Culture Here And Now

Women’s March Co-founder Tamika Mallory’s American Airlines Experience Highlights Intersectional Feminism

This is a prime example.

Intersectional feminism is a term that was coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. The concept already existed but she put a name to it. The textbook definition states:

“The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.”

The feminist movement at it’s core is like any movement where a person feels discriminated against or abused by someone in a position of power and authority over them. And the goals of these movements are fundamentally the same- having the right to be treated equally as a human being, not one less than another.

Intersectionality Stick

For Tamika Mallory the pilot of her American Airlines flight from Miami to New York violated that right. On Sunday Mallory claims she was racially-profiled. She told the New York Daily News, ‘I was singled out, I was disrespected, and he tried to intimidate me. I was discriminated against.’  

She claims she was racially-profiled and has slammed airline staff for trying to ‘intimidate’ her. Mallory is seen above speaking at a Women’s Action Network event in September.

Mallory, who is one of the founders of the Women’s March on Washington movement and who is active in the gun control and civil rights movements, was leaving Miami to attend the wedding of a friend on Sunday afternoon but missed it after a white male pilot discriminated against her, humiliated her and had her removed.

In her account Mallory stated that when she arrived to the airport she used an airport kiosk to change from a middle to an aisle seat, and as a frequent flyer of American Airlines and a Platinum status cardholder she was allowed to make the change.

But when she arrived to the gate the ticket rep ripped the issued ticket in two and without a word of explanation gave her a new ticket with her original middle seat.

When Mallory inquired about the change the agent told her she did not know why, and Mallory stated the agent seemed agitated by her inquire and became “disrespectful”.  And, the agent refused to look into the matter or try to fix the issue at Mallory’s behest which was inappropriate considering she is a frequent flyer and a premium member with the airline’s loyalty program.

Though frustrated and still stuck in a middle seat Mallory assumed the dispute with the customer service representative was over, until she was approached by the aircraft pilot who overheard the tale end of the exchange.

The pilot, who hasn’t been named, told Mallory that the gate-worker had ‘nothing to do’ with her seat being changed, and told her that she had been the one who acted disrespectfully.

Women’s March co-chairs Carmen Perez, Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, and Linda Sarsour. Image Source: Getty / Astrid Stawiarz

The pilot told her that her course of action should have been to lodge a complaint rather than inquire with the ticket rep and asked if she would be a “problem” while on the flight.  Mallory responded that she did intend to follow up with American Airlines and she would not be a problem, she was fine with concluding the issue for now.

Thinking the ordeal behind her and after settling into her seat Mallory was then called to the front of the plane by a flight attendant and told she had to exit. After asking why and after a first class passenger offered to give up his seat, the pilot, seeing the passengers empathy to the exchange, called for assistance. Six police officers were called to the scene and Mallory was escorted from the aircraft.

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Tamika Mallory at the Essence Awards as a keynote speaker on Women’s Rights & Civil Rights.

Mallory immediately called American Airlines to lodge a complaint and the representatives from the company told the Platinum status cardholder that the incident should have been handled differently by the staff. They immediately re-booked her for a new flight and have apologized.

In an interview with the Daily News New York this morning Mallory states she believes the white male pilot wanted to assert his dominance over a young, black, female passenger.

In cases like these it is difficult to not ask- Had she been a white male and an American Airlines Platinum status cardholder would this have happened in the same way?

Mallory tweeted about the incident and immediately followed up on facebook recounting her experience via a live video. The video posted this morning at 6AM EST, and has had over 170,000 views and over 1000 shares.

‘Doesn’t matter how much we do and how hard we fight, white men are allowed to treat black women like s***,’ she wrote on Twitter after the incident.

As you watch and listen to her explain her ordeal frustration, helplessness and anger crack her voice and she desperately tries to hold back tears. She says the hurt she is feeling is primarily for the lack of professionalism and courtesy denied to her as a human being.

Tamika Malory Live Video from Facebook:

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