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To United Airlines, From a Leggings Wearer With Chronic Illnesses

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Dear United Airlines,

Over the weekend, a firestorm broke out over you requiring two teenage girls and a younger child to change their “inappropriate” clothes that did not meet your dress code.

Here’s a PSA – Leggings are pants too.

I wear leggings all the time. Every day in fact. As a spoonie — a woman with chronic illnesses — as a person, leggings are my go-to. There are even giant companies like My Lala Leggings that are driven by women’s passion for leggings.

I understand that all of these children were flying as pass flyers — meaning they were flying under an employee pass and therefore have different attire standards. This is how you have been defending your decision. Since you see them as representatives of your airline, they must adhere to a stricter dress code.

I would guess the flight they were on was about two hours long. As someone with multiple chronic and mental illnesses, and I can probably speak for most of the flying public as well — we like to be comfortable when we travel. And yes, leggings are in right now. Leggings are a standard staple in not only young girls’ wardrobes but many adult women’s as well.

I take three issues with your policy and I have outlined them below:

1) You have succeeded in sexualizing three women under the age of 18 – Congratulations. As if this world isn’t already hard enough for women, as if we are not already treated as second-class citizens, you have successfully shamed these three young girls with your sexist and out-of-date policy. These were not even grown woman able to vote or drink or pay taxes.

2) You don’t know if these girls had an illness that required them to wear special clothing to ensure their comfort on flights. When I fly, I have to wear compression leggings because of my risk of blood clots. You have no idea if either of them have an illness or disability that causes them pain, for which they need to be as comfortable as possible at all times. If you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in the world of fashion and people, (as I assume you haven’t by your outdated policy), invisible illnesses are a real thing. Invisible illnesses are a huge thing. Millions of Americans have struggled with invisible illnesses at some point in their life. You may have assumed these girls were neurotypical, healthy girls, but did you ask? Probably not because if you are a sexist company, you are probably a company that promotes ableism, too. Which bring me to my third point.

3) Your company has already made a disability-related faux pas in the last two years.  Maybe you recall the incident in October of 2015 when you made a disabled man crawl off your plane. So not only do you discriminate against women, you also discriminate against the disabled, the largest minority population in the U.S. I don’t think I have to elaborate on this point.

United Airlines, your policies are not only sexist but you also participate in one of my other least-favorite forms of discrimination — against the disabled population.

The next time I fly, I will not be flying United. As a woman, and one with multiple disabilities at that, I would never want to give my money to a company I feel actively promotes sexualizing young girls, discriminates against women and has a history of issues with the disabled population.

And you know what? The next time I fly, I’m going to be in leggings, too.

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Originally published: March 27, 2017
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