Too sexy for the plane?

September 5, 2007

Odd story I first came across in a post by IB, a math teacher in Minnesota. And it is not about math or teaching or schools or education. It’s about a young woman who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because “her clothing was inappropriate.”

Huh? Check out the picture to left. This 23-year old Kyla Ebbert was wearing when she was escorted off the flight.

I think Gerry Braun at the San Diego Union-Tribune first broke the story

Southwest explained its treatment of Ebbert in a letter to her mother, saying it could remove any passenger “whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive” to ensure the comfort of children and “adults with heightened sensitivities.”

Her attire was lewd or obscene or patently offensive?

Oh, come on. What BS. I see skimpier clothing on, well, nearly all young women today.

Wrote Mr. Braun,

A Supreme Court justice famously could not define “obscene,” and declaring a thing “lewd” imputes motive. Did Kyla Ebbert intend to excite sexual desire on that flight to Tucson? I doubt it, just as I doubt that flight attendants are proper judges of such matters.

But neither am I. So when I arranged to see Ebbert in the notorious outfit, I brought along my fashion advisers, writer Nina Garin and photojournalist Crissy Pascual, who for years collaborated on a feature in this newspaper called “Seen on the Street.”

The three of us met Ebbert and her mother for lunch at Nordstrom Cafe. Ebbert, who is 5-foot-5 and has green eyes, is pretty enough to be a model.

Yet even wearing the clothes that scandalized Southwest, she did not attract attention beyond some lingering glances.

My fashion advisers were baffled, saying they saw nothing you don’t see on a college campus or in Pacific Beach.

“I was expecting to be shocked, and I was shocked the other way,” Pascual told me.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Garin said. “Her skirt was a bit short, which was only accented by her heels. If she had been wearing flip-flops it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Garin wondered if a jealous woman may have complained about Ebbert’s outfit. I asked her what she would have said had she been on the plane.

“ ‘I hope she’s not sitting next to my husband,’ ” Garin replied. “She’s pretty. She wears her clothes well. But I wouldn’t complain about it.”

Pascual detected sexism in the way Ebbert was treated, wondering if a man would have been asked to change clothes. Do men dress inappropriately? “I see butt cracks, a lot of butt cracks,” she said.

In its letter, Southwest said “there were concerns about the revealing nature of her outfit.”

I called Hollye Chacón, the Southwest customer relations representative who wrote the letter, to see if we were talking about the same outfit.

“What exactly was being revealed?” I asked.

She said yesterday she’d call back, but never did. That’s pretty revealing in itself.

Yeh; I think Southwest went over the top on this one. They ought to give Ms. Ebbert a round-trip ticket or a year’s pass in return for her not taking them to court.

As to public reaction, well, the blogosphere is all a twitter, and I love the comments posted at this site

  • I’ve flown Southwest for 30+ years, and their stewardesses used to wear much more revealing clothing than that.
  • The girl seems overdressed by today’s standards.
  • She can sit next to me. Heck, if they run out of seats, I’ll generously offer my lap…
  • In the interests of saving those “adults with heightened sensibilities”, I’ll sit next to her. I do it not for myself, but for all mankind.
  • Finally, a middle-aged man willing to stand up for the rights of beautiful, scantily-clad blondes! Way to go, Gerry!

The good news is that Ms. Ebbert was allowed back on the plane, and she was able to make her doctor’s appointment in Tucson.