I feel as though I need to begin with a disclaimer of sorts. I am not perfect. Sometimes I hold opposing ideas and views in my mind at the same time, perhaps prompting some to call me a hypocrite. I prefer to quote Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” Whatever you call it, it’s what makes me condemn misogyny & violence yet sweat it out to raunchy hip hop music. It’s what makes me speak of feminism and support positive images of women while thinking I like my flight attendants svelte and pretty. Huh? Yeah…
In 2005, Delta Airlines decided to go upscale and hire designer Richard Tyler to create a signature piece to add to their flight attendant [FA] uniform choices. Now, in addition to the slacks, blouses, skirts and blue dresses, female FAs can don a fierce red dress that almost looks too fab for the aisles of a 747. The dress makes a bit more sense when you hear the inspiration behind the design was a time when air travel was a classy affair, not a tiring inconvenience that we show up for in our pajama pants & hoodies (I see yall).
Not everyone was pleased with the new, attention-grabbing red dresses. Recently, the Association of Flight Attendants at Northwest (which includes Delta employees after the merger) filed a compkaint requesting that the red dress be made available in sizes larger than the current max, which is 18, up to a size 28. According to Patricia Reller, vice chairwoman of the grievance committee, “Red is a color that attracts attention and someone, somewhere has made a decision that they don’t want to attract attention to someone in a dress that’s larger than a size 18 … I’m very offended by it.” Reller and crew also have beef with the requirement that FAs who want to wear orthopedic shoes aren’t allowed to wear the skirt or dress uniform of any kind but must wear pants.
Here’s where my opposing thoughts come in. In defense of Reller and the union, the airline is improperly making a judgment call on what’s attractive and/or appropriate without regard to what it actually takes to perform the job. Under the law, there’s the term “bonafide occupational qualification” or BFOQ. A BFOQ basically refers to an employer’s right to discriminate if the criteria upon which the discrimination is based is directly related to the performance of the job. For instance, airlines may institute height requirements for the comfort and safety of the cabin crew and passengers. FAs must be able to reach certain above-head compartments or function appropriately in a small, low-clearance cabin. A size 28 woman in a red dress, however, is no different from a size 28 woman in a blue dress when it comes to pouring Sprite and demonstrating how a seatbelt works.
Could this be another message from society that only “beautiful” women should be seen (and by beautiful we mean size 18 or less)? Is Delta saying that women in skirts/dresses belong in heels because we want to see those shapely calves? God forbid that they’d rather be comfortable on a 6 hour flight and skip the pu Continue reading