CSU, Chico News

Visiting Sociologist to Present Research on Gender in Firefighting: ‘Extinguishing the Embers of Dissent’

Date: 03-01-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
James E. Sutton
Department of Sociology

Would white male firefighters be more or less open to changing their ideas about what it takes to be a successful firefighter after a disastrous outcome to a wildfire? This was the question that Professor Shelley Pacholok, sociologist at the University of British Columbia at Okanagan, posed as she researched the aftermath of a devastating wildfire in British Columbia, Canada.

Pacholok, invited to campus by Professor James Sutton, Department of Sociology, California State University, Chico, will deliver a paper “Extinguishing the Embers of Dissent: Justifying Failure and Rescuing Masculinity” on Monday, March 7 at 3 p.m. in Students Services Center 150. The talk is free and open to the public.

Traditionally, said Pacholok, “Firefighters have long kept others from their ranks by claiming that successful firefighters must embody particular physical and mental characteristics.” Those characteristics, she said, follow a pattern of masculinity that, by definition, excludes women and marginalized men.

“What happened when a workplace crisis [the B.C. firefighters’ inability to contain the wildfire] threatened to undermine the logic on which firefighters’ claims rest?” asked Pacholok. “‘Did their strategies [to deal with rationalizing the failure] further entrench gender inequality or did the crisis open up possibilities for change in gender relations?”

Pacholok earned her doctoral degree in sociology at The Ohio State University in 2007. She is interested in opportunities for gender disruption during times of change or crisis. For the past three years, she has been working on a comparative project on middle-income families in the United States and Canada where she is examining whether gender roles were disrupted or further entrenched as parents negotiated the challenges presented by the recent economic downturn.

For more information on Pacholok’s visit, please call James Sutton at 530-898-6657 or e-mail him at jesutton@csuchico.edu.