Leggings on Planes: A Flight Attendant's Perspective

Over the past few days we've all seen this story blowing up all over the internet. 
Girls boarding a plane in Denver were asked to change their clothes at the discretion of a Gate Agent who felt that leggings didn't fit the parameters for appropriate attire. 

Well. I have some thoughts on the issue. 

In this particular situation, the girls were "pass riders" or as we call them where I'm from, "non-revs". They were flying using the work benefits of a family member or a friend who works for the airline. Non-revs have specific attire requirements that they have to comply with in order to utilize their flight privileges. 
Non-revs need to follow the parameters outlined by the airline they're benefitting from. That's totally fair.


This conversation is about more than just leggings on planes. 
It's about how we view female bodies as sexual objects. 
It's also about how we, as a society, determine what is or is not "appropriate". 

Here's what it boils down to for me:

1. The clothing you choose to wear sends a message to the people around you about who you are. 

If you've paid for your ticket on a plane you can send whatever message you want to because you're only representing yourself. 
If you're traveling for business or in another specific capacity you might need to dress differently. 

When I put on clothes to leave the house, I am making a conscious choice about how I want to be perceived that day. 
Generally, I want people to glance my way and assume I'm a competent and polished person. I wear makeup. I comb my hair. My clothing style is mostly classic and sometimes kind of androgynous. It could most kindly be called "High WASP via Vermont".

People will always misunderstand you. There will always be people who misinterpret what you say or what you write, or how you present yourself in public. It's up to you to determine how that's going to affect what you do. 

2. All leggings are not the same. 

I have no problem with leggings being worn as pants as long as they are completely opaque. I'm also aware that there are some people who don't feel the same way and when I leave the house wearing leggings as pants, I might encounter pushback. 
That might mean judgmental looks, or that might mean having a discussion about the validity of leggings as appropriate attire for non-revving. 

I don't believe that see-through clothing is ever appropriate on an airplane. 
I don't care who you are, I don't care what you're doing, an airplane is not the place to be provocative or push buttons. It's a place to be polite and to focus on safety. 
If it would have more than a PG rating in a movie theatre, it doesn't belong on a plane. 
I once had a situation where a passenger was wearing a shirt with a certain curse word all over it, and I had to work with the Gate Agent and the Captain to have her change into something that wasn't R rated. I wasn't personally offended by her shirt, but as a Flight Attendant it's my job to help make sure that passengers on my plane are treated with respect by the crew and also by their fellow passengers.  By wearing something so decidedly provocative in a public space, the woman who needed to change was not being respectful toward the people around her.
It's especially important to be courteous to those around you in public when you're on an airplane because it's a high stress situation for many people. 

When you're not on a plane, wear whatever you want to, friend. You do you. Just be aware of the message that you're sending. 

3. This topic is tricky because of how our society treats women as sexual objects. 

Objectification is simple: it's treating a person as a thing rather than as a human being. 
Sexual objectification is a huge and grossly complex issue that I don't really want to dive too deeply into, because I do not have a degree in Gender Studies or Psychology. 

I will say though, I am so sick of people debating whether or not it's appropriate for women to wear leggings in public because of the effect that leggings might have on men. 

Dudes, get ahold of yourselves. Your self control is not my responsibility. 

In the meantime, ladies, wear those leggings in whatever way you are most comfortable. Rock your outfits while flying. 

But whatever you wear, please keep consideration and respect in mind when you're deciding what to wear in public, especially on an airplane. 

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