The war on women's bodies continues...
According to the customer service reps running the Twitter team, United Airlines does not have a “no legging” policy for its customers… However, they do have one for “pass travelers”—off-duty employees or friends and family of United employees who are flying on stand-by for free.
Apparently, anyone (no matter what age) flying as a pass traveler is required to dress in “business casual” attire as they are “representing the company.”
Okay, that’s fair.
Lots and lots of companies have dress codes for work and (as many, many, many, Twitter users pointed out) rules are rules. Another complicating factor was that Watts didn’t know that these girls were “non-rev” passengers, which means that a false narrative about the circumstances of the incident was spread far and wide before the public had all the information.
Since we now know all the information, though, let’s talk about the real issue here—because there is something to be upset about, and I think it’s what Shannon Watts was getting to in the first place.
The Real Issue
The point that many people (including United) seem to be missing is not that they have a dress code, it’s what the dress code says!
It’s the same argument that people have against school dress codes that end up policing what women and girls can wear to a disproportionate degree—it’s not that dress codes are always bad, it’s that this one is bad.
The issue is not that United wants their “pass travelers” to look put together when flying for free, it’s what they deem to be appropriate and inappropriate that seems arbitrary.
Like the school dress codes that have come under fire in the past few years, their rules about attire affect those who dress in women’s clothing way more than they affect those who dress in men’s. While I can’t find a run-down of the United dress code directly from the airline, a travel blog called One Mile at a Time has a copy of it and it’s really heavy on what women can’t wear.