Dildo "joke" spotlights sexual harassment at Amsterdam Fire Dept.

Firefighters' gear
Firefighters gear. (Wikimedia Commons)

A dildo left in the desk drawer of a female employee as a "joke", has shone a spotlight on sexual harassment in the Amsterdam Fire Department. This "joke" left the employee involved "severely upset", Fire Brigade Commander Leen Schaap wrote on the Amsterdam-Amstelland brigade's intranet earlier this month, AD reports.

The dildo was left in the desk of an administrative assistant at the Kazerne Willem in Amsterdam-Zuid in mid-December. In his response on the intranet, Schaap asks how this incident relates to the phenomenon, in which women revealed the prevalence of sexual harassment in numerous industries all around the world. "You must have lived under a rock if you don't know about this", Schaap wrote.

The Commander's reprimand was met with laconic reactions from some firefighters, according to the newspaper. "Fire is worse", one joked. Another called humor "the perfect lubricant for a healthy spirit". Another added: "I know many women who would be very amused if they found a dildo in their drawer... knowing that it is a joke."

"The corps leadership explicitly stated that this joke is not accepted", Carmen Westra, spokesperson for the Amsterdam Fire Department, said to the newspaper. "Laconic reactions were received, but it has also been said: we do not want this." According to her, firefighters at the Kazerne Willem brought the administrative assistant a flower and let her know that they are distancing themselves from the incident.

This is not the first time the Amsterdam fire department is under fire for inappropriate behavior. In January last year, now deceased Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan wrote a scathing letter to the city council about the . The letter was based on a report from Schaap, who was appointed commander of the department in June 2016. 

Shortly after this report was published, a . He was accused of frequently talking about "cancer Moroccans" and "black monkeys". The firefighter fought the suspension in court, and the judge eventually ruled that he should not be dismissed because the fire brigade never acted against such behavior.

After the firefighter's return, Van der Laan said, according to AD: "To our dismay we have learned that the verdict of the judge was celebrated by some within the organization as a victory over the corps leadership. Even worse: firefighters who had spoken out against the racist brigade are being intimidated and ignored."

In July Van der Laan wrote another letter to the city council saying that the culture in the Amsterdam Fire Department According to the mayor, Schaap's efforts to modernize the fire department and change the culture within the corps is continually hampered by the central works council and a group of 'old garde' firefighters. In his attempts to create a "normal organization", Schaap continually meets resistance. 

In November another

According to Westra, the discussion on the fire department intranet in response to the dildo incident shows that things are changing. "The fact that the corps leadership set a boundary and that people who agree with it dare to speak out, shows that we are taking steps. But we are not there yet", she said to the newspaper. 

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