In 2018, discussions about sexism in the workplace are pretty common in the media. These days, gender equality activists tend to focus on things like the gender pay gap, sexual harassment at work, and that yet-to-be-smashed glass ceiling.
But while the situation certainly isn’t perfect in 2018, sexism in the workplace was undeniably much rifer in the 1930s.
First of all, women were discouraged from taking up employment in the first place. But those who did were not entirely protected by equality legislation, were treated as though they had inferior abilities and generally received the short end of the stick in comparison to their male co-workers.
But if you thought the treatment of women was bad in the 1930s, you’ve seen nothing yet.
Recently, disturbing footage from the 1930s has been unearthed, featuring the disgusting treatment of female flight attendants:
This clip is from a 1936 Universal newsreel and showcases the demeaning hiring process in place for prospective flight attendants for United Airlines. The video reveals how applicants were flown over to San Francisco for a physical examination, and how their “credentials” were inspected by the “experts”.
Bizarrely, a male doctor is then seen measuring the women’s chests, hips, and waists, to ensure they fit the criteria of the “perfect” 1930s flight attendant. The narrator of the clip explains that the role demands certain age requirements and that the women have to be “up to rigid physical requirement”.
“The rush in air travel has caused the airlines to send out a call for hostesses,” the narrator explains at the start of the video. “Here are applicants flying over the Golden Gate prior to taking a physical examination. Many are called but few are chosen in this profession.”
“They not only serve meals, these girls must be registered nurses, under 24, and up to rigid physical requirement,” the narrator adds. “Take this whirling test. From this, United Airline’s doctors can tell what conditions the girls can stand in the air.”
“The pedigree of each girl is carefully noted. When the tests are finished, her batting average is figured out to the decimal point.”
According to a Daily Mail report, back in the 1930s, female flight attendants for United Airlines had to be single in order to be eligible for the role. Their policy also stated that they could be fired if they got married, if they exceeded the rigid weight restrictions, or even if they reached the age of 32.
It’s pretty unbelievable that such outrageous policies were ever allowed to be carried and the fact that they remained legal for as long as they did. Astoundingly, employment policies of this nature were only lifted in the 1970s, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the no-marriage rule was outlawed in the airline industry.
To reiterate, things may not be perfect in 2018, but thank god I wasn’t alive in the 1930s.