Airlines aren’t traditionally the most female-friendly environments, and flight attendants‘ perceived value has always depended as much (if not more) on their appearance thans on their ability to pour coffee at extremely high altitudes. This isn’t just a relic of the Pan Am era: A 2011 survey felt it was very important to identify just which airlines boasted the “Hottest Flight Attendants“ (in case you’re wondering, Virgin Atlantic’s “red hotties” topped the list with 53%).
In South Korea, female flight attendants with Asiana Airlines just won the right to wear pants on the job, after 25 years of skirts as standard uniform requirement. Company officials overturned the pants ban after it was ruled discriminatory by South Korea’s human rights commission.
This glorious victory comes on the heels of a January rule change that overturned a ban on glasses. Wait, hold up, you mean women can wear glasses and still be attractive?! I guess not even South Korea is immune to Tina Fey’s “smart is sexy” charm.
Asiana’s strict rules governing the appearance of its female crew members covered more than eyewear and pants: The company reportedly has a 10 page dossier for women with rules about covering up facial blemishes, proper earring length, and appropriate use of eyeliner.
Male flight attendants are only asked to adhere to a scant two pages of rules and were allowed to wear glasses. This blatantly sexist double standard was justified by the idea that female flight attendants must project “high-class Korean beauty” for the airline to maintain a competitive edge.
Lest you think discriminatory, appearance-based employment laws and regulations are limited to far off lands, certain U.S. airlines have some pretty icky requirements, too. These airlines just have to be a bit sneakier about announcing and enforcing these rules in light of American anti-discrimination laws. While it’s illegal for airlines to have actual weight requirements for employees, it’s totally ok for the hiring party to assess a woman’s physical appearance and decide whether she’s hired based on if her height and weight are proportional.
Sometimes physical requirements here are shrouded in safety concerns—female flight attendants must be a certain hight in order to lift bags into the overhead compartment. They must be thin enough to move comfortably through the narrow aisles. But why am I just sure that even if the aisles weren’t quite so narrow, women’s waist’s still would be? And what’s the public safety argument against women with visible tattoos or piercings? I say trousered, tatted up, pierced, curvy, short girls would make ideal flight attendants.