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The GEM Debate: Airline Attire; Were Officials Wrong To Ground This Woman?

I came across this story last night and thought it would be great debate fodder. A woman missed her connecting American Airlines flight after the crew held her back because she was wearing the above T-shirt. The unidentified woman was perplexed; she said she had been able to get on the flight with no problem and that the issue came as they were landing and she was rushed to catch her connecting flight. According to the article, she says a flight attendant told her she’d need to talk to the captain before getting off aircraft because of the shirt.

Now, as you know I have made a career (at least this recent incarnation) of speaking my mind; yep, there are no shrinking violets around here. And though I try to keep my political leanings to myself (save a few rants on Facebook and Twitter), I have become increasingly weary of the noise and subtle moves toward curtailing my rights as a woman. In fact, I pretty much agree with the sentiment of this T-shirt.


Come on now! Is this really the time or the place for a shirt like this? An airplane with passengers of all ages and beliefs? No. No it is not. I’m a mom. I travel with my kids and though they’ve heard some of the bluer language, I don’t think they need to be staring at it as they’re making their way to their seats on the plane (And you just KNOW we’d be the ones stuck right in front of her, as some fool down the aisle ahead tries to shove a too-big bag in the overheard).

American Airlines, for it’s part, says the woman was detained, not because of the message but because of the expletive emblazoned across the shirt. The airline’s Conditions of Carriage clearly states in number 12, that the airline may refuse to transport you or remove you if, among other things, you, “Are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers”.

You know something. I’m pro-choice. You know what else? That shirt causes discomfort and offense to me.

As was hotly debated the other day about the couple who had photos of their dying baby removed by Facebook, when you use a service, you have to abide by the rules, no matter how inane they seem to you. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Truly it does not. And like I said the other day, if you don’t like it, don’t play. If the couple (for whom I do feel genuine sorrow) have an issue with Facebook taking the pictures down, then protest the move by closing your account. If this woman doesn’t want to abide by American Airlines’ dress code, find another mode of transportation.

Before I open this up to the floor, I need to ask one more thing. Is it just my imagination or are we becoming a myopic, “my-way-or-the-highway” society? It seems as if we have lost the ability to see anyone’s point of view but our own and in some cases, are willing to figuratively flog to death others, until they agree with us. What is that about?

Okay, so the two points of discussion today are; was American Airlines right to delay this woman because of her shirt? Should they have done something before she got on the plane or is that immaterial? Do you find that shirt offensive? And secondly, are we becoming more egocentric as a society, unconcerned for the rights of others as long as ours are recognized? Your turn; fire away!

More from GEM:

Ask The Good Enough Guy: Why Is She In MY Business

Is THIS A Good Use Of Police Time And Taxpayer Bucks

Ask Rene: My Son Rejected My Religion


  1. Juli

    May 25, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I bet a hoodie would have solved the problem…
    But in my humble opinion, I may not like how she got her point across, but I don’t like how our airlines now adding censoring to the list of rights restrictions.

  2. Matt Nelko

    May 25, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I believe if push came to shove, the use of the words “refuse … to *remove* you” in the airline’s policy could be ruled in a court of law to be unlawful imprisionment.

    That being said, I think it’s high time we as a society started dressing more appropriately in public, period. “Business casual” really ought to be the dress code for flying.

  3. Andrea Denney

    May 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I think this comes down to whether we can “legislate morality.” First of all, I agree with the sentiments on the shirt. Secondly, I am offended by the shirt. The issue isn’t clear cut by any means. If I were forced to choose I would say that the airlines were wrong. Their decision cannot be uniformly applied.

    For example, I HATE those “Johnson” t-shirts that are worn by redneck adolescents. Are they removed from the planeI? If we are going that far, it might be offensive to a vegan to see a shirt advertising a Big Mac.

    I wish people exhibited better judgment in dress. But my better judgment may not be yours. I would ban low rise jeans that show off tramp stamps. I would ban Members Only jackets and fanny packs. But I cannot legislate good taste or morality.

  4. Carla

    May 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I think the shirt should have been censored. But the bigger issue is what about problem solving for your customer. Why not turn the shirt inside out? Tape over the offending word? There were other options other than defcon 3.

  5. Deon Smith

    May 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Like all Americans I support the FIRST AMENDMENT however I will be the first to call out those who fail to recognize that freedom does not exclude you from the consequence of your expression. GROWN PEOPLE who should “know better” and exercise PROPER JUDGEMENT should how and when to pick a battle. If I were on a flight and had my child with me Id find this shirt offensive. There is a time and place for everything. She made her choice, now she needs to be woman enough to OWN the consequences of her behavior.

