Sunday, October 03, 2021

The Sky Is Full of Sexism

Sneha (name changed), is a 28 year old air hostess in ( a domestic) airlines who likes to be addressed as a cabin crew member rather than the ambiguous designation of an air hostess as she deems it to be. It was not easy for Sneha to switch from a secure bank job which was highly revered by her father owing to the job security and the simple nature of the job profile. It meant Sneha who lives in a small middle class nuclear family with her mother, father and elder sister had a strict time limit to come back to the house by 7 pm and the bank job offered that luxury.

“I saw one of my friend who was a cabin crew member and the freedom she had in terms of mobility due to her job, she would go out of the house any time in the night as her work demanded that and had no time restrictions at all,” says Sneha who eventually decided to try her luck and gave an interview at another competing airlines where she was rejected because she was half a kilogram less than what was the stringent requirement set for recruitment. Sneha was really bogged down by that incident and continued her bank job for three more years until she had to leave her job because of a misunderstanding at her work place and decided one more time to give an interview in Spice Jet airlines where she has been working for the last five years now.

In these five years of flying domestic and international routes, Sneha has seen it all and hesitatingly states that sexual objectification is an unnecessary obstacle in her profession which every women cabin crew has to go through. She has now understood the many problems and challenges which the job offers many of which she says, she has found a way to handle while others will change only with time when the profession will evolve for the better in India taking into account the principles of gender equality and gender justice while also taking positive steps to break the existing prejudiced and stereotypical understanding of an air hostess in the society.

“I am even trained to deliver a baby on flight along with many more skills which require deep knowledge and study of hours and people still think that a women cabin crew is just an unqualified good looking waitress who are there to serve them,” says Sneha as she mentions that often it is the educated men passengers who harbour such an understanding about them, clearly implying that education of people has nothing to do with the prejudices they have, in fact gender injustice, gender violence, misogyny and sexism can never be inversely proportional to education. She feels that if the nature of education is patriarchal then it only contributes to such gender insensitivity.

In her five years of service, Sneha has experienced it all, from daily sexual objectification which has almost become a part of her job as she clearly states that her weight is checked every month and with increasing age it becomes difficult to maintain the same weight which the airline demands. She also does not forget to mention that her company has a clear rule that the dress should be at least four fingers above the knee length and the nuisance that her skin colour stockings cause which according to her are highly weather inappropriate. “Well, when I stand at the Leh airport in front of the aircraft gate in that dress and smile at the passengers entering in the aircraft while I am actually freezing, it becomes really difficult. The dress should be weather appropriate. Similarly in summers I operate from places which are extremely hot and can’t even wash my face because the makeup would come off and hence I end up only applying more make up on my face to fight the sweat which comes,” adds, Sneha.

03/10/21 Rahul Kapur/Citizen

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