Battle in the sky: A cultural and legal history of sex discrimination in the United States airline industry, 1930-1980
AuthorDooley, Cathleen Marie
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis project examines the creation and implementation of sex discrimination law in the United States during the mid-twentieth century by egg the experiences of women who worked as flight attendants in the United States airline industry. The presentation of female bodies was a critical marketing strategy for the airline industry, and the result was the creation of a series of gender based discriminatory policies. Airlines manipulated women's sexuality through regulations such as a marriage ban, age ceiling, and weight/appearance regulations. An analysis of airline ads, which presented flight attendants as sexually desirable to attract male customers, combined with archival sources that trace discrimination in the industry, reveal the manipulation and presentation of women's sexuality as essential to the labor market practices of the airline industry and the efforts made by flight attendants to combat both the image and the discrimination. This dissertation reveals the constructed nature of women's sexuality by exploring the relationship between cultural representations of women's bodies, labor market practices, and public policy formation. An examination of 1960s anti-discriminatory legislation reveals the link between the regulation of sexuality and policy formation. Dismantling of sex discrimination through policy was problematic because gendered and sexualized work patterns were central to corporate employment structures. The solution was the inclusion of the bona fide occupational qualification clause in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This clause protected employers' ability to retain gender based discrimination if they demonstrated that economic loss would result from a restructuring of employment practices. Flight attendants were among the earliest group of women workers to utilize this legislation, and as a result they contributed to the interpretation and development of sex discrimination law in the United States. This project also reveals the complex interaction of resistance to and intention of sexual norms and gender discrimination. Flight attendants often internalized cultural constructions of sexuality and saw their ability to fulfill dominant cultural notions of beauty as empowering, thus they had difficulty articulating a clear definition of sex discrimination. Despite this difficulty, flight attendants became among the most politically active women in America during the 1960s and 1970s.
Degree ProgramGraduate College