I saw a story the other day that made me cranky. A firefighter traveling on a Virgin Australia flight was asked to switch seats with a female passenger. What did he do to warrant this action by the airline? He was born a man.
The airline has a policy which prohibits men from sitting next to unaccompanied minors. Women are allowed to, or the kids can sit by themselves. But men, by virtue of being men, are not to be trusted in such a situation.
I hope as my son grows up he never has to fly alone. If he does, however, I hope the airline will figure out a way to keep him safe without discriminating against an entire gender. And when he’s an adult, I hope he will be able to fly in the seat he paid for and was assigned to, without being moved in front of a plane full of passengers simply because of his sex.
Some people might argue that men are more likely to do creepy stuff to minors. This may be partially true–in one study of England and Wales from 1979 to 2001, the breakdown of kidnappers was 93% as compared to 7%. On the other hand, men are more likely to be CEOs, so should only men be considered to be CEOs?
Plus, in the United States only about 700 of every 100,000 people are incarcerated. In Australia it’s even lower (less than 130). I realize this statistic doesn’t necessarily indicate how many people are criminals–or have the potential to be criminals–especially since if you’re good at being a criminal you wouldn’t be incarcerated. The chance of a randomly selected person on a plane being a danger to a child, though, is low.
My final point is that if somebody really wants to harm unaccompanied minors, they will figure out a way to do it. They might prefer not to sit by the kids on the plane, since that would provide a whole plane full of witnesses who saw them interacting with the kids.
I don’t know, maybe I’m overreacting. I have no doubt that sexism still exists against women–sometimes purposefully, sometimes just because of a mindset people don’t realize they have. That doesn’t mean there aren’t also some unfortunate preconceptions about men as well. If we want equality for the sexes, we need to fight for true equality. I want my son to be judged as an individual, too, and not just pigeonholed because of his sex!