappointing.  It boils down to a laze fair view of the prehospital profession and that  is what makes it so difficult for anyone to be paid a fair wage in what is already the lowest paid health care career.

While some, or many, of you may not agree, I think that the Duggar daughters should not be allowed to work on the ambulance if they do not uphold the same uniform standards as the other EMTs.  I also think that it is completely unfair of them to force the issue with the fire department chief on camera for their popular television show where he was pressured to make a decision under scrutiny of religious and public eyes who lack the understanding as to why uniforms are so integral to emergency work.  If the girls felt doing the job compromised their beliefs they should have considered if the job was right for them at all. 

Do you agree?  Disagree?


Anonymous said...

FWIW I can't do anything in pants. I have always worn dresses and that is what I am comfortable in. If I wear pants I feel limited in bending/moving. I'd imagine it's the same for them.

Gabriella said...

I agree, in that attire they are risking injury in a situation where they are supposed to be helping someone else.
I think if you are going to have such strict beliefs, you need to find where you can fit in instead of forcing (and intimidating) the situation to suit you.

especially today, if those girls get hurt in that getup, who gets sued? Probably that poor man ends up fired.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. The Duggars should be able to wear what they want when they want, unless it is a hazard to their safety. Instead of seeing it in the negative light when they presumably "forced," the fire chief to agree with their standards, one should perceive it as standing up for what they believe.

It may be viewed as ridiculous to wear skirts all the time, but that's what their believes and convictions are, and that should be respected.

I do not mean it in a harsh way, but that's how I view it. :)

Kindly yours,

Anonymous said...

As a female ff/emt myself I think it's great that they are trying to keep their religion and be on the fire department. We do not know the policy of the department, my department has a if you want to wear shorts or a skirt you have to wear at least your bunkers. This could be a station only wear and they put bunkers on for calls. I have seen them in full turnout gear, ie. pants. And they choose to wear pants if you have watched any of their shows they say that they are not forced to wear pants but choose to wear them. Get your facts before you go on a rant.

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