London Fire Brigade accuses BBC of sexism after term fireman is used in CBeebies show

The BBC has been accused of sexism by the London Fire Brigade [Photo: BBC]
The BBC has been accused of sexism by the London Fire Brigade [Photo: BBC]

Another day, another sexism row. This time the London Fire Brigade is upset with the BBC after the term fireman was used instead of firefighter in a children’s television programme.

Taking to Twitter, an account for crews based in Greenwich, London posted a series of tweets after a character was referred to as a fireman in CBeebies show ‘Hey Duggee’.

“Isn’t it sad when one of our longest serving firefighters, a woman who fought the King’s Cross fire 30 years ago, still has to watch TV with her two-year-old grandson and explain why the squirrel in Hey Duggee…is referred to as a ‘fireman’,” the tweet thread began.

“This term is VERY outdated and the term ‘firefighter’ is the preferred, respectful, inclusive, non-sexist, non-gendered term that should be widely used by all media but especially the BBC.”

The CBeebies programme Hey Duggee used the term fireman instead of firefighter [Photo: BBC]
The CBeebies programme Hey Duggee used the term fireman instead of firefighter [Photo: BBC]

Another post went on to add. “Women have been firefighting for over 40 years now…Non-sexist, all-inclusive terminology is important if we want to encourage girls, as well as boys, to be future firefighters.”

During the episode in question, titled ‘Dressing up Badge’ the cartoon characters dressed up in roles such as a pirate, farmer and plumber, while Roly the Hippo said that he was going to dress up as a fireman.

The show encouraged one retired female firefighter to open up about how she had been forced to address the gender stereotyping issue with her grandson.

“I was one of the first few women firefighters in the LFB back in the 80s,” she wrote on the Greenwich fire brigade Twitter thread.

“I did 30 years service and have been retired for nearly three years…It breaks my heart to still have to point this out – especially whilst viewing it with my grandchildren.”

Following the criticism, a BBC spokeswoman told The Telegraph that a number of roles had been depicted in the show and that the roles were occupied by girl characters as well as boys, and was done “without comment and infers these roles are all gender neutral”.

She added: “CBeebies strives to avoid stereotyping and looks to celebrate strong female role models with characters such as Nina who is a scientist, Go Jetters’ Zuli who is a pilot, and female engineer, Bitz, in upcoming series Bitz and Bob.”

The criticism follows the launch of the London Fire Brigade’s campaign ‘Firefighting Sexism’ which started in October last year following the appointment of new commissioner Dany Cotton who is keen to tackle gender stereotypes within the fire service.

Ms Cotton, who became the first female commissioner of London Fire Brigade, said she wanted to drop the term fireman in the hope of encouraging more women to become firefighters.

“The first woman firefighter joined London Fire Brigade in 1982 and it’s ridiculous that 35 years later people are still surprised to see women firefighters or calling them firemen,” she said.

“I want to shake off outdated language which we know is stopping young girls and women from considering this rewarding and professional career.

“We owe it to tomorrow’s firefighters to challenge negative stereotypes today.”

It isn’t the first time a children’s TV programme has courted controversy. In September last year Emmerdale star Adam Thomas kickstarted a parenting debate about the TV programme Horrid Henry and whether or not kids should be allowed to watch it.

“Anyone else banned there [sic] kid from watching horrid Henry or is it just us?” he wrote on Twitter.

The 30-year-old went on to explain that his three-year-old son, Teddy’s behaviour seemed to deteriorate after watching the programme.

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