(Photo source: India Today)
The Gryphon discusses the recent controversy between Emily O’Connor and Thomas Cook airlines as the clothes of females are yet again subjected to scrutiny.
Emily O’Connor was ready to board her Thomas Cook flight from Birmingham to Tenerife and, like many young women anticipating a sunny holiday abroad, she was dressed in what should have been, an unassuming crop top. The Thomas Cook cabin crew, it seemed, thought very differently, and threatened to remove her from the plane unless she “covered up” by putting on her jacket.
When I first saw this story circulating the internet, my first reaction was: why exactly has this become a story in the first place? A young woman in 2019 wears a summer crop top on her flight to Tenerife… who cares? You might think there were more pressing things for the inflight staff to be focusing on- assisting passengers, making them feel welcome, getting them from A to B- a woman’s choice of summer clothing, not being one of them. But, apparently, O’Connor’s “inappropriate” and “offensive” crop top became top priority. Four flight attendants, as well as the fight manager, involved themselves in the incident, unnecessarily drawing attention to the whole crop top debacle. After twenty minutes of the staff threatening to take her luggage and kick her off the plane, O’Connor stood up and asked whether any passengers were personally offended by her choice of attire. Being a flight of likewise holidaymakers, nobody said anything.
The thing that really stands out with this incident is the ludicrosity of it. Although Thomas Cook do have a clothing policy, it is hard to believe that a strappy black crop top falls into the “inappropriate attire including items including offensive slogans or images” category. At the end of the day, this incident boils down to a young woman being unnecessarily bullied by her choice in clothing, made to feel uncomfortable and humiliated in front of other passengers; left “shaken and upset”. Of course there are far more abhorrent examples sexism across the world, but this incident certainly speaks volumes in regards to the everyday sexism, and hypocrisy, many women are subjected to.
This story is not without criticism though. Many question why O’Connor stood her ground so fiercely, instead of simply sitting quiet, putting on her jacket, and preventing twenty minutes of delay. A male passenger even shouted “pathetic women”, to which, interestingly, his verbal abuse went unnoticed by the cabin crew. Others have taken a different approach. As one woman on breakfast television show ‘This Morning’ argued, “we live in a world today where we get all these sexy selfies. I think we need to wake up, and wise up, to that fact she is demeaning what we’ve been trying to fight for all this time”. The issue with this statement is that, surely, “we” (women over the past one hundred years) have been fighting for our right to choose. Feminism has never been in favour of women being continuously questioned, shamed and belittled- however small the incident may be- over their appearance. This is a truly baffling incident for a female passenger, or anyone for that matter, to have to deal with in 21st century Britain. Nevertheless, it is refreshing see a young woman challenging such poorly judged policy implementation- after all, who really cares about a crop top?