Rachel U. sent us a 1968 American Airlines ad (larger available at Modern Mechanix):
She only wants what’s best for you.
A cool drink. A good dinner. A soft pillow and a warm blanket.
This is not just maternal instinct. It’s the result of the longest
Stewardess training in the industry.
Training in service, not just a beauty course.
Service, after all, is what makes professional travellers prefer American.
And makes new travellers want to keep on flying with us.
So we see that every passenger gets the same professional treatment.
That’s the American Way.
Before I read the headline of the ad, my brain registered the woman as a typical “sexy stewardess” image that seems to be standard industry fare when air travel started booming: knees bent up toward the face, one hand touching her face…extremely focused gaze that seems a bit “come hither.”
Of course, that’s what the pose is. It’s just that being sexually attractive doesn’t mean women weren’t also supposed to also take on a caretaking role. It’s one way we’ve constructed femininity over the years: women were supposed to be nurturing and supportive in a “maternal” way, while also sexually alluring enough to keep their men from wandering (because if he wandered, it was definitely their fault for not keeping him happy at home).
Notice also the implicit denigration of stewardesses in general: at American Airlines they get real training, “not just a beauty course.” At first reading that could seem as though they were saying they emphasize skill, not physical attractiveness, but the image makes it clear you can look forward to getting both.Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.