"Honey Birdette Airlines": female cabin crew reduced to sexualised props in new ad campaign

Does "Honey Birdette Airlines" provide sexual services?

The Covid19 Pandemic forced the closure of Honey Birdette stores around Australia but this hasn’t stopped the roll out of a new, objectifying, sexualised ad campaign on social media.

The recent ad campaign “Turbulence” portrays a fictional airline, "Honey Birdette Airlines." Still images from the video show pouting flight attendants on Honey Birdette's website and social media. The women wear red uniforms adorned with the airline logo - a silhouette of a woman's legs in the air, her feet in high heels.

What is happening at Honey Birdette Airlines? Are we supposed to understand that Honey Birdette Airlines provides sexual services?

The Video

A woman wearing a white coat approaches a flight attendant who leers at the woman while handing over a boarding pass.

The camera then pans up and down the woman's body as she turns around, opening her white coat to reveal that she is only wearing Honey Birdette lingerie. The woman goes through security screening where we see different shots of her wearing various lingerie and bondage apparel garments.

The next scene shows the woman sitting on a row of seats at the boarding gate while the flight attendant and pilot sit behind her. As the camera pans up and down her body she uncrosses her legs and sits spread-eagled as she turns her head to see the flight attendant and pilot talking and pointing at her.

The film cuts to the plane mid-flight where the woman is seen reclining in a seat, walking around the aircraft and touching the flight attendant suggestively. 

The flight attendant stares, leers and touches the woman. In one scene the flight attendant stands over the woman and pours alcohol into her mouth. 

The next scene shows the flight attendant standing in front of the woman, chatting her up, before a third woman appears. This woman, the pilot, aggressively pushes the flight attendant out of the way, takes the woman by the hand and leads her up some stairs.

We are then shown the cockpit where the pilot leans over the woman who is now sitting reclined in a chair while unbuttoning the pilots shirt. The flight attendant is seen in the background with crossed arms looking unhappy.

The final scene shows the flight attendant once again touching and fawning over the woman while the pilot flies the plane.

The Lolita Express

This ad depicts sexual predation as a sexual fantasy. As I watched "Turbulence" I was reminded of Jeffrey Epstein's "Lolita Express."

Jeffrey Epstein, a disgraced financier, now deceased, is accused of trafficking countless young women in his private plane dubbed "the Lolita Express." Epstein brought young women, most of whom were underage girls, to his private island where he and his rich and powerful friends raped and sexually abused them.

[Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Ghislaine Maxwell]

Epstein's former partner Ghislaine Maxwell is alleged to be his accomplice, recruiting and controlling young women on Epstein's behalf. Maxwell remains at large.

The themes portrayed in "Honey Birdette airlines" are consistent - a young woman taken on a plane, undressed and passed around as a sexual plaything by those who have complete knowledge, power and control over her movements.

Flight Attendants sexualised

There is a long history of sexualising flight attendants, "Turbulence" and "Honey Birdette Airlines" perpetuate this. Airlines have been known to have height, weight and age restrictions for flight crew and have required strict uniform standards for female flight attendants, including the requirement to wear high heels.

Air Asia is one airline frequently using the sex appeal of their flight attendants to lure customers. 

A survey carried out last year by the Transport Workers Union found sexual harassment to be a widespread problem. 

A TWU survey of over 400 airline cabin crew last year showed 65% of respondents had experienced sexual harassment, with one in five crew reporting more than 10 incidents of sexual harassment.

Four out of five cabin crew experienced sexual harassment from co-workers while three out of five experienced it from passengers. Almost 70% said they did not report the incident with many (56%) saying they did not think it would be handled appropriately, and others (39%) even saying that they feared reporting it would make the situation worse.

 Quotes from respondents are alarming:

"We are touched on the groin and buttocks region every single day, sometimes every single flight."

"There is definitely a culture where crew and pilots think inappropriate comments and touching are ok."

"A co-worker pinned me against the wall and felt me up."

In 2017, Jo-Ann Davidson, the secretary of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia, commenting on a Ryan Air ad campaign had this to say:

“Such suggestive advertising portraying cabin crew as part of the product they’re selling sends wrong messages and puts cabin crew at risk of sexual harassment and abuse – all for a $10 air fare.”

Honey Birdette's "Turbulence"

A flight attendant pouring alcohol into an objectified and undressed woman's mouth, a pilot pushing the flight attendant out of the way and leading the young woman to a confined space for her own sexual use - this could be the script for an after school special on sexual predators, but this is an ad for Honey Birdette.

These actions portrayed by Honey Birdette as "sexy" are predatory actions which, when carried out in real life, have devastating consequences. 

The fact the predators are women does not change this. Allowing this portrayal of women and female flight crew in advertising sets a harmful precedent and undermines the work being done to address gender equality and violence against women.

See also: 

Collective Shout Submission on National Inquiry into Workplace Sexual Harassment

Edgy Art or Pornified Snuff? There's No Justifying the Sexualised Violence Promoted by Rihanna and Tyler the Creator  Sexualised Violence isn't Alright, Just because a Woman is the Perpetrator - Melinda Tankard Reist

Vile high club: why is sexism so prevalent at 40,000ft?

Let's stop sexualising the image of women flight attendants

#CabinCrewToo A TWU survey of over 400 airline cabin crew last year showed 65% of respondents had experienced sexual harassment, with one in five crew reporting more than 10 incidents of sexual harassment.

[Image via Transport Workers Union Click to enlarge]

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