Friday, August 20, 2004

Now this is discrimination worth kicking up a song and dance about

Unlike this.

The strangest thing about the Virgin Blue discrimination allegations is that they have taken so long to be made – any Blind (or at least Deaf) Freddie who has flown Virgin a few times could have surmised that the company has a deliberate policy of hiring (i) female, (ii) young, and (iii) attractive flight stewards.

Perhaps even weirder though – as far as the revealing the priorities of the sisterhood goes – is that the Virgin Blue discrimination story did get a fair media airing on “Crikey” last year, but mainly from the angle that “Those young slappers ignored me because I was a female executive!”.

So it seems that feminism has reached its ne plus ultra. Workplace discrimination against women is something that only happens at executive level – either as in female executives being discriminated against by male peers/managers, or equally as bad (it would seem), in female executives not being given the full blondes-chasing-Benny-Hill treatment as customers that men are given by certain businesses. In either case, never mind actual female working stiffs.

For its part, Virgin Blue is acting equally brazenly. Head of strategy and communications David Huttner all but cheerfully concedes the fact of ageist and sexist (and very likely also racist) discrimination in hiring cabin crew by this statement:

But I can tell you that we have people not just in the office but also on the front line, like cabin crew and check-in staff, of a wide variety of ages and background.

Geddit? – Virgin allows middle-aged women, uglies of any age, men and wogs to even work as check-in staff. Gee, how enlightened!

As for the stats cited, it is clear that the apparent age neutrality in rejection rates for cabin crew is a worthless measure. Evidently almost no over-35s bother even applying. The fact that speaks loudest is that only four (including one 53 y.o.) of Virgin’s 803 flight attendants are aged 35 or over – that’s 0.25%.

More generally, Virgin Blue is not the only employer to openly flout anti-discrimination law in this way. It is not, as I understand it, absolutely prohibited for an employer to exclusively (or almost so) hire attractive young females (or males, for that matter) – it all depends on the reasonable requirements of the job; hence strip clubs and seedy bars catering for especially for straight/gay men/women would seem to have inbuilt license to be appropriately looks/age-ist and sexist in their hiring policies.

But no one could seriously argue that working as a flight attendant is anything like such a niche role. Nor, as far as I can tell, is working as a waiter – yet in the US, “Hooters” and locally, its Melbourne equivalent happily practise nakedly-discriminatory hiring policies, without feminism batting an eyelid, AFAIK.

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