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Flight Attendants Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment

Flight attendants are among the most likely to experience incidences of sexual assault and harassment while on the job. NYMM has reported on this issue and related issues about in-flight harassment in the past, yet there still seems to be no solution for this problem. Until now.

Last week, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, Sara Nelson, testified at a US House of Representatives caucus hearing about the sexual harassment that she and her coworkers have had to put up with for far too long.

We are called pet names, patted on the rear when a passenger wants our attention, cornered in the back galley and asked about our ‘hottest’ layover, and subjected to incidents not fit for print,” said Nelson.

The emergence of silence breakers has brought the issues of sexual assault and harassment to the forefront of mainstream media. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements especially have made these problems impossible for anyone to ignore any longer. It’s obvious that action must be taken to prevent further abuse in the workplace from occurring.

Nelson proposed the formation of a task force that will identify guidelines for responding to sexual assault and harassment aboard commercial airplanes, work to develop standards for employee training, and establish response protocol.

The union that Nelson represents consists of flight attendants that presently work for United Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and a handful of other carriers.

Today, around 80 percent of flight attendants are female and most are victims of this ongoing sexual harassment. The harassment stems from the history of the profession. Not long ago, “stewardess” was a job only available for young, single, and perfectly polished women who were required to step on a scale before stepping on board a flight. The union was formed in order to give women a voice to fight back against the misogyny associated with the profession.

“The most effective thing that could be done now is a series of public service announcements from airline chief executives. It would be powerful to hear these men clearly and forcefully denounce the past objectification of flight attendants, reinforce our safety role as aviation’s first responders and pledge zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assault at the airlines,” Nelson wrote in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post.

Hopefully Nelson’s testimony will help bring change to service sectors and create better anti-harassment policies. Regardless of their profession, women deserve to feel safe in their workplace.

Featured Image by MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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