Here’s a 2016 story that reads like it’s 1968: new women employees working on the cabin crews of British Airways airline have, after a two-year legal battle, won the right to wear trousers on the job. The Guardian reports that the company’s dress code had only applied to women employed under crappier conditions after strikes by their union, Unite, in 2010.
That is, inveterate women employees were allowed to wear pants, but women who started working on planes for British Airlines during or after 2012 were required to wear skirts. Which is utterly bananas—not just because such an obligation is so archaically sexist one can hardly conjure what the point would be, but also because such uniforms left women employees vulnerable to the often overly cold air that occurs in-flight. The Guardian:
Unite regional officer Matt Smith said: “British Airways’ stance was unbefitting of a modern airline in the modern age, and demonstrates that Unite will not allow cases like this to go unchallenged.
“Not only is the choice to wear trousers a victory for equality it is also a victory for common sense and testament to the organising campaign of our members.
“Female cabin crew no longer have to shiver in the cold, wet and snow of wintery climates, but also can be afforded the protection of trousers at destinations where there is a risk of malaria or the Zika virus.”
In case this sounds like a dystopian one-off, let us all be aware that British Air was not the only offender; the Guardian notes that women on the cabin crews of Etihad and Virgin are required to wear skirts as part of their uniforms, though the latter may wear trousers “on a case by case basis.” Amazingly, both provided a pants option for their women employees until their uniforms were revamped by high fashion designers—Etihad’s by Italian couturier Ettore Bilotta, and Virgin’s by Dame Vivienne Westwood.
The party line for all, as reported by the Telegraph last year, is that no employees had complained—including British Airways, who said that management “had not received a request from female crew members to wear trousers in four years.” Clearly, that changed—and marks a victory for women in a line of work that’s been consistently gendered since it began, but is still so regressive it’s hard to comprehend.
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