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‘Too fat to fly’: Russian women fight job discrimination

Evgenia Magurina with her Aeroflot uniform

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Aeroflot flight attendant Evgenia Magurina noticed her earnings drop when she didn’t meet the airline’s costume dimension requirement

For Aeroflot it was an try at a picture makeover that went flawed.

When Russia’s nationwide airline determined to hyperlink the pay of its flight attendants to their costume dimension, Evgenia Magurina was outraged.

“I used to be in shock at first. It did not make sense. How might they reduce pay, due to your dimension?” the stewardess remembers at her Moscow flat, shut to the airport. “They mentioned the ‘success’ of a stewardess relies on her dimension, and that actually offended me,” she says, declaring that she had seven years’ expertise on the airline.

Aeroflot strenuously denies discrimination. But its method appears notably odd in Russia, 100 years after a revolution which prided itself on selling equality.

Last yr, cabin crew on the airline have been measured and photographed. Evgenia Magurina says she was instructed she had “massive cheeks and a giant bust” and will put on a sports activities bra.

Then in October she observed that her bonus pay had been docked. She had additionally been faraway from extra profitable, long-haul flights.

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When she confronted her bosses she was instructed she did not meet the dimensions restrict Aeroflot had set for its cabin crew: a Russian dimension 48, a couple of UK 14 or US 12.

Evgenia Magurina says a whole bunch of different flight attendants suffered the identical therapy, dubbing themselves the STS membership after the Russian phrases for previous, fat and ugly.

Instead of lengthy journeys to New York, they joked that that they had been relegated to night time flights across the Russian metropolis of Nizhny Novgorod, “so no-one will see us”.

Facing a reduce of some 30% in her pay, Evgenia Magurina determined to sue.

“They put look in first place. But stewardesses are rescuers above all,” she insists. “Imagine if that they had the identical necessities for judges or docs? It can be absurd.”

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Amid the throng of calls for that drove the Russian revolution in 1917 was women’s suffrage – right here women march with a banner studying “voting rights for women”

Russian women obtained the vote in 1917; abortion was legalised quickly after. And in a massively symbolic transfer, the united states despatched the primary feminine cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova into area.

But years on, flight attendants aren’t the one women dealing with discrimination right here.

In the central Russian metropolis of Samara, Svetlana Medvedeva has been barred from a job captaining a ship.

In 2012, she was employed as a ship pilot and mechanic however the provide was withdrawn when the agency’s HR division intervened. It realised it couldn’t make use of her as a result of she was feminine.

In truth, 456 professions are off limits for women in Russia, labelled as harmful or supposedly dangerous to their reproductive well being. That consists of driving a prepare, preventing fires or working as a carpenter.

“I might perceive in the event that they have been actually frightened about pregnant women, however they do not even contemplate whether or not a lady is pregnant, or plans to be,” Svetlana Medvedeva factors out on a small motor boat on the vast, uneven river Volga. As we discuss, an extended, low passenger ferry sails previous – the boat she was barred from engaged on.

Svetlana Medvedeva has been disputing that call via the courts ever since.

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Russia’s ban on women working in 456 professions is an instance of patriarchy in motion, Svetlana Medvedeva thinks

“Russia is a patriarchal nation. Any motion on women’s rights is backwards,” she argues. “This checklist of professions speaks for itself.”

Introduced in 1974, the checklist was confirmed in 2000 and permits exceptions provided that an employer can show they’ve made situations secure – particularly for women. In apply, few need the effort or price of proving that.

“I do not know a single [piece of] analysis that helps this concept of defending women by forbidding professions. I do not assume that is the explanation,” says historian Irina Roldugina from the Higher School of Economics.

She factors out that the checklist got here simply as a brand new era of post-Soviet women have been discovering their unbiased ft.

“Women began to see themselves as absolutely fledged residents, and this was seen as an issue,” Irina Roldugina argues.

In February 2016, the UN’s anti-discrimination physique dominated that Svetlana Medvedeva had been denied work unfairly on the premise of her gender.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination towards Women (CEDAW) says Russia has a “ethical obligation” to implement its advice to revise the roles checklist, however admits that isn’t legally binding.

‘Justice prevails’

The Supreme Court did order Svetlana Medvedeva’s case re-opened although and this week a decide in Samara is predicted to attain a verdict.

Meanwhile again in Moscow, Evgenia Magurina has already had her day in courtroom.

Aeroflot’s attorneys tried to defend the reduce in her bonus pay by arguing that each further kilo of weight price the airline extra in gas. They additionally claimed their coverage was primarily based on slim aircraft corridors and its crews’ well being, not purely their look.

But the decide declared the airline’s pay coverage unlawful, leaving Evgenia Magurina hugging her pals and attorneys in tears of disbelief.

“I hope this implies women might be braver in preventing for his or her rights,” she mentioned, recalling one pal who made herself sick ravenous herself to attain the airline’s dimension restrict.

“They thought everybody would put up with it. But it offended us,” she says. “Now justice has prevailed.”

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