What Does Dressing “Appropriately” On A Plane Mean?

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While none of us likely remember the days of the Mad Men era, when air travel was a grand event that required dressing to the nines, regular travelers have noticed a definite downturn in sartorial choices for flying the friendly skies. And a lot of them don't like it.
According to a recent survey by the travel-review site Airfarewatchdog, 59% of air travelers believe airlines have the right to kick a passenger off a plane for not dressing appropriately, The L.A. Times reports. The site surveyed more than 2,000 fliers and 34% disagreed, while 7% had no opinion.
But who gets to determine what "appropriate" means in this case? Unfortunately for adventurous dressers, it's the airline — specifically, the crew on your flight. Crews have removed people (women, as far as we can tell) from flights for inappropriate dress. It's tough to know what a flight attendant might find objectionable, but it usually appears to be the bodies of women.
On May 18, Seattle-based Maggie McMuffin arrived at the airport in Boston to catch a flight back home. McMuffin was waiting to board at her gate when a crew member informed her that her outfit — a sweater, striped daisy dukes, and thigh-high tights — was inappropriate and insisted that she would have to change before getting on the plane, because her look "may offend other families." She was only allowed to board after buying a loose pair of pajama pants to wear.
Here's where the airlines have the upper hand: It comes down to the “contract of carriage,” a legal document that spells out the rights and responsibilities of the airline and its passengers. And whether you realize it or not, you agree to that contract whenever you purchase a ticket from an airline. JetBlue's states that the airline can refuse “persons whose conduct is or has been known to be disorderly, abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating violent, or whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive.” The same is true of virtually every other airline, including Southwest, which removed a woman whose cleavage was deemed offensive; and American Airlines, which has allegedly denied boarding and removed women wearing political T-shirts with messages about reproductive rights and Black Lives Matter.
Dress codes aren't going to go away, but when they are defined by loose language like "offensive," on-the-spot, arbitrary decisions seem to always disproportionately target women and their bodies. Why are airlines so comfortable policing women's bodies and dress? Probably because it happens every day, everywhere. Can we live?

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