teens

United Airlines Doubles Down on Banning Some Teen Girls for Leggings

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United Airlines is in hot water right now–and for good reason. Apparently, a United Airlines gate agent wouldn’t let teen girls wearing leggings onto the flight, asking the girls to change or put something over the leggings. Was it sexism or a strict dress code that the airlines imposes on families of employees who fly for free— or was it both at once?

The girls were trying to board a flight to Minneapolis, and were turned away at Denver International Airport this past Sunday. Following an outcry, the airline made the bad choice to defend the decision in a series of tweets. The situation was first reported on Twiter by Shannon Watts, a fellow passenger at the airport who was waiting to board a flight to Mexico.

It just so happens that Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action, so she’s especially in tune to sexist issues. Here are some of the tweets:

These tweets, naturally, cause United to respond–and sadly, they didn’t respond in a very empowering way for women:

After that fiasco, the airline released statement yesterday evening, explaining that the teens were “pass riders,” meaning their tickets were either heavily discounted or comped. Because of this, the teens were subjected to a stricter dress code than normal–which seems absurd and retro, no? I have to ask: who cares what someone is wearing as long as it’s not actually illegal (as in, not legally considered indecent exposure, which is very different than wearing leggings).

It also doesn’t make sense since typical passengers are allowed to wear leggings, as the company explained:

“One of the benefits of working for an airline is that our employees are able to travel the world. Even better, they can extend this privilege to a select number of what we call ‘pass riders.’ These are relatives or friends who also receive the benefit of free or heavily discounted air travel — on our airline as well as on airlines around the world where we have mutual agreements in place for employees and pass riders.

 When taking advantage of this benefit, all employees and pass riders are considered representatives of United. And like most companies, we have a dress code that we ask employees and pass riders to follow. The passengers this morning were United pass riders and not in compliance with our dress code for company benefit travel. We regularly remind our employees that when they place a family member or friend on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow our dress code.”
To make the matter worse, the company passively aggressively then stated, “To our regular customers, your leggings are welcome.” It’s hard not to read this “explanation” of “leggings are welcome for everyone BUT discounted passengers” as classist. So, it’s basically saying if you got a discounted ticket, you have to dress differently than other customers. What gives? That’s like saying if you have a discounted train or bus ticket, that you have to sit in the back of the bus. Not OK.

The explanation offered doesn’t seem to do any real damage control, if anything, it just reiterates the classist and sexist ideology illustrated before. It also shouldn’t have been an issue to begin with. Women and girls’ bodies shouldn’t be policed, not in how they are dressed or how they look, nor should people who receive any kind of discount be subjected to more rules than others–especially when these rules control how someone looks.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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