Sexism and the Ryanair Cabin Crew Calendar 2014

17/01/2014 12:18 | Updated 18 March 2014

Ryanair, that of the cheap flights, zero legroom and zero tolerance of fat people, is the world's most hated airline. Popularly seen as the villain of the skies, Ryanair has been pissing people off for the last twenty plus years: with all its hidden levies, taxes and charges, Europe's ''only ultra-low cost carrier'' isn't actually selling low cost flights.

There's also the fine for and reaction to forgetting to print off your boarding pass (''we think they should pay €60 for being so stupid'' - funny yes, but irritating all the same), the smug sense of humour plastered all over its Getaway Café menu (''there's no extra charge to turn the page'', because with everything else on Ryan Air there is...), the four person limit of disabled people per flight (apparently, there's such a thing as having too many disabled people in one place), and the ever-looming threat of having to spend a pound just to spend a penny (what next, a £1 charge to access your oxygen mask? €1.50 to actually use it?). And then there's chief executer Michael ''what part of 'no refunds' don't you understand?'' O' Leary. With gaffes like ''nobody wants to sit beside a really fat f**ker'', ''I think we should ban burkas'', and ''the best thing you can do with environmentalists is shoot them'', he's the guy that everyone loves to hate.

But, fat people rejoice! Disabled people alight! For, after a second profits warning, it was recently announced that Ryanair would undergo a people-friendly makeover and ''stop unnecessarily pissing people off''. Cue, money being spent on improving the Ryanair website, charges for not printing off your boarding pass being slashed, and actually being allowed to reserve a seat instead of squashing a small kid out of the way just to get to the window.

Whether you're happy about these changes or not (yes, you David Mitchell) the one thing that really needs changing is Ryanair's continued representation of women in its hugely misogynistic Cabin Crew Calendar (more Page 3, less Pirelli). When Ryanair is trying to revamp its reputation from being the most hated airline in the world, why is it still producing calendars in which its female employees are represented merely as sexual objects?

Putting the 'cheap' in cheap airline, every year since 2008, the Ryanair Cabin Crew Calendar sees a group of women with big breasts, big hair, big teeth, and zero ethnic diversity, getting their kit off for the camera and frolicking around on a beach - the only 'legitimate' space where women can writhe around practically naked, and one you can get to for under £100 if you fly with Ryanair (N.B levies, taxes and charges not included). Yes, it's for a really good cause; all proceeds go to charity, that's €10/£10 per calendar (it wouldn't be Ryanair without a dodgy exchange rate), with the 2014 calendar's proceeds going to the Teenage Cancer Trust. But, for the cause of feminism - a term that needs to be rehabilitated from the misplaced image of bra-burning, man-hating, suspiciously hairy lesbians/P.E teachers - good it is not.

For 2014's calendar, Stansted's finest were whisked away to the city of Chania, on the sunny island of Crete. From Miss April leaning on an imaginary fireplace to Miss July letting one off, not to mention Miss January's questionable choice of non-waterproof swimwear, by having these women conform to the sexed-up poses of men's magazines (breasts up, bums out, lips about to let out a burp), Ryanair is participating in the objectification of women, something that feminists (bras burned or otherwise) have been working really quite hard, and for a couple of years now, to escape. And I'm not the only person who thinks so: Spanish judge, Amanda Cohen, has ordered Ryan Air to drop its 2014 calendar ad campaign, following a formal complaint from Spanish consumer group Adecua.

Not only is the calendar giving women, worldwide, a bad rep, it's also adding unwanted weight to the age-old, sexist stereotype about female flight attendants. Although now allowed to marry, have kids, and work beyond the age of 32, none of which was previously possible, air-hostesses are still made to wear short skirts, small heels and a full face of make-up, while certain airlines in China only hire those who fit a specific ideal of attractiveness. If they, quite literally, do not fit the 'correct' mould (they're rigorously and degradingly measured) hopeful female employees won't even be allowed an interview.

In a response, laced with cheesy puns and vitriolic (but, yes, quite funny) name-calling, to the FACUA's criticism that Ryanair's first ever Cabin Crew Calendar was perpetuating historically defined, patriarchally-enforced stereotypes about stewardesses (fast-forward five years and things still haven't changed) Ryanair's head of communications said this: "The Girls of Ryanair 2008 calendar stocks have well and truly been stripped bare since we pointed out to the FACUA prudes that Ryanair is defending the right of women to take their clothes off''. I am neither a prude nor do I want to obstruct women's right to get naked; it's the context in which these women are getting naked, which I have a problem with. These women are not being empowered; they're being reduced to sexualised stereotypes and forced conform to the gendered expectation that women are inferior to men.

I'm not saying that Ryanair should abandon the calendar altogether, as it is for charity, after all. I'm just saying that, as Ryanair is so good at squeezing money out of people in general, why can't it raise money in a way that isn't to the detriment of all those with vaginas? Why not have a calendar filled with Michael O' Leary quotes: ''Merry Christmas, you're not getting a refund, so f**k off'', for December, or, ''hey you, fatty, stop hogging the seat'' for May. Either way, with everything else at Ryanair changing, this needs to be next on the list.