BA Airline has been in a spot of trouble for its handling of a delicate social issue. My response here is mainly to the National Post article on the subject - 'You’re male. You must be a pervert,' by Barbara Kay.
I almost didn't respond to this in the section following the article, but I did, in response to another commenter, then got drawn into the topic of discussion - men's rights versus children's. I found the title to be unsettling - an exaggeration of a social problem men don't like to discuss.
I thought this was worthy of telling about here as it is an example of men who cannot see beyond their own needs and their own egos.
It was also an example of how women (one woman - Barbara Kay) can dismiss anyone else's concerns in order that her favourite cause - men's rights - be upheld. I say, Good for the airline for doing what they can to protect children travelling alone!
Finally, it is an example of how rules should not always be followed blindly (though they are good as guidlelines, in certain circumstances, letting them go is best for everyone). There can be extentuating circumstances which following the rules leading. (I know; I came to Oshawa as a stranger and was treated like a criminal, a threat, as someone worthy only of second-class treatment, or less, often by people doing their jobs which means followng the rules without thought.) In this case, the man had been travelling with his pregnant wife and they had switched seats so that she could be more comfortable by the window. The flight attendant was either unable or unwilling to consider the situation in its entirety. He ordered the man back to his original seat.
According to the Daily Mail, the male passenger said "I was made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers. It was totally humiliating. Neither myself or my wife dared to speak to the boy in case the cabin crew forced us from our seats. The poor child must have thought we were extremely rude and unfriendly."
The male traveller backed off, which was the only thing he could do without looking like a - well - pervert, demanding to be seated next to the unaccompanied child. He did the right thing, and was recompensed for it later, so I fail to see why the situation is still being treated as problematic. The rule itself was not the problem, but the way the situation was handled. He was lucky to be able to sue and recieve justice. There are many people in this world - in Canada - who get treated badly every single day, who dare not speak for fear they will be punished, or who get blamed for anything bad that happens.
The discussion itself raised another issue, of conflicting rights. Sometimes, one person's rights (or one group's) can be stepped on by another person (or group) demanding theirs. In the discussion following the article, one of the commenters argued that if he had been accosted by airline staff about sitting next to an unaccompanied child he would have loudly complained then and there that he was being discriminated against, for being a man, or as news articles have put it - a pervert. Quite a lesson for the boy travelling alone to have to contend with. The male passenger did the only thing he could - he backed off, and was able to sue later.
My final comment on the National Post article was one I had submitted earlier in the discussion but which had been ignored, the commenter accusing me of being a "feminist propagandist" and needing a psychiatrist. So I will leave readers with this.
"I don't know how much feminists have had to do with such rules being created, but there has been increased awareness in society of how boys and girls can be taken advantage of, sexually, when they are left in close quarters with men who are sexual predators. Do you have a better way that the airline can deal with this?" (Sue McP)
Added June, 2012
Another good article explaining the fiaso is one by Dhruti Shah (BA seat policy, 2010). And finally, BA announces a change in policy! (Mirko Fischer winds again, 2010). A third piece, posted onto a Men’s equality website, is included, even though I think their perspective needs to be a bit broader than simply seeking ‘equality’ (Mirko Fisher is a men’s equality hero, 2010).
I have often said and will continue to say, about feminists, and now about men’s rights activists, that there never can be complete equality. Women need to listen to men’s concerns, and men need to listen to women’s (looking at it from a gender perspective.) Rules are made, or decisions made, then something comes up that puts the rule into question, and further adjustments are made. That’s how it works. And I see this case as being an example of that process. I imagine the people who made that policy weren’t doing it to intentionally embarrass men or make flying more difficult, or to lose customers. They were just thinking of the children.
BA seat policy made man 'feel like a child molester'
By Dhruti Shah
June 24, 2010
Businessman sues BA 'for treating men like perverts'
By Sophie Borland
Daily Mail UK
Jan 16, 2010
Mirko Fisher is a men’s equality hero as British Airways continues its sexism against men
Posted by Skimmington
The Rights of Man
June 25, 2010
Mirko Fischer wins again
By NB, Washington, DC
The Economist, Gulliver
Aug 22, 2010
You’re male. You must be a pervert
By Barbara Kay
National Post Full Comment
July 2, 2010
Links updated June 2012