Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants (Radical Perspectives)

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"Femininity in Flight is outstanding. It is the most thoroughly presented book on femininity, work, and pink-collar activism to date. It expands the contours of the women's rights movement and complicates the grounds on which women make demands for better working conditions." Eileen Boris, author of Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States "Femininity in Flight is the first book that tells the story of the flight attendant occupation as a whole and gives us the history of the occupation in so compelling and rich a fashion. Kathleen M. Barry offers us an entertaining and witty account of how flight attendants embodied changing notions of femininity, and then she boldly challenges conventional wisdom by arguing that it was those very cultural constraints that in part spurred flight attendant activism." Dorothy Sue Cobble, author of The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Justice in Modern America "One of the great strengths of Femininity in Flight is the broad context within which Barry views flight attendants' struggles, in terms of women's work, union organisation and second-wave feminism. By contextualising her study so well and drawing out the parallels between stewardresses and other pink-collar workers, Barry has produced a book with wide appeal and relevance to many interested in labour history, the women's movement, and the growth of service work."--Rosie Cox, The Times Higher March 23 2007 "In the early chapters of Kathleen M. Barry's excellent study, Feminity in FLight, she explains why airlines went with pretty young white women, many of them trained nurses, rather than, say, the middle-aged African American men who acted as stewards on Pullman cars; cutting-edge modernity in the 1930s colour-coded itself white... Barry's well-documented history spends more of its length on union charters and test cases than it does on hemlines One of its strengths is a demonstration that cultural history does not have to be impressionistic, and that economic imperatives and consciousness-raising can be as entertaining to read about as exploitation movies."--Times Literary Supplement, 2 April 2007 "Kathleen Barry's history of how gracious stewardesses turned into sexy air hostesses and then into tough grumpy flight attendants tries hard to be dull, but thankfully does not succeed."--The Economist, 5 May 2007

Vom Verlag:

"In her new chic outfit, she looks like anything but a stewardess working. But work she does. Hard, too. And you hardly know it." So read the text of a 1969 newspaper advertisement for Delta Airlines featuring a picture of a brightly smiling blond stewardess striding confidently down the aisle of an airplane cabin to deliver a meal. From the moment the first stewardess took flight in 1930, flight attendants became glamorous icons of femininity. For decades, airlines hired only young, attractive, unmarried, white women. They marketed passenger service aloft as an essentially feminine exercise in exuding charm, looking fabulous, and providing comfort. The actual work that flight attendants did - ensuring passenger safety, assuaging fears, serving food and drinks, all the while conforming to airlines' strict rules about appearance - was supposed to appear effortless. The better stewardesses performed by airline standards, the more hidden were their skills and labour. Yet today flight attendants are acknowledged safety experts; they have their own unions. Gone are the marriage bans, the mandates to retire by thirty-two. In Femininity in Flight, Kathleen M. Barry tells the history of U.S. flight attendants, tracing the evolution of their glamorized image as ideal women and their activism as trade unionists and feminists. Barry argues that largely because their glamour obscured their labour, flight attendants unionized in the late 1940s and 1950s to demand recognition and respect as workers and self-styled professionals. In the 1960s and 1970s, flight attendants were one of the first groups to take advantage of new laws prohibiting sex discrimination. Their challenges to airlines' restrictive employment policies and exploitive marketing (including skimpy uniforms and provocative slogans such as 'fly me') made them high-profile critics of the cultural mystification and economic devaluing of "women's work." Barry combines attention to the political economy and technology of the airline industry with perceptive readings of popular culture, newspapers, industry publications, and worker accounts. In so doing, she provides a potent mix of social and cultural history and a major contribution to the history of women's work and working women's activism.

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