By Dhriti Mehta
What a time to be a woman! When all the advertisements on television show their bahus as empowered and not frightened when making Sasuma’s chai, their betis independent and not materialistic when it comes to wearing jewellery, and of course the frolicking girls on their period wearing white jeans who are surprisingly not doubling up in pain because of cramps in ads for sanitary napkins! Wow, right? *eyeroll*
Just as you don’t need a reminder to recall your place in society as a woman when you live in this painfully sexist world, you also don’t need to make an effort to remember when International Women’s Day is because the marketing teams for every brand make sure you know, and how!
One such repeat offender is Air India. For its International Women’s Day celebrations, the national carrier in a press release stated that it successfully operated a flight yesterday on the Kolkata-Dimapur-Kolkata sector with an all-women cabin and cockpit crew. They also have plans of organising other cultural and creative events that they plan to hold in order to commemorate this day.
Unfortunately, Air India has a long history of sexism that ranges from threatening and grounding its female flight attendants for being “overweight” to creating a six seat reservation plan for women in its planes to “comfort solo female travellers” which was hailed as “modern day sexism” by the people and media. It is evident that the airline should not be able to get away by using its tactics of throwing in a few women in any situation to make things apparently equal. In fact, one thing that almost no report mentions is that they pulled off the same plan last year for International Women’s Day, which changed nothing apart from bringing yet another Guinness World Record to Air India.
As sexual misconduct on airplanes is unfortunately becoming commonplace in India with even known personalities such as Zaira Wasim coming forward to share their stories, however, sources still suggest that “in-flight harassment cases are under-reported in India because of the associated shame and a culture where the onus is on the victim to prove the allegations.” This makes the non-confrontational policies of airlines such as that of Air India especially problematic.
As a woman, I sincerely hope that this International Women’s Day, good sense prevails over Air India and they realise that it is time to look at the situation with greater depth and not just as a marketing opportunity to appease women after a whole year of being harassed, abused and mentally disturbed in air.
Because after all, freedom in our wings to take flight is as important as the freedom in the wings of our sanitary napkins to actually make us want to frolic around in white jeans.