El Al flight attendants, get over yourselves

I have delayed writing about this story because I consider it more a “labor and employment” story than a travel story, but because repeated references to it keep cropping up, here goes.

As you may have heard by now, a number of flight attendants of El Al Israel Airlines, along with some female Israeli politicians and some women's groups, are protesting a change in the company’s policy about when and where the F/As must wear one of the elements of their uniforms.

© cherezoff, Fotolia
As of June 12, female F/As are required to wear their high heels until the last passenger has boarded and is seated. Prior to the policy change, which was announced in a weekly email, they only had to wear their heels while walking through the concourse and were allowed to change into their lower-heeled or flat service shoes as soon as they were on board the aircraft.

The airline pointed out that the change requiring F/As to “wear presentable shoes also when welcoming customers to flights” brought El Al into line with other airlines’ policies. The airline was also clear that the F/As could slip into their service shoes once the passengers were seated.

Oh, the wrath that small change in policy has incurred.

Almost immediately, detractors shot back with a variety of vitriol. Some complained that they are uncomfortable and cause health problems, others opined that high heels on board aircraft constitute a “safety hazard” while the Sisters of the Perpetually Offended trotted out the hackneyed claim that they are “sexist and objectify women.”

Four days after the directive was issued, the workers union of El Al instructed its female flight attendants to ignore the new policy.

To the F/As, I say this: With all respect, you knew that high heels were a part of the uniform when you took the job. If wearing them was a problem, either for physical or philosophical reasons, you should have said so at the time and sought special dispensation or, alternatively, not have taken the job.

Those decrying high heels as uncomfortable, painful, damaging or demeaning need to understand that their perspective is by no means the universal point of view. Women in all career fields wear heels regularly and, contrary to the derogatory claims of their detractors, many say such shoes make them feel polished and empowered.

Wherever you come down on the matter, the bottom line messages are these: Stop trying to present your perspective as though it was (or should be) shared by all women. Instead, take personal responsibility for your choices and opinions. Own them. Act upon them as you deem appropriate. But when those decisions run afoul of your employer’s job requirements, be prepared to face the consequences.

We'll see what happens.

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