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CHOCS AWAY: WEIGHT WATCHING IN THE CONTEMPORARY AIRLINE INDUSTRY

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 1998

MELISSA TYLER
Affiliation:
Department of Social Sciences, City Campus, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 OBA
PAMELA ABBOTT
Affiliation:
Director, School of Social Sciences, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, TS1 3BA
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Abstract

This paper draws on empirical research into the recruitment, training, and management of female flight attendants, working primarily in the transatlantic business travel sector of the contemporary airline industry. We argue that whilst the ‘ skills’ which flight attendants are required to deploy are denied, being treated as somehow inherent abilities and thus neither trained nor remunerated, they are nevertheless managed in a directive way. This management involves, in particular, a focus on a flight attendant’s figure, and ‘dieting’ – what Naomi Wolf has referred to as ‘the essence of contemporary femininity’ (Wolf 1990:200) – as a recruitment, training and managerial strategy. The work of a female flight attendant involves adhering to culturally prescribed norms on femininity as well as organisational regulations governing her figure – its presentation and performance – whilst undertaking work which involves, at least in part, serving food to others. We conclude that this aspect of the work of flight attendants is thus ‘a symbolic representation of the subordination of women . . . a concrete expression of their position as servers and carers of men’ (Charles and Kerr 19 88:84).

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1998 BSA Publications Ltd

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