“We’re all just packing into a tiny sky tube together for a few hours, why do you need to know what’s in my pants first?”
United Airlines’ announcement Friday, that the company was expanding gender accommodations for non-binary passengers, didn’t exactly go according to plan after the company endured widespread ridicule on social media.
In a press release United revealed “it has become the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout all booking channels in addition to providing the option to select the title ‘Mx.'”
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According to the press release, customers will “now have the ability to identify themselves as M(male), F(female), U(undisclosed) or X(unspecified), corresponding with what is indicated on their passports or identification.”
“United is determined to lead the industry in LGBT inclusivity, and we are so proud to be the first U.S. airline to offer these inclusive booking options for our customers,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist. “United is excited to share with our customers, whether they identify along the binary of male or female or not, that we are taking the steps to exhibit our care for them while also providing additional employee training to make us even more welcoming for all customers and employees.”
The statement said that United worked with LGBT civil rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign to implement its new policies and train employees.
A tweet from United’s Twitter account calling on customers to, “Fly how you identify,” was met with backlash from social media commenters, notably from Daily Wire contributor and conservative commentator Matt Walsh.
Ok then I identify as first class https://t.co/eJD0ykgEDw
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) March 22, 2019
“Ok then I identify as first class,” Walsh replied in a tongue-in-cheek tweet that garnered more than 8,000 likes and thousands of comments.
Other commenters were similarly critical of United’s bid for increased inclusivity. “There are only 2 genders,” wrote one Twitter user in a heavily retweeted reply.
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“I identify as a jar of peanut butter. My pronouns are Skippy and Smooth. Why aren’t they on your list?” wrote conservative media analyst Mark Dice.
Many commenters joined Walsh in “identifying” as first class passengers. Others suggested that United should change its name to “Identifly” as a reflection of its LGBT-friendly stance.
Some commenters were less amused with the airline’s announcement. “It’s so bizarre. ‘Fly with us, we will participate in your delusion’ Strange times,” read one Twitter user’s top reply. One commenter questioned why the company felt the need to “include gender at all in the process?”
“We’re all just packing into a tiny sky tube together for a few hours, why do you need to know what’s in my pants first?” he wrote.
While United’s tweet received a deluge of mocking and negative comments, not all replies were critical.
The feverish response generated by the company’s announcement can likely be attributed to the intensity of the broader cultural debate over gender issues, as well as Americans’ annoyance with companies’ increasing willingness to vocalize political views and co-opt social causes. While some may welcome the politicization of brands whose political stances align with their own, many people are frustrated by what they often perceive as craven corporate pandering.
Companies across both sides of the aisle have taken explicit ideological positions, to both the delight and dismay of their customers. Consumers hoping for an end to the trend toward politicization of their favorite brands may be out of luck. A 2018 Morning Consult poll revealed that most Americans want brands to be vocal about their politics.
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