Thursday, April 25, 2013

New History Tracks Flight Attendants and the Sexual Sell

Hot off the University of Pennsylvania Press: The Jet Sex: Airline Stewardesses and the Making of An American Icon takes readers from a time when the first flight attendants had to be trained nurses to today, when they have to be intensively trained for security as well as for cabin service. In between were the years when they were hyped as gentlemen’s companions in airline advertising that suggested the business traveler would get some eye candy with his martini.

Victoria Vantoch’s book is a welcome history of a career that got a lot of women off the farm and out of dull offices, promising glamorous travel (never mind the low wages) and the opportunity to meet “interesting people” (i.e., potential rich husbands during the years flight attendants were required to be single). Vantoch shows how ad agencies pushed the sexualization of flight attendants in advertising, with the airlines cooperating by vamping up the stewardesses’ apparel. Vantoch’s book contains a terrific collection of ads that show how the military-style stewardess uniform was shed in the late 1960s in favor of mini-dresses, “hot pants,” and go-go boots. The advertising copy made sure you didn’t miss the point:  An “I’m Cheryl. Fly me” ad showed a National Airlines stewardess in close-up, with a come-hither look. In 1974, Continental Airlines introduced the slogan, “We really move our tails for you.”  Porn movies featuring stewardess characters inevitably followed.

The airlines' sexual sell in the 1960s and 1970s was intensifying as the women's movement was gaining ground.  Inevitably, there was a collision.

Flight attendants rescued their dignity through their union, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and legal complaints. They eventually succeeded in striking down the no-marriage rule, the no-pregnancy rule, the age limit, and unreasonable height and weight restrictions.  And the you-must-be-female rule, too.  The steamy airline advertising faded away.  Finally.

1 comment:

  1. It's perfectly normal. You are getting aroused and thus start feeling different. Most people feel aroused by pictures that is why sexual images sell so well, people like to see them. What you are feeling is normal, so don't worry.

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