Dressed to fly

Malaysia airlines uniforms

Sometimes we raise the right issue but the premise upon which the issue is raised is not exactly right.

PAS raised the issue of how female cabin crew dressed in our airlines. However, they raised this on the basis of something subjective called “menjolok mata”.

To me, it sounded more of PAS trying to project its concern for “moral values” rather than addressing issues fundamental to the cabin crew’s overall work efficiency.

It also sounded as though PAS has a general view that all Malaysian men have nothing better to do than to look at women only from a sexual perspective.

Life is not all about sex or sexual perspectives, please!

Transport Minister Anthony Loke’s reply to the issue raised, “kalau menjolok mata, jangan pandang”, is actually an advice from the Quran.

Surah An Nur verse 30 states clearly to look away from gazing at other people’s body parts that are forbidden in Islam.

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.”

Having said the above, I believe that the uniform of the cabin crew, both male and female, is important especially in the context of enabling them to perform their duties effectively.

The primary duty of cabin crew is to assist passengers to leave the aircraft safely during emergency evacuations. Their dressing should allow for agility and mobility, comfortable fabrics and safety features factored in by aviation experts.

Quite apart from that, the cabin crew uniforms should be designed to ensure they are comfortable not only fabric-wise but psychologically too. In the context of female crew members, our airlines should not have the kind of dressing that obviously objectifies them as sexual objects – and this point cuts across whatever their religious affiliation.

Sexual objectification of women at the work place is an affront to the dignity of the women and oppressive.

Companies have to evolve to respect talents, skills and quality of service instead of using sexuality to attract customers. Hence, dresses that are designed to deliberately accentuate sexuality of the female worker at the work place are to be discouraged on the basis of exploitation of women.

Crew members should be given the option to wear clothing which they deem reasonably appropriate and consistent with their religion so long as it does not interfere with their primary and secondary duties. I said “reasonably” because obviously wearing a burka completely covered up in “jubah style” will impede movement, especially during emergency evacuations.

It is important to note that designing uniform policies that make it difficult for a female worker to comply with her religious duties or conscience (reasonably) is against the Federal Constitution.

Article 8(2) of the constitution reads:

“Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law or in the appointment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition…”

Hence, if a Malaysian airline company has a uniform that requires wearing a skirt way above the knees and low-cut blouse that reveals part of the female crew’s chest, it clearly contravenes Article 8(2) as it discriminates against females, especially Muslims, from applying to become a crew member.

The argument of “corporate image” cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against females and to exploit women sexually.

Perhaps, the Scottish got it right with the men wearing skirts (kilts) while the women wear pants!