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Dressing attendants as Mile-High Barbies is just a last blast of sexism

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How did it come to this – women required to produce a sick note because they’ve been struck down by… unsexiness? It seems that Norwegian Air requires female flight attendants to wear heels, or have a note from the doctor – other rules cover everything from makeup to false eyelashes.

How mortifying for Norway: in 2018, the country was rated second for equality, after Iceland, in the Global Gender Gap report. Norwegian politician Anette Trettebergstuen said: “1950 rang, and it wants its rulebook back.” Norwegian Air responded that flat shoes are worn in the cabin, there are also dress guidelines for male stewards, and other airlines have similar rules – but it must be aware that last month, Virgin ditched requirements for heels and makeup, with others following suit.

It seems that we’re finally starting to see off the oversexualised “air hostess” cliche, but how has it taken so long? Air travel isn’t alone when it comes to chauvinistic grooming diktats. Officially or unofficially, illegally or otherwise, women have routinely been pressured to dress quasi-sexually for work. From the brazenly provocative Playboy bunny costumes, to waitress pawing-fests, such as last year’s Presidents Club dinner, through to more subtle coercion in bars, clubs, restaurants, shops, receptions and offices.

All too easily, “smart” or “groomed” or “brand-appropriate” become euphemisms for something quite different. It’s as if, for some women, their first task is to look semi-sexually available and anything else they achieve during the working day is a bonus. It’s not that women don’t sometimes wish to dress glamorously or sexually, and are........

© The Guardian