Friday, September 07, 2007

Women Who Won't Cover

Southwest Airlines decided that a female passenger was inadequately clad for a "family airline":

Her outfit aboard a Southwest Airlines plane two months ago first earned her a flight attendant's reprimand and now has sparked a decency debate that may result in a lawsuit.

Kyla Ebbert, a blond, shapely 23-year-old San Diego coed who also works shifts at a Hooters restaurant, boarded the flight to Tucson, Ariz., on a one-day round-trip visit to an Arizona doctor's appointment. She had settled into her seat when a flight attendant confronted her about what was later described by the airline as "revealing attire."

Ebbert's so-called objectionable attire included a white, tight-fitting shirt, a green cropped sweater, and a white denim skirt cut high on her thighs.

Ebbert appeared on NBC's "The Today Show" today wearing the same outfit and said that she was asked by a male flight attendant to come to the front of the plane by the door to the jetway. There, Ebbert said that she was told she would have to catch a later flight because she was showing too much skin and Southwest is a "family" airline.

Here is a picture of Ebbert in the offending outfit:

What should I say about this topic? So many different arguments jostle in my head. One of them has to do with the idea that Ebbert worked at a Hooters restaurant ("hooters" being a slang term for breasts), where she was probably expected to dress in a way which would cause sexual thoughts among the male customers and perhaps some female customers, too. Then, suddenly, a similar way of dress is regarded as unacceptable from a "family values" point of view. Are children not allowed into the Hooters restaurants?

Another argument of course has to do with our great need to regulate female clothing, from burqas to bikinis. I drove past a jogger last night. He was clad only in rather-too-short shorts, but I doubt anyone would go to him to complain about family values. (It's with great effort that I abstain from some additional comments about the jogger here.)

A somewhat less central argument has to do with whether we as a country have lost a general dress code for both sexes and whether there might be a need for one. This is a dangerous argument, of course, because dress codes can be used for cultural policing purposes, and countries which do have rigorous dress codes tend to care almost solely about how women dress.