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Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Sound the alarm

Can’t pin down these pin-ups

By Leigh E. Rich

Imagine our surprise when the latest pin-up calendar appeared in the office. We were shocked and a bit confused, hovering above the images, unsure what to make of all those women. All 12 months and not one cleavage shot. It’s mind-boggling.

We’d like to think the Women Firefighters 1998 Calendar ushers in new respect for the working woman. Published by Tom Boyz in San Francisco, we have to give due credit for moving beyond the typical cheesecake publication touting breasts, bikini lines and big rigs. Instead, this one depicts competent and proud women engaged in their careers, which is a far cry from posing spread-eagled across muscle cars.

But we’re not sure to whom it’s marketed. It appears a celebration of women past and present: Each month is so saturated with birthdays of famous women, even the most ardent feminist can up her knowledge. And from January to December, the fairer sex is decked out in firefighter garb, complete with hose and ax.

It’s sort of troublesome, actually—forcing femininity to exist somewhere between the familiar objectification of we whom Simone de Beauvoir labeled the “second sex” and the knee-jerk emulation of portraying women “just like men.” Posed tit-for-tat (so to speak) like their flame-retardant male counterparts, these beefy women merely reify the male-dominated status quo rather than challenge it.

Take Ms. May: a strange hybrid of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, simultaneously cute and ready to kick ass in the latest action thriller about firefighters. As Paula Poundstone once wrote, “I hate women. Instead of reaching our potential, we’re tied to the thought that says: ‘We want to do what men do.’ That’s why tobacco and gun companies target us.”

The Women Firefighters Calendar is a step, but a small step … in a size-12 boot. But we’ll wait for the female version of Studmuffins of Science (another favorite alternative pin-up around here), and see what photographers can do with a woman’s Bunsen burner. In the meantime, you can order the firefighter calendar by calling (415) 821-2178; or faxing (415) 821-3482.  

Rich, L. E. (1997, December 4). Media mix: Sound the alarm. Tucson Weekly.

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