A couple of days ago I shared Singapore Airlines’ latest ad, which highlights their new A380 cabins. The ad is a pleasure to watch, as it’s a visual masterpiece. Like most Singapore Airlines ads it’s a bit abstract, though in the end it makes a connection to Singapore’s product.
On the post about the new ad, reader Chris left the following comment:
It’s a beautiful ad, but I just wish it was more than just the “Singapore girl”. Like, it is 2018, after all. Could they not have one male cabin staff member to include, or maybe a businesswoman working on spreadsheets? I do love the ad, I love the airline, but I just wish there was some modest effort at least to acknowledgement that there is more balance to life, relationships, gender, sex, call it what you will, than in the 1970s…
I like when airlines try to display diversity in all forms, and usually I’m very quick to pick up on that, and to the contrary, quickly notice when an airline just follows the typical stereotype of female flight attendants and male business travelers.
What I found most interesting about Chris’ comment is that I don’t think I’ve ever viewed a Singapore Airlines ad and thought to myself “that’s sexist,” even though the theme is very much there. Singapore Airlines always uses the “Singapore Girl” in their ads, and more often than not the only context in which you’ll see a female passenger is if it’s the wife or daughter of someone.
I do think they should show more diversity, including with the passengers they use. What got me thinking the most, though, is how I’ve never really put much thought into whether the consistent use of the “Singapore Girl” is sexist. Nearly half of Singapore Airlines flight attendants are male, so why aren’t they ever in ads?
As I brainstormed, I came up with a few reasons I may have never thought much of this:
- Singapore Airlines’ ads are so visually stunning and captivating that I just don’t pay attention to the details in the same way I usually would.
- I’ve loved Singapore Airlines since a very young age, and the “Singapore Girl” is the symbol of the airline, so I think I’ve thought of the airline and the “girl” as being one in the same.
- I don’t think Singapore Airlines is objectifying women in the same way that other companies have historically done in advertising. The way I view it, they’re not using the “Singapore Girl” as a sex symbol, but rather as a symbol for warmth, care, and compassion. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still potentially sexist, as it fits the stereotype of women staying home and taking care of everyone. It’s something they’ve built their marketing on for decades, though that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t adjust that over the years, as it’s not 1980 anymore.
At the same time, it’s 2018, and even if it’s not the intent, it might be time for them to update their image. Singapore Airlines has 40+ year old female flight attendants, so is calling them Singapore “Girls” really appropriate? Isn’t that infantilizing?
What do you guys think — is the use of the “Singapore Girl” sexist, and is it time for an update to the image? What needs to change — would more male flight attendants in the ad help, do they need to drop the “girl” name altogether, or what?