What are 'maternity flight suits'? Joe Biden's Women's Day remarks slammed for turning military 'into joke'
The Air Force began developing maternity flight suits before Joe Biden was elected to become the President of the country and awarded a contract for their production in June 2020
On International Women's Day on March 8, President Joe Biden delivered a speech and marked the occasion by nominating two women to be four-star generals. He signed two executive orders creating a Gender Policy Council. He also reviewed the changes made to Title IX in order to dismantle Trump-era rules on sexual misconduct that afforded greater protections to students accused of assault.
However, it is the president's remarks on "maternity flight suits" that got the Internet talking. During his speech, Biden emphasized that while the Obama-Biden administration took the final steps to "open up all positions in the military to anyone qualified to serve in them," he recognized that there was much more work to be done to ensure that "women's leadership is recognized," and that all women feel safe and respected in the military.
During his remarks, Biden said that the country was making good progress on "designing body armor that fits women properly, tailoring combat uniforms for women, creating maternity flight suits," and "updating requirements for their hairstyles." He added that it will take "an intensity of purpose and mission to really change the culture and habits that cause women to leave the military," and that "women aren't penalized in their careers for having children."
Maternity flight suits are made for pregnant airmen who often have to borrow bigger suits. According to a statement from First Lt. Avery Thomson, the office’s lead program manager for maternity development efforts, "Current aircrew members are modifying their flight duty uniforms, at a significant personal financial cost, or they are borrowing bigger uniforms from their husbands, which creates a safety of flight issue. The Maternity Flight Duty Uniform will help remove a barrier for approximately 400 pregnant Airmen each year.”
However, Biden's remarks have led to many, including right-wing outlets to criticize Biden talking about "maternity flight suits," with The Gateway Pundit calling it "Democratic Logic" and a user tweeting, "Our Military is turning into a joke."
Our Military is turning into a joke. pic.twitter.com/Fl63GGkKlW— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) March 8, 2021
Todd Starnes tweeted, "Biden's Pentagon is creating "maternity flight suits." Does Biden plan on sending pregnant troops into battle?" Another quipped, "Maternity flight suits? What about equipping flights with cribs, baby food and diapers." One user wrote, "China has quickly developed the world's largest navy, and what's sleepy Joe doing? Creating new hairstyles and maternity flight suits..."
Biden's Pentagon is creating "maternity flight suits." Does Biden plan on sending pregnant troops into battle?— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) March 9, 2021
Maternity flight suits? What about equipping flights with cribs, baby food and diapers.— Devi (@kam_devi) March 9, 2021
China has quickly developed the world's largest navy, and what's sleepy Joe doing? Creating new hairstyles and maternity flight suits...— 🧐 (@Rinus_Ideology) March 10, 2021
Though this is the first time the president is speaking about "maternity flight suits", the custom armor was already in development before Biden was elected to become the 46th President of the country.
In June 2020 that Air Force Magazine reported that the Air Force had awarded a contract to begin production of body armor specifically designed for women, as part of a service-wide push for inclusion and gear better suited for female Airmen.
Previously, all female Air Force pilots were removed from flight duty after they confirmed their pregnancy, according to spokeswoman Captain Carrie Volpe. This included drone pilots who work in operations facilities on the ground. Women would have to file extensive paperwork for a waiver, just to be allowed duty time between weeks 1 and 34 of pregnancy, Volpe said at the time.
However, while the waiver process is no longer required, airmen still need a "return to flight status" check if they fly in an aircraft, which is a precautionary appointment made with a medical professional to certify the pilot ready for flight missions. Further, pilots are still prohibited from flying in the first trimester of pregnancy, deploying overseas, and flying ejection-seat aircraft, such as fighter jets.
One user defended the use of "maternity flight suits," tweeting, "Women have been deploying to war for this country for decades, but a sizable portion of my fellow citizens think that any slight changes to make our lives easier is "a joke", love my country."
Women have been deploying to war for this country for decades, but a sizable portion of my fellow citizens think that any slight changes to make our lives easier is "a joke", love my country. https://t.co/ze19yA7j2q— Lethality Jane (@LethalityJane) March 9, 2021