Saturday, September 8, 2007

Northwest Airlines - civil liberties?

I've seen some coverage on the Today Show and on CNN about the young woman who was nearly kicked off a Northwest Airlines flight for wearing revealing clothing.
The Today Show

Now, the media's first instinct seems to be to ask, "Well, was her clothing too revealing?" But, I find that very question frustratingly shallow. It makes me ask, "Too revealing for what and according to whom?"

Too revealing for someone three times her age that may not be accustomed to short skirts? Or perhaps who used to wear short skirts and no longer can, so they go about harassing younger women because they are jealous?

Too revealing for a Christian? A Jew? A Muslim?

Too revealing for the mother of teenage boys to let her sons sit next to this woman?

Too revealing for, as Southwest so aptly puts it, families?

Too revealing for an old man? A middle aged man? A young man? A gay man?

Too revealing for a misogynist? Too revealing for the owner of a strip club? A nudist? A doctor? A lawyer? A musician?

Who? Who is this skirt too revealing for? I don't understand this justification.

On behalf of whom is Southwest speaking? Southwest flight attendants? Even the ones who were cheerleaders in high school or gymnasts or who wear swimsuits?

What is the standard of dress one is expected to hold when flying? Pants? Skirts no higher than two inches above the knee? This is like Catholic school uniforms all over again!!!!!!!!!! And goddammit, I hope someone tells me the policy before I violate it!

The government requires airlines to have a policy on how to compensate passengers who have been delayed. Does it also require airlines to have a policy for what to do when a passenger is inappropriately dressed? What is the standard of care and airline must meet?

Is the airline considered a public or private institution? Don't airlines rely heavily on the government for subsidies? So, it's been awhile since I was in law school, but is it possible that this is a violation of her civil liberties?

Something like this goes beyond the question of whether a woman is being held to a different standard than a man. It clearly goes beyond whether or not this woman's skirt was "too" short. (See above - who's definition of "too" are we using for that question?) It reminds me of racism and racial profiling and general ignorance.

It's nothing new, of course, that those who are different can make other people wary. It's this very characteristic of human nature against which the law protects those in the minority. It's not clear to me that a passenger complained about this woman but let's say that's what happened. Ignorant Passenger complains to Air Steward. Air Steward takes Victim aside. Victim is humiliated by Air Steward and allowed to stay on flight.

Looks like we've allowed IP and AS to pass judgment on V. Seems just one step up the slippery slope from allowing other IPs and ASs to pass judgment on other people they don't like - they might be smelly people, ugly people, fat people, people who don't like peanuts, people with bad skin, with a different color skin, who speak a different language, who wear non-Christian religious symbols (this is America after all) blah blah blah and so on.

Alright, I've beaten this horse to death.

Just trying to do some critical thinking in a land of sensationalist, shallow media coverage :(

Slightly tangential is this interesting article about how NY is trying to implement a traveler's bill of rights. Not sure how much progress has been made. Unfortunately it doesn't address clothing :)
NY article


Anonymous said...

First of all in your title, it's Southwest, not Northwest(two completely different airlines) and offensive is when someone's attire makes other people (more than one) uncomfortable!!! When she boarded the plane her skirt and top did not meet and I'm not quite sure which one was adjusted. I think it was her top, as the skirt didn't have enough fabric to scoot up. Her stomach was also showing at that time. When she reached up, you could see way more than anyone was comfortable seeing. She should have known better. She was not going out clubbing or to the beach, she was going on a plane and then to the DR.'S OFFICE!!! I at least hope it was a gynecology appt. She (and her mother) have no one to blame for all this but themselves. It was a bad decision and they have only made it worse.

She was not lectured in front of other passengers. They took her out into the jetway to talk to her and the only way anyone else knew what was going on was because of her. I hope she learned some common courtesy from all of this.

. said...

thanks for your comments - and for clarification on the mistake in the title! I've posted an entry to reference that error.