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3 Reasons Outrage Over A Pilot Complimenting Flight Attendants Is Silly

A United pilot lightly complimenting his flight crew’s appearance is not worth getting upset about. In fact, appreciating beauty is a good thing.


Betsy Fischer Martin, a journalist who co-hosts Bloomberg’s “Masters in Politics” podcast, had a bad experience on a flight last night. Here’s how the former executive at NBC News and executive producer of “Meet The Press,” who is married to a New York Times political reporter, put it:

This upset CNN contributor Frida Ghitis:

Betsy responded, “Great question – when is @united going to at least train pilots to act like it’s 2016 not 1965.”

United Airlines took the unsolicited compliment as seriously as Fischer Martin did:

Fischer Martin took some heat for being upset at hearing a pilot speak about flight attendants the way he did. She then retweeted a handful of the responses she received, saying she was “Retweeting a sample of many tweets showing why #sexualharassment is alive and well in the workplace.” Here was my favorite:

Oh dear.

Here are the three silliest things about this public freakout over a compliment:

1) Who Cares?

Last week was pretty rough for the United States. This year has been pretty rough. The country and its people face serious problems.

The notion that a nice comment from a pilot would be worth mentioning to friends, much less drawing attention to in a significant way, suggests a lack of perspective. Even if the country were having a particularly incident-free year of relaxation, this would not be worth mentioning.

2) Stop Trying to Eradicate Compliments

Feminism has made it some kind of hate crime to offer compliments about appearance. Decades of feminist ideology have destroyed the art of giving and receiving compliments. But in general, it’s good for humans to recognize and appreciate beauty. While there are of course boundaries for propriety, everyone likes a compliment about his or her beauty or taste. A typical woman will feel delighted to be told she’s pretty or has pretty clothing or accessories.

Some compliments will be about appearance. This is okay. The fact is that women are pretty, and men have many reasons to notice this. If we take the feminist line that compliments are the equivalent of sexual harassment, this turns women from being people who have a bit of power in the male-female dynamic into victims. This is not empowering, by definition.

3) Getting Real about Sky Hosting

Fischer Martin referenced pilot behavior in 1965. In those days, flight attendants had a reputation for being young, ridiculously attractive, and female. Airlines used double entendres in their advertisements featuring flight attendants. I don’t know if you’ve flown recently, but I fly a ton on a number of airlines, United included. While all flight attendants tend to care about their appearance more than the average man or woman, they aren’t exactly known for being any of the things they were known for in the 1960s. Which is fine. But when the pilot referenced the youth and looks of the flight attendants, it was probably overly generous. This is a few years old, but it speaks to the issue:

In 1980 per the [Population Research Bureau], about 80 percent of U.S. flight attendants were under the age of 35. According to the report’s latest available figures, by 2007 the number of these “youngsters” had dropped to only about 20 percent while the numbers of older cabin crew members soared. By 2007, half of all flight attendants were age 45 and older, but here’s the real shocker: Nearly 22 percent of them were 55 and older.

Now, maybe the flight attendants on this United flight really were particularly young and pretty. If so, good for them. But it’s a nice, friendly compliment even if they weren’t.