Explore, Encounter, and exchange
In the 1960s and 70s, the conventional image of a stewardess was a flirty, pretty girl exploring the world, encountering her dashingly handsome male passengers, and exchanging martinis with the pilot. However, what this worldwide symbol of glamour was really encountering was sexism and objectification in a world that didn't take her or her job seriously. The stewardesses' fight against this degrading social norm forced society to explore and redefine women's roles in the workforce and exchange sexism for empowerment.
Flight attendants were among the first to explore modern feminism in the context of the working woman, particularly in the making of pink-collar unions.
"Stewardesses were ... the very first working women to file charges of sex discrimination with the Commission, specifically targeting airline age ceilings and marriage bans. In so doing, they joined other aggrieved women in ensuring that the EEOC would pay attention to sex bias as well as racial discrimination..."
Stewardesses at Capitol Hill to protest their airline's policy of forced retirement at age thirty-two.
Flight attendants encountered sexism and discrimination as well as an exclusive focus on their appearance. They fought for their workplace rights through encounters in court and the halls of Congress.
"Their encounters with passengers from all over the world acted as ignition for their revolution - fuel for the fire."
A stewardess in training, looking in the mirror, surrounded by the requirements on her appearance. (Neilson, 1982)
Flight attendants exchanged their sexualization for empowerment that inspired women all over the world.
"Flight attendants as a group tended to be independent and they were eager to encourage and support other women in the workplace to fight for their own independence and respect."
The stewardesses exchanged their previous objectification (left) for empowerment (right).