Tag Archives: Flight Attendant

Stewardess? Steward? How about just Flight attendant?

Pan American Stewardesses in their uniforms in the 1960’s
Pan American Stewardesses in their uniforms in the 1960’s

Being a flight attendant has been my ideal career path since I have gotten to college. Being a Flight Attendant has changed a lot since the commercial jet age in the 1960’s. Let’s talk about why.

Flight Attendant versus Stewardess

Being a Flight Attendant in the 1960’s meant that you were referred to as a stewardess or a female steward. That meant that you were “attending” to the passengers needs while they were on the airplane. The most popular Stewardesses were the ones that were employed by Pan American Airlines.

To be qualified for the job you had to have a college degree as well as nursing training. Not only did you have to be educated you also had to be  female, physically attractive, be a certain height, between a certain age, and weigh a certain amount (once hired there were mandatory weight checks). Being a stewardess was about having the perfect combination as a woman. You had to essentially take care of others while looking good doing it. According to ABC News, a girdle was a part of the uniform as well.

How has it changed?

A person in the 21st century that assists passengers on an airplane to ensure their needs and safety is now referred to as Flight attendant. The requirements to get hired as a flight attendant are much more reasonable. You must be at least 21 years of age, have a High School diploma, and have customer service experience. You do not have to be strictly female to be hired by an airline, but because this career is associated with mostly women few men apply.

Why the change matters?

Julia T. Wood talks about in her book Gendered Lives how there are certain stereotypes within the work place for both male and females. For females the most common stereotypes are being a sex object, mother, child, or iron maiden.

American airlines 21st century Flight attendants
American airlines 21st century Flight attendants

For males the most common stereotypes are being a sturdy oak, fighter, and breadwinner. Being a stewardess in the 1960’s portrayed two out of the four stereotypes for women. The women were made into sex objects by what they had to wear to work such as the girdle and tight blue skirts (for Pan American in particular).The women were defined by their sexuality and that was also how they were ultimately hired. Second, these stewardesses were also defined by the stereotype of mother. These women were expected to take care of their customers’ needs. That included listening to their concerns or pouring them a drink. Finally, the reason why the changes for flight attendants is positive is because these stereotypes are diminishing, making it easier for males to apply to be a Flight Attendant. Although, because of the male stereotype of breadwinner, which states that the males have to take home more money than women, could be preventing more males from diving into this position. I think that moving away from the traditional “stewardess” is great and I think that more men should consider breaking this gendered norm and apply to be a Flight Attendant. I mean, what person would not what to travel the world?!

If you’re interested check out theses Articles about real Pan Am Stewardesses!