Informant: “People think that we’re [flight attendants] all, um, whores. You know? [laughs] And no, we’re not.”
My informant is a middle aged male flight attendant. He has worked in the airline industry since his early twenties, and has encountered this stereotype his whole time in it. I asked him to describe how specifically he’s encountered this stereotype:
“You go out, meet people, talk to people, and that’s one of their first things they’ll ask.
People say, ‘I bet you have someone in every city.’ And I’m like, ‘Really? Really, you think that? [laughs] Do you see a herpes patch on my lip?’ You know, by the time you work a 14-hour flight internationally, you know, you get 4 hours of sleep…been up all night, do you really think that person is—the first thing that person is going to do is go and find hookups? No…it just doesn’t make sense. No. Now, do they meet people?…Do we have sluts? There are sluts in every industry. But the airline industry probably has, you know, the fewest.”
I asked him about where he thinks that stereotype comes from.
“It’s tied with glamour, it’s tied with the 70’s, of, you know, when they [flight attendants] had to be single. And they were some of the most beautiful women in the world. And it was an era when men…there was a lot of chauvinism, you know, chauvinistic pigs, you know, you could grab a woman.”
I think my informant enjoys talking about and laughing at this stereotype because it contrasts so sharply with reality. As he explains, flight attendants are incredibly hard working and don’t have the time to sleep around in every city. This stereotype is also particularly interesting because it speaks to how long it takes for a popular image of a race, creed, or occupation to fade away. It has been decades since the glamorous days of 1970’s stewardesses, yet people continue to think that flight attendants are promiscuous. It also speaks to how much we expect out of flight attendants and service staff in general. They accommodate our every need to the point where we think they can satisfy our sexual urges as well.