Air India Express recently put out an ad for female cabin crew requiring ‘clear complexion without any blemish, even and regular teeth”. This is blatant, in your face objectification.
In a Hindustan Times story dated 3rd July, an Air India Express Limited call for hiring female cabin crew has been mentioned. In addition to eligibility conditions regarding BMI, height, educational qualifications and marital status there is a rather sexist mention of :
“Cosmetic appearance: Should be well groomed with Clear complexion without any noticeable blemish, no odd scars /birthmarks. Even and regular teeth.”
Earlier too in India, Spicejet was accused of similar sexualisation of a job profile.
Women flight attendants in particular are expected to fit into specific notions of sexual attractiveness. The same airlines list other jobs for men but make no mention of the candidate’s complexion, scars, birthmarks, teeth etc. The implication thus is obvious that other employees will be hired on the basis of other merits but women flight attendants shall undergo keen sexualised scrutiny and objectification of their bodies.
Aesthetic labour isn’t uncommon especially in the field of aviation. In fact both Pilot and Flight Attendant turned up in a list released by Tinder for the top 15 most-right-swiped jobs for men and women from November 2015 to January 2016.
In such jobs the feelings and appearance of employees are often commoditised, more so for women employees.
Some time ago, several PR agencies had claimed that government owned airlines were condemned and lost business because of “matronly” flight attendants. This led to a race to hire younger and “sexier” looking cabin crew in the name of providing emotional support to the fliers, as their primary job was to make travellers feel looked after and “served” well.
However it is not the job itself only that leads to the objectification, male cabin crew members have two additional years of age relaxation (they are accepted up to the age of 27) and also no emphasis for them on skin colour and teeth etc. Though there is evident pressure on appearance even long after the recruitment process. Cabin Crew has strict BMI norms to follow, but for women it just doesn’t stop at that.
There have been previous similar incidents too both in India and globally where women have been harassed and body shamed for cabin crew job recruitments and interviews.
A woman candidate who had applied to Garuda- the main Indonesian Airlines revealed in a news report that she and other women candidates for a cabin crew job were subjected to a health examination by a male doctor. This examination involved their breasts being fondled.
Garuda officials later said that this “hand examination” was done to detect implants to avoid any future health issues for the flight attendants if air pressure falls in-flight. This however is NOT a common procedure in most other global airlines.
Aviation Australia, another major worldwide airline sets the minimum requirement to always applying foundation, eye-shadow, mascara, blusher and lipstick. Their specific service handbook for women employees stipulates specific rules like getting their hair trimmed every 4-5 weeks, using a good quality shampoo, use appealing footwear etc.
Aviation experts generally opine airlines want to appear classy and high-end than their competitors. They want to market their service as luxurious and desirable. Hence there is extreme emphasis on youth and beauty to transmit that message of “attractive” service.
These kind of gender-specific beauty requirements are clearly employment discrimination. This “how-you-look-matters” is clearly a case of lookism as well as sexism.
Image source: YouTube
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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