She ain’t heavy, she’s my sister…

Last year, Indian Airlines reportedly sacked 140 staff without pay because the staff were “overweight”. Eleven sacked flight attendants have just lost their battle for compensation. The Delhi High Court has rejected the argument that the Airline’s decision was “unreasonable and demeaning”.

Judge Rekha Sharma of the Delhi High Court found that:

If the air hostesses are asked to battle their bulge…it is not understood how it is in any way unfair, unreasonable and insulting. If by perseverance the snails could reach the ark, why can’t these worthy ladies stand on and turn the scale?

Sheela Joshi, one of the flight attendants, says that her natural weight is 66-67kg and she can slim down to 63kg only by going on crash diets. I wonder if there’s any consideration of height? If Ms Joshi is my height, I don’t think 67kg would be an unreasonable weight, particularly if she has had children. She claims that the Airline is trying to get rid of older women and replace them with younger more attractive flight attendants. They argued the airline should take into account natural changes in women’s bodies between the ages of 35 and 58.

I once heard an Indian dancer say that “traditionally built” women were regarded as very attractive in India. But I think that has all changed with the explosion of super-skinny Bollywood stars.

This judgment seems all wrong to me. One doesn’t have to be skinny to be attractive. This is just another instance of women being forced to conform to a particular unrealistic body shape. I was disappointed to see that Judge Sharma is a woman. I wonder if she weighs less than 63kg? Really gives me the pip!

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12 Comments

Filed under airlines, feminism, jobs, law, society

12 responses to “She ain’t heavy, she’s my sister…

  1. GavinM

    And just when we are trying to change the ‘size 0’ mentality in Hollywood and the fashion industry…

    I would have hoped that a judge, even in India, would have more sense.

    For the record, my wife is 5ft 2 and weighs around 50 to 52kg, even after 3 kids…But she’s just naturally lightly framed, like many Thai’s.

  2. This judgment is very disappointing.

    The quote is so patronising; and Ms Joshi makes a great point: for what purpose are the air hostesses being asked to ‘battle the bulge’?

    If Ms Joshi is 165cm and her weight is 67, then her BMI is 24.6: within the normal range. And it takes as you reduce her height for her to get squarely within the ‘overweight’ range (although it will be 25 (which is the bottom end of overweight) if her height is 163.5).

    BMI calculator here: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm

    But if she can discharge the duties of her job and is otherwise healthy, what does it matter what her weight is!?

    Grr…

  3. Forgive me for playing Devil’s advocate, but could there be an issue about aircraft workspaces for the preparation of food and drinks etc being not that big, and people of more generous proportions get in each other’s way more? And further there is the energy cost involved in carrying “larger staff” that may also be a factor here as well.
    Just a couple of things that go beyond the body image thing to add to the mix.

  4. LDU

    Im sure Kirby J would have made a judgment similar to that of the Indian court taking into account the factors Ian has mentioned.

  5. Obviously, someone who is seriously obese could not fit in designated flight attendants’ seating and could not fit down airplane aisles. There might be an added risk of DVT too if you are morbidly obese. So perhaps that would be a reason to discriminate.

    But if I can fit down an airplane aisle with ease, I’m sure these ladies can too. They’re not obese in any sense!

  6. No. They’re not. It’s just a ridiculously outdated judgment.

  7. pete m

    “If the air hostesses are asked to battle their bulge…it is not understood how it is in any way unfair, unreasonable and insulting.”

    If the air hostesses are asked to battle their alleged bulge … it is not understood how it is in any way related to their employment role and is obviously discriminatory, in the same way as Virgin Blue only employing good looking chicks under 35. Not that I minded their policy … RUNS!

    If they were morbidly obese, they could not stand for long enough to be a stewardess and would not have been able to work period – nothing to do with being marginally overweight and not fit the airline “look”.

  8. Pete M, you crack me up! 😉

    I know that when I was super, super skinny (50kg, which for my height is underweight) every guy I knew thought I looked unattractive rather than attractive. For one thing, of course, the main places where I lost weight were my face and my bust. Not a good look. As an ex of mine once told me, a little schmaltz is a good thing on a girl.

  9. -k.

    Iain has a point, but I’d imagine that specifications in today’s aircraft have grown along with our waistlines. And if not, they should. Are airlines saying that they’re happy to take money from non-anorexic passengers, but not to employ them? Please.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but being surrounded by cabin crew that look like they’ve stepped out of a beauty pageant make me want to hit them, particularly after a 12 hour flight.

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  11. re Iain’s comment
    “Forgive me for playing Devil’s advocate, but could there be an issue about aircraft workspaces for the preparation of food and drinks etc being not that big, and people of more generous proportions get in each other’s way more? And further there is the energy cost involved in carrying “larger staff” that may also be a factor here as well.”

    there is clearly a cabin-crew employment opportunity here for people who have dwarfism.

  12. Or as someone else said, an opportunity for anorexics and jockeys.

    But I bet they wouldn’t be hired. It’s all about looking “right” and not about weight at all.

    In fact, that would be a great way for these ladies to expose the real agenda. Get a small person with relevant experience but non-model looks to apply for the job. And see what happens.

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