The sky is full of sexism

Sneha (name changed), is a 28 year old flight attendant in (domestic) airlines who enjoys being approached as a cabin crew member rather than the ambiguous designation of flight attendant like her consider it. It was not easy for Sneha to quit a secure banking job which was highly revered by her father due to the job security and the straightforward nature of the job profile. This meant that Sneha, who lives in a small, middle-class nuclear family with her mother, father, and older sister, had a strict time limit for coming home at 7 p.m. and banking work provided that luxury.

“I saw a friend of mine who was a cabin crew member and the freedom she had in terms of mobility because of her job, she would go out of the house any time of the night because her job was demanded and had no time restrictions at all, ”explains Sneha who finally decided to take her chances and gave an interview to another competing airline where she was rejected because she weighed half a kilo less than what was the strict requirement set for recruiting. Sneha was really bogged down by this incident and continued her banking job for another three years until she had to quit her job due to a misunderstanding about her job. place of work and decided once again to give an interview to Spice Jet Airlines where she had been working for five years now.

In those five years of flying national and international routes, Sneha has seen it all and hesitantly declares that sexual objectification is an unnecessary hurdle in her profession that every female cabin crew must pass through. She has now understood the many issues and challenges that the job offers which many she says she has found a way to cope with while others will only change over time as the profession evolves for the better in India taking into account gender principles. gender equality and justice while taking positive steps to break down the existing prejudiced and stereotypical understanding of a flight attendant in society.

“I am even trained to deliver a baby in flight as well as many other skills that require in-depth knowledge and study for hours and people still think that a female cabin crew is just a beautiful waitress not qualified who is there to serve them, “says Sneha as she mentions that it is often the educated male passengers who have such an understanding about them, which clearly implies that educating people has nothing to do with prejudice that they have, in fact, gender injustice, gender violence, misogyny and sexism can never be the reverse proportional to education. She believes that while the nature of education is patriarchal, it only contributes to such gender insensitivity.

In her five years of service, Sneha has experienced everything from daily sexual objectification which has almost become part of her job as she clearly states that her weight is checked monthly and that with age he becomes difficult to maintain the same weight which the airline demands. She also doesn’t forget to mention that her company has a clear rule that the dress should be at least four fingers above knee length and the nuisance caused by her skin-colored stockings which she says it is highly unsuitable for bad weather. “Well when I stand at Leh Airport in front of the plane door in this dress and smile at the passengers entering the plane while I’m freezing it gets really tough. The dress should be suitable for the weather. Likewise, in summer, I operate in extremely hot places and I can’t even wash my face because the makeup would come off and so I end up only applying makeup to my face to fight against the sweat that comes ”, adds Sneha. .

Sneha faces many medical conditions that excessive theft can cause, but she is unaware that her medical conditions are related to her excessive theft, however she perceives that her medical issues could be due to her job but was amazed to learn the facts. information regarding the relationship between excessive theft and risks to physical and mental health. She mentions unruly passengers and how difficult they can be at times, she talks about an incident that left her in tears on the plane.

“There was this middle aged man who had come in a very bad mood on the flight and started a quarrel with my fellow crew, the crew member asked me to switch sides with him so I went in the back of the plane and he walked in the front to avoid this man. This man kept intentionally saying such bad things against our profession and our airlines that even I felt a little demotivated and I sat quietly in my seat in the back of the plane. He then looked at me and shouted in front of everyone, “Why the hell aren’t you smiling?” You get paid to smile. J was in tears at the time. We also have a dignity.

Her feelings reflected well when she said, “Ours shouldn’t be a robe, it should be a uniform, look at the captain’s robe, it invokes respect in people, we should also have a uniform that invokes respect.” in people so that they don’t dare talk to us like that. I will wear such a dress well if I am going to a party, but not at my workplace, especially considering the hard work of service and even cleaning that we all do during the flight.

She also said that sexual harassment is common, especially by male passengers, that some intentionally reach out in the aisle seat to touch it and that it is not difficult for a woman to differentiate bad touch from one. ‘unintentional contact. During one of these incidents, she must have asked the passenger sarcastically if he had finished rubbing his back or if he would like to rub more, after which, out of shame, he didn’t bother her more. Some captains also try different ways to approach her or just harass her if she is not very friendly with them, which is not her job.

In another incident, a passenger held her hand and was not ready to leave her, so she decided to fight him and say, “Even if my job is gone now, I will make sure. that you will go to jail if you don’t stop. behave badly with me. After that, other passengers and crew joined her in protest, but the passenger came out free after the flight because she did not file a complaint against him. In fact, her understanding that her job could disappear if she decides to fight with her abuser speaks volumes about the profession and her work environment and her sexist and misogynistic working conditions. She also understands the impact airline ads have on people and accepts that flight attendants are presented as a treat for men. male passengers.

“I have only celebrated Diwali once in the past five years at my home, even the one time I went for an early morning flight and came home around 9pm. There is no festive holiday for us, I understand that it is a challenge and everyone faces it in their own way, my younger colleagues cry even when they miss being with their families at the festivals, it makes me feel is fine, but there should at least be some compensating offs.

She feels like work makes her lonely as it constantly interferes with her personal and social life. The cheap mentality in society regarding her profession, especially that of parents and neighbors, sometimes becomes very taxing on her. Another mental health issue that she constantly faces is job insecurity. “In India the maximum age up to which you can work as a cabin crew member in a private airline is 40 years old and for various reasons many of us don’t even complete it, l age should not be a criterion for flying, physical form should be the criterion. In the West, physical form is the criterion for work, but in India beauty and ideal body standard as well as age are preferred , the younger the criteria, the better the criteria, which is not fair.

Sneha is not at all skeptical of her profession. She is proud to be a cabin crew member and accepts that her job has made her difficult and she can now lend a hand to any of her friends in need as she has traveled the world and her work made her independent. no one, but she recognizes the scope for immense improvement in the work ethic, general conditions and working environment of the profession for female cabin crew members. She clearly mentions that there are clear guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment that the airline follows, but that filing means a lot of hassle for me or any female crew and therefore they don’t drop it. She doesn’t use the exact words, but she tries to refer to a lack of a conducive work environment where such provisions intended for her safety can be used without worrying that her job will be affected, which is already a job. which she considers to be really short-lived.

This is an excerpt from a book selected by author Rahul Kapoor from his book Women At Work – The Sky is Full of Sexism, Manak Publications.


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