Gendered expectations and consequences of disaster

This was a fascinating session of researchers and practitioners, looking at the the gender dimensions of disaster. Bob Pease spoke again about masculinity. We need to move beyond a socio-biologic model or sex role theory. Men need to experience vulnerability more, as they think they are invulnerable.

Deb Parkinson outlined the extraordinary research that she undertook after Black Saturday. This research lifted a lid on a very Uncomfortable truth in Australia. Evacuation is challenging for women who are in situations of intimate partners violence. Plans cannot be enacted when, there is a violent household. the interviews found one women had been left to die by her partner, who took the only car.One woman a week is killed by her partner

There are still heavily gendered bushfire responses. Men heroes, women passive. Women and children first is a myth, as is the notion of protection. Most women evacuate with their children alone, not protected.

Women are not recognised in firefighting and protecting homes and communities. Men get feted for heroism. Actions are aligned with gendered expectations, reported in an exaggerated way to reinforce  stereotypical roles

Christine Erickson spoke about what can humour do to unsettle privilege and invert established hierarchies

  • Humour is universal and particular
  • is social and antisocial
  • is mysterious and understandable

Humour can help women negotiate discriminatory practices in firefighters. It can exclude and address exclusion.  It be a source of support for women ” uniforms for pregnant women can also be used for potbellied men” But is can also be discrimination.

Humour as refuge, achieved by using laughter as a stress relief, particularly when laughing with other women. Its a safe space. Cynical/black or gallows humour is used by people in high risk occupations as coping and avoiding what they are afraid of.

Andrew Wilson-Annan is a CFA volunteer who moved to Australia in 1999, moved to Macedon, and became a volunteers. On Black Saturday, he was privileged to be in Humevale and Kinglake. He saw the consequences of that. Women and children were stranded on the road, abandoned by their husbands, unable to get guidance from them. The greatest argument in families is about fireplans, whether to stay or go, still after Black Saturday, it is still an issue.

Emergency services should reflect the community they serve.

Women talk about it, men don’t. They think about it, should I cry or not. Men do cry, just differently.

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