What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of an air hostess? Good looks?  A certain kind of dressing or mannerism? But is that all that is to being a flight attendant? Aren’t these crew members trained in saving our lives in case of emergency situations, and various technical aspects which are critical in a safe flight, locking the main door before flight for instance? Even helping women in delivering a child, as it happened on-board a Turkih Airlines flight in 2017. So then why is it that we still hold this stereotypical view regarding flight attendants, discrediting all the hard work they put in to make our journeys safe and comfortable, reducing them to objects, meant to be gawked at?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • We often reduce the job of air hostesses to just looking pretty.
  • This objectification makes them very susceptible to sexual harassment.
  • Flight attendants are responsible for our safety and comfort.
  • We practically place our lives in their hands and thus should behave accordingly with them.

Why is it that we still hold this stereotypical view regarding flight attendants, discrediting all the hard work they put in to make our journeys safe and comfortable, reducing them to objects, meant to be gawked at?

A recent Twitter thread pointed out at how common it was among people to not see beyond physical beauty of flight attendants. But this isn’t just a very Indian problem at hand. Objectification of flight crew and reduction of their job profile to just looking pretty or smart, depending on their gender, is a world-wide problem. Their sexualisation often leads people to crossing boundaries of acceptable behaviour with them, as they feel, this is also a part of the ‘service’ they are entitled too. And if you think it is rare for flight attendants to face sexual harassment think again.

A study by the Association of Flight Attendants, published in 2018, revealed that nearly two-thirds of flight attendants in the U.S. have experienced sexual harassment during their flying careers. More than one-in-three flight attendants admitted to having experienced verbal sexual harassment from passengers, while one-in-five said they experienced physical sexual harassment from passengers, in the last year alone. Objectification and limited understanding of their job profile play a big role in these figures. As the conversation from the Twitter thread reveals, most people expect their cabin crew to be pretty, glamorous, and thus inevitably open to flirting and inappropriate touching. People forget that at the end of the day, being a flight crew is a job and no job in the world accepts harassment as part and parcel of its profile.

In fact, this callous attitude could only put your own life and that of your dear ones in danger. As AFA President Sara Nelson said while speaking on survey findings, “Flight attendants are first responders. Their authority when responding to emergencies is undermined when they are belittled and harassed. Likewise, harassment makes it more difficult for flight attendants to intervene when passengers are harassed by other passengers.”

People forget that at the end of the day, being a flight crew is a job and no job in the world accepts harassment as part and parcel of its profile.

To curb the harassment which flight crew faces, we need to change the mind-set which leads to it. The general public needs to understand that there is more to being a flight crew than just looking the part. The aviation industry has itself realised this and changes are slowly showing up at the horizon. In March this year, Virgin Atlantic announced that make up was no longer a requisite for flight attendants and that it will also be including a pair of trousers in the uniform for its female flight attendants.

These are bold and essential moves which all airlines must embrace. The aviation industry must make it clear to their passengers that these men and women aren’t there to please their eyes; they are there to make their journeys happen. It is not just about smiling at you kindly or serving you tea or coffee. Your life is in the hands of these women and men and you better behave accordingly.

Picture Credit: New York Times

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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