Pan Am Takes Flight with Controversy

   By Stephanie Shu

   Set in the Swinging Sixties, the TV show Pan Am is purposefully degrading towards women in order to make a point about the price of women’s freedoms today. Although critics rail the show’s producers for favoring a sexist society, Pan Am actually brings the importance of women’s suffrage to light.

   Stewardesses in Pan Am’s cast are subject to weigh-ins and a strict girdle-enforced dress code before they can even board a flight. Each female employee is assigned with a “personal weight limit” that, if breached, could lead to suspension or even dismissal.

   Before viewers raise an uproar to complain about the show’s injustices, they should first realize that the real-life Pan American World Airways, the inspiration for the series Pan Am, was the same way. Stewardesses were expected to maintain a standard of corporate grace and beauty, a discriminating practice that would lead to legal infractions in the United States today.

   However, Pan Am is not set in a modern time period, and the rights women have today did not come free; rather, tedious steps were taken and painful inequity was endured to achieve modern end-result. In fact, looking beyond Pan America’s prejudice towards women, it was actually quite amazing that the stewardesses were able to have the rare opportunity to escape expectations to marry young, start a family, and trade in the dull gender roles of society for an exciting adventure to take flight all around the world.

   Furthermore, it can be argued that Pan Am, actually holds more negativity towards men.  Men may have been running the Pan American operation, but Pan Am’s stewardesses defined the Jet Age. The men portrayed in the TV show were hardly glamorous, possibly even laughable. One of the stewardesses’ boyfriends is a writer who criticizes her for having to leave for another flight, but it should be noted that she was leaving to see the world, while he stays behind.

   The two male pilots of the show are also fillers, jokers at the helm, and superficial at best. They seem to be perpetually confused, running at the beck and call of their supervisors and getting dumped (painfully) by their women.

   Through the chauvinistic girdle-checks and weigh-ins these women endured, the Pan-American stewardess was a revolutionary step in the direction towards women’s independence. A round-of-applause goes to the show’s producers for putting a spotlight on the lives of 4 women who saw the world in a way most people had never seen it.