  6. m.e. johnson

    May 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    > She was wearing a type of shawl that could cover the words. Pilot wouldn’t go for that.
    > Pilot ordered her to change the shirt. She didn’t have access to her luggage. Does he have a vested interest in a shop that sells shirts?
    > Pilot called her connecting airline and ordered? suggested? they not allow her to board. Who the hell does he think he is? I will not say what I think he is.

    I don’t know what happened to dressing appropriately. Have you seen how some show up for a job interview? That said, figure out how you (and you alone) will deal with what your children may be exposed to.

    And I agree mostly with Carla.

  7. Cody Williams

    May 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Close call.

    They should have never allowed her on the first plane. Having done that she should have been allowed to complete her journey.

    The shirt was crude and tacky. But what if it said ‘Shag’ or ‘Stup’?

    Same meaning. Classier way of telling Republicans to go stup off. And no one would have bothered her.

    At one time in my life I flew from one coast to the other twice a week. My travel attire was a set of Calvin Kline lounge wear. Essentially, pajamas. I didn’t realize it, neither did the airlines. Somebody pointed it out to me and now I just wear them to sleep in. But when I look at them today I’m amazed that I was not stopped.

    I just think they’ve become more diligent. And rightfully so. Because you will always have someone, like this women, trying to push the envelope.

  8. Deon Smith

    May 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I agree with a Carla to a degree. I do believe they could have found a solution to keep her as a customer, but I dont think they should have been put in this unfortunate position to begin with. I have to keep the accountability on this woman because her behavior INITIATED this incident.

  9. Deon Smith

    May 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    René A Wolfensberger– I saw this and I was first appalled by American Airlines then I learned what the shirt said and I felt what the “expletive” was she thinking. And granted one might leave home without thinking. Turn the shirt inside out. Problem solved.

  10. Pontificating Brother

    May 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Let me begin with the premise that rules are rules and we need to abide by them. But with that said, I think American Airlines could have handled this situation differently. There are numerous ways this could have been handled. But I am one that believes a shirt isn’t the proper forum for profanity, it makes the wearer seem a bit special for not being able to share their emotions differently. I do agree with her message that her body is hers and not the government. A woman’s womb shouldn’t be a topic of conversation during any election or on the senate/congress floor. The problem with America isn’t ProLife/ProChoice its promiscuity…(and I’m aware that I’m generalizing and there are special situations that I have failed to account for) I’m just saying…

  11. Carrie

    May 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Censorship is censorship, no matter how you dress it up or down. Whether or not you agree with the message, she has every right to express it. American Airlines needs to concentrate on improving their failing operation and spend less time on trivial matters like this.

  12. Rash

    May 26, 2012 at 9:50 am

    From what I understand, if we’re talking about the US Constitution, freedom of speech refers to citizens being able to criticize the government, not the relationship between a business and a customer. The business has the right to decide what is appropriate and what’s not, and the customer has the right to decide whether she or he will give that person their money.

    Just like a club has the right to deny you entry if you’re not dressed appropriately, an airline has the right to tell you to cover up something on your shirt, turn it around, or whatever. Yes, the woman has the right to wear that shirt on the steps of the Capitol. But she doesn’t have the “right” to wear on (or in) a business’ property if that business deems it unsuitable.

  13. Carrie

    May 26, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Freedom of speech extends far beyond criticizing the government. But, you are right in that a business has the right to not do business with someone. I don’t agree wih their reasoning, especially since they already were paid for their service, they let her on the first plane and, therefore, they should have found a solution that would have allowed the customer to finish her trip.

  14. Rash

    May 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    @Carrie: I’m not sure about that (unless I’ve totally forgotten my civics courses:-)). In terms of the US Constitution, freedom of speech *technically* doesn’t extend to private homes or businesses. If that were the case, the Westboro folks would have the right to go on church property during funerals and protest, which they don’t. That’s why they have to stay on the sidewalk.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  15. Rash

    May 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    But I agree with you in that AA should have found another solution just in terms of reputation management.

  16. Debra

    May 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    The shirt is offensive!!! I think the fact that she boarded her departure city with the t-shirt on…be it the CSA (Customer Service Agent) saw it or not, she should have been allowed to travel on her connecting flight sems to be an error on the CSA. I would have asked her to trun the shirt inside out!!! Maybe policy required the flight attendant to report the matter to the captain. These are the guidelines in place for the airline I work for— 6. Acceptance of Passengers
    a. Refusal to Transport 8) Comfort and Safety. Carrier may refuse to transport, or remove from the aircraft at
    any point, any Passenger in any of the circumstances listed below as may be necessary
    for the comfort or safety of such Passenger or other Passengers and crew members:
    (i) Persons whose conduct is or has been known to be disorderly, abusive, offensive,
    threatening, intimidating, violent, or whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently

  17. Carrie

    May 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I stand corrected. Thanks for the clarification Rash(?). Thanks for the clarification.

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