Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Looks like I'm gonna face one set of assumptions or another

Okay being a man of color I'm no stranger to the idea that when at an airport people will see my brown skin and decide that I will be one of the "random" people chosen for a more thorough search. Last time this happened (about 7 years ago) I was pulled to the side and had to take off my hooded sweat shirt, take off my shoes and socks, and empty out my pockets. Well it would seem that my gender is a strike against me as well.

Mirko Fischer, a businessman, is suing British Airways for sexist practices. The practice in question?
...a policy that bans male passengers from sitting next to children they don't know - even if the child's parents are on the same flight.

By the policy a part of pre-flight is for the cabin crew to patrol the aisles to make sure that any children that are flying alone or are not seated next to their parents are not seated next to a male strangers. If such an arrangement is found the man will be "asked" to move to another seat. However the plane will not take off until he does so. In Fischer's case he and his pregnant wife were on a plane in which each row has three seats. His wife had taken the window seat thinking it would be more spacious which left him sitting between his wife and a 12yr old boy.

Now it would be one thing if it was a blanket policy against any strange adult but that is not the case. For some reason this policy specifically classifies only strange men as threats that must be removed. Not only that but with the policy being in such a way that take off is actually held off until said man moves the onus is on him to "act right" and refusal to do so will lead to the other passengers blaming him for the delay in flight. Nice way to end run around that whole fair treatment thing by putting the blame on the victim's shoulders. So when Mirko told the flight attendant that confronted him that he was not going to move because his wife was pregnant the flight attendant played the trump card by raising his voice to say that the flight would not take off until he moved.

It doesn't take much effort to realize that this is a part of the stereotype that us men are just sex crazed beasts that will do anything to get next to our next victim targeted for violation. Now I'm sure a lot of people are going to try to defend such a sexist policy by saying that a lot of child abuse is committed by men. Well according to Fischer (in the UK at least):
'Furthermore statistically children are far more likely to be abused by a member of their family. Does that mean that BA are going to ban children sitting next to their own parents?'
And besides just because the majority of rape is committed by men does not mean that the majority of men are rapists.

Next the defender will move onto passing it off as being "in the best interests of the children". Now don't get me wrong the safety of the children is so important (and if they are flying alone then their safety is important) but why not have a few seats near where the flight attendants are seated reserved for them? That way there is no one near them except for the flight crew. If safety of the children is the reason for such wouldn't it make sense to do something to protect them from all risks instead of instating a clearly misandrist policy as assuming that any and all strange men are threats to them?

I recall a time when I read about policies like this on an MRA site and thought they were crazy. No one would actually pass a policy like this. I have been proven wrong.

Frankly I hope this guy cleans British Airways' clock to the turn of a healthy sum for I am sure the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children could use the extra funds (as long as they don't base their efforts on such sexist assumptions).

As long as people hold onto these old and damaging stereotypes and assumptions we as a human race will never achieve equality.


Toysoldier said...

I doubt the man will win the lawsuit. If it happens, the policy would have to be changed, however, it is not likely that British Airway will actually do that. At best they may change the phrasing from man to person, but still in practice only apply it to men. The odd thing about this is that statistically speaking, women are just as likely to sexually assault boys as men are, so placing a boy next to a woman is not safer. Likewise, women get a pass from society for their sexual violence, so one could argue that it is actually less safe to sit a boy next to a woman. What we do not hear or see is anything demonstrating a need for this policy. What are the rates of sexual violence against children on British Airway? The airline is basically suggesting their planes are unsafe for children.

Danny said...

Yeah you're probably right but one thing I would like to be known in history is that if no change is made its not because no one said anything about it.

What are the rates of sexual violence against children on British Airway? The airline is basically suggesting their planes are unsafe for children.

Good question TS. I would be interested in seeing some data that suggests that children are in enough danger by being around strange men that such policy needed to be passed. Actually I think what they are suggesting is, "Our airlines MIGHT be unsafe so in order to make them safe we will just put the burden on someone else. What's this? People already assume that men are child molesters? We should be able to make this work to our advantage..."