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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019

Here's just one reason why the uniform on last night's Apprentice caused such uproar

“Could you imagine as a woman being asked to wear that?”

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER series of catastrophic misfires on the part of this year’s Apprentice candidates.

In an episode where one team deemed it appropriate to name an airline Jet Pop while featuring an explosion in their advertisement, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the inevitable backlash would be centred on that.

But in actual fact, the adverse reaction came in response to the uniform designed by that same team, which was headed up by this year’s boardroom clown, Kurran Pooni.

Opting to take the ‘party’ route with their advertising campaign, Kurran’s team got to work, with Camilla and Jackie taking the reins on the creation and modelling of the airline uniform.

And it was a spectacular failure on many levels.

The ladies designed a cabin crew uniform not unlike something you might have seen in the beachwear section of a department store catalogue circa 2003.

It was a neon-coloured mini dress with a halter neck; a feature of which Jackie was particularly proud, and insisted on highlighting at every opportunity by untying and tucking into the top of the dress in the presence of bemused real-life airline staff.

The ladies bizarrely chose to team this dress with a jaunty hat;  presumably their nod to the fact they knew – on some level – that the word ‘uniform’ featured somewhere on the spec.

PastedImage-38774 Source: YouTube

It was impractical and inappropriate; something which only dawned on both women in the boardroom when Karren Brady asked: “Could you imagine as a woman being asked to wear that? As a uniform?”

And that’s the key: the problem wasn’t the outfit in and of itself, but what it symbolised; a reductive and archaic attitude towards a vital role in air travel.

Camilla and Jackie ignored the practicalities of the role and the vital duties required of female cabin crew when they designed that uniform, and – whether intentionally or not – they ultimately fed into an archaic narrative.

With their gaze falling upon their design, which looked all the more ludicrous given the scrutiny it was under in that moment, Camilla and Jackie were rendered momentarily speechless.

Hammering home her point, Karren reminded the women: 

Stewardesses’ main role is the safety of the passengers. Not to dolly up.

Here’s the thing; if two men had mooted that design as a potential uniform, it’s likely there would have been uproar long before the episode ever aired.

As a reflex, they would have been lambasted, and it’s doubtful the design would have made it as far as the sketchpad let alone the boardroom.

It would be fair to assume that team members would step in and explain that female cabin crew weren’t there to serve as eye candy. Indeed, you would expect a helpful reminder that female cabin crew played an integral part in air travel; something which definitely wasn’t represented by a neon pool dress and a giggle.

But it wasn’t two men.

In fact, the men on the team, including Claude Littner who was shadowing them, were visibly taken aback by the women’s final design, which was essentially presented to them as a fait accompli by both Camilla and Jackie.

In this instance, it was two women who reduced the role of stewardess to little more than a bimbo, akin to the dolly birds represented in Carry On films from the 1960s.

Indeed, you need look no further than Jackie’s vacuous depiction of a female cabin crew member during her team’s pitch to get an insight into her particular perception of the role.

For two women to ignore the main objective of a stewardess’s role and instead depict her as a giggling, simpering dullard was a particular blow; felt all the more acutely by Karren’s withering assessment of the women’s portrayal.

Oh and if that wasn’t sexist enough, can we have a moment for the fact male cabin crew may not be on board with a halter neck? Yep, they exist too, teams.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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