I know I’ve been living in Las Vegas too long when I don’t see the hubub over a short skirt. Is everyone sick of the whole Southwest Airlines fiasco yet? (Sigh.) I certainly was and then I read message boards that called Britney Spears’ VMA outfit that of a hooker or stripper. (Which, by the way, is laughable. Those people must have a coronary when they see Vegas cocktail waitresses! Or real strippers.)
So maybe I am out of touch?
The last thing I’m worried about when I’m on an airplane is whether or not a woman is dressed too skimpy for my taste. (For the record, I have no problem with what Kyla Ebbert wore on her fateful trip from San Diego to Tucson.) Babies crying. Sneezes and coughs. Someone taking off their shoes so the whole place smells like nasty feet. These are things I worry about on a plane. Or even terrorism. Not mini skirts.
But I’m only moved to write about this now that Southwest Airlines is seeking to profit off of their sexist behavior, and perhaps further it. This week the airline launched “mini-skirt” fares. Ick. And Jessica at Feministing has a nice take on it, with excerpts of the release:
Company President Colleen Barrett released the following (obnoxious and perhaps further harassing) comment:
“From a Company who really loves PR, touche to you Kyla! Some have said we’ve gone from wearing our famous hot pants to having hot flashes at Southwest, but nothing could be further from the truth. As we both know, this story has great legs, but the true issue here is that you are a valued Customer, and you did not get an adequate apology. Kyla, we could have handled this better, and on behalf of Southwest Airlines, I am truly sorry. We hope you continue to fly Southwest Airlines. Our Company is based on freedom even if our actions may have not appeared that way. It was never our intention to treat you unfairly and again, we apologize.” (Emphasis added)
Is defending a mini-skirt my favorite feminist past-time? Not really. But here’s the thing, one of the ways society can enforce patriarchy and therefore control women is with dress codes. In this case, the message is that it’s only okay for a woman to be sexy if she is in a certain environment. And that environment excludes public spaces in broad daylight where children might be present. And furthermore, what does this say about whether or not a woman can be in charge of her own sexual power?
And if you think this is an isolated thing, let’s go back in feminist history. Way back. Back in the mid-1800s when women were organizing to fight for suffrage one of the chief weapons men used against them was how they dressed. And there are a lot more examples in modern history, such as the second-wave feminists of the 1970s or gender-bending styles of lesbians. All of it confronts what society expects of women.
Most of the time I would argue that wearing a mini-skirt is what society wants of women, in the sense that women being objectified is the goal. (ala Britney, Paris, Lindsay, et al) But in this case, a corporation balked at Ebbert for doing exactly what society wants. She wasn’t a “good girl” about it, so they had to punish her.
And let me be clear. I’m not trying to say that wearing a mini-skirt is feminist or not feminist. It’s both and neither because it depends on the person wearing it and the intention behind it. I wore plenty of mini-skirts back in the day. I wouldn’t say I did it because it was feminist. But I was a feminist in a mini-skirt.