In “Fly Girl,” author Ann Hood writes about her time as a TWA flight attendant in the ’70s and’ 80s.
Hood told Insider the airline industry created an atmosphere of sex in the sky through advertising.
Airlines trained staff on how to fend off unwanted advances, she said, but it did not always work.
In her new memoir, “Fly Girl,” author Ann Hood reveals a dark side to being a young, female flight attendant in the 1970s and 1980s: unwanted flirting.
Advances from male passengers were so common that some airlines taught flight attendants a few tricks designed to fend off advances while maintaining decorum on the job, according to Hood. But they did not always work.
In the book, released on May 3, Hood shares how she personally, and delicately, deflected mile-high come-ons.
“Like so many young women, the ones you wanted to ask you out never did,” she told Insider, adding that a lot of men fantasize about going out with a flight attendant.
Awkward situations abounded.
“I’m at a bar in St. Louis for drinks,” Hood, now 65, told Insider, remembering one such situation. “This guy keeps talking to me. I just did not like him.”
“I was eventually kind of rude to him,” she continued, admitting that she straighforwardly told him: “I do not want to go out with you.”
But that was not the last time Hood came face to face with the man.
“Guess who’s on my flight first thing in the morning? That same guy,” she said. “I thought he was going to give me a hard time, but he did not. He was very polite. I was very embarrassed.”
But Hood said there were plenty of men who would not take no for an answer. So when all else failed, Hood said her employer provided instructions to deal with in-flight flirts.
Flight attendants were taught to perch on passengers’ seats – yet also fend off their advances
“We were taught how to politely brush off passes from male passengers,” Hood wrote in “Fly Girl.” “Techniques varied from a flirty, ‘Don’t be naughty!’ to ‘What would your wife say?’ “Anything was okay, as long as we said it with a smile.”
Hood said other phrases included “I have a boyfriend” or vague answers, such as “maybe.” But persistent men persisted. “I did not think it solved anything,” she added.
Hood said her employer’s advice was contradictory, since in her experience, flight attendants were taught to “perch on the arms of first-class seats.” They were also subjected to unexpected weight checks during probation and dress codes for their uniforms, she said. She said that she stressed out about not going above the 120 pounds she weighed when she was hired and always maintaining the skirt length – above the knee – the airline enforced.
Though she loved her office in the sky, Hood was still clear-eyed about the perception of the job. It was one of the most “sexist” jobs a person can have, she wrote.
At the time, the airline industry seemed to capitalize on the objectification of flight attendants with advertisements leaning heavily on sex as a selling point.
“National Airlines ran the now-infamous commercial of a pretty woman in a uniform stewardess saying, ‘I’m Cheryl. Fly me,'” she wrote in the book. “Flight attendants were still stereotyped as not-very-smart sex kittens in airline advertising and in many people’s minds back then.”
Still, as much as Hood believed the airlines sold sex back in the day – or at least “sexualized marketing” – inroads were being made for women’s rights.
“I would come of age at a remarkable time for aviation,” she said. “Flying was still glamorous, and flight attendants were considered to be beautiful and sexy ornaments even as they fought relentlessly for women’s rights against age and gender discrimination, and for career professionalism.”
The former flight attendant is ‘insulted and outraged’ by the objectification of those in the profession
Looking back, Hood reflects on the mix of emotions reconciling the profession she loved with the objectification she faced.
“I can feel insulted and outraged at the projection of every stewardess as being buxom and naughty,” she wrote. But the pull of the job outweighed the drawbacks for Hood.
“Sitting here five decades later, a 64-year-old woman who has traveled extensively, lived in big cities, done the kinds of things my younger self dreamed about, I can see the blatant sexism,” she wrote. “I can feel insulted and outraged at the projection of every stewardess as being buxom and naughty.”
In her memoir, Hood wrote that she took the good with the bad as a way to “escape” her native Rhode Island and see the world. Ultimately, for Hood, the pull of the job outweighed the drawbacks.
In recent years, many flight attendants say they’ve experienced sexual harassment
There’s still plenty of turbulence for today cohort – including guidelines for weight and BMI and dealing with unruly passengers in the wake of the COVID pandemic. It underscores a continued disrespect for those in the profession.
A survey by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA in the wake of the #MeToo movement helped drive the development of an inflight sexual assault task force at the Department of Transportation in 2018. The survey, which included flight attendants from 29 different airlines, found that 68% of flight attendants experienced sexual harassment during their careers. That included physical touch, such as being “grabbed, groped, slapped, rubbed, and fondled,” as well as “unwanted hugs, kisses, and humping.”
During the past two years, amid the pandemic, flight attendants have faced an increase in aggression from passengers. A passenger who punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in May 2021, chipping three teeth and brusing her eye, was sentenced in May to 15 months in prison. Another incident on a Frontier Airlines flight from July 2021 involved a passenger assaulting flight attendants, including groping and punching. The passenger, who was taped to his seat, was given a 60-day prison sentence last month.
Read the original article on Insider