?

Log in

Nov. 18th, 2010 @ 02:01 am (no subject)
Entry
fat pony tongue
11/19/10 - for those coming along via new links, I was asked to guest blog this post at the California NOW blog. Doing so gave me a chance to polish some bits and clarify a couple of points; you are welcome to read either version and respond either place but the version there is more thorough, while the comments here are more numerous.



(stix cartoon by eyeteeth of Small Peculiar)

Which is pretty much my take on it, but of course you know I've gotta be about the nuance, because I spoil everything.

Patricia Calhoun at Westword started reporting on women being singled out for inappropriate groping in 2001, just weeks after 9/11: http://www.westword.com/2001-10-18/news/screen-and-screen-again/

For the next year, I wouldn't fly in anything other than a sports bra. Then the "zealous" screeners at DIA apparently eased off. I started wearing underwires through security again, but not without trepidation.

In 2003 I was almost arrested when I set off the metal detector because I was wearing a garter belt. I was pulled aside for the wand-down, which I didn't object to. I told them they'd get a small positive on the front and back of each thigh from the clips, which they did. The screener then demanded that I go to a "private screening room." "Not until my bags are done being x-rayed," I said, aware that I had a couple thousand dollars worth of technology in my carry-on. "You'll get them afterwards," they told me. I refused to go and asked for the "private screening" in view of my bags, even if that meant in view of other passengers. They threatened to arrest me. I lifted my skirt to show them the garter clips, flashing the entire terminal in the process, and the screener started to grab my arm, but the supervisor waved her off and said "let her go." I grabbed my bags off the conveyor and stalked off.

I have no illusions about what would happen today.

The thing is that nothing about this is new. Private citizens being arbitrarily singled out for intrusive searches and rough treatment by authority figures because of their appearance, their "attitude," or just a momentary need for an endorphin rush by a small-minded bureaucrat? Welcome to the lives of people of color, the phenomenon of Driving While Black, the lives of women, of transpeople, of disabled people (oh hai, Canada!).

It is no accident that women have been complaining about being pulled out of line because of their big breasts, having their bodies commented on by TSA officials, and getting inappropriate touching when selected for pat-downs for nearly 10 years now, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that CAIR identified Islamic head scarves (hijab) as an automatic trigger for extra screenings in January, but just this week it went viral. What was different?

Suddenly an able-bodied cisgender white man is the one who was complaining.

It is also no accident that the rhetoric around "enhanced" pat-downs has immediately triggered a flood of racist, classist, ableist comments about TSA workers whom I've seen referred to as morons, retards, garbage collectors, high school drop-outs, and more. The fact that almost half of the TSA workforce is made up of POC? Purely coincidental. The fact that Republicans insisted that the bill creating the TSA also contain a clause saying they can never be unionized, and thus most of their force will never make more than working-class wages? Surely that has nothing to do with the public's contempt. Oh look, the homophobes are already on the bandwagon, and they always make for great bedfellows.

I hate the TSA. I hate petty bureaucrats. My ex-husband and I have been treated in humiliating, degrading, enraging ways by immigration officers long before they were the ICE, back when they were the INS, before Homeland Security and 9/11. I said then and I say now, if you give small-minded, disempowered people small amounts of power on the job, some of them will inevitably become mini-tyrants who live to wield that power over others at every available opportunity. I fully believe that for every person with integrity, honor, and a nuanced view of the world who occupies one of those roles, there is a person who gets their kicks from bullying others, picking on those they see as vulnerable, and being as rigid and inflexible as they can get away with before a supervisor yanks their chain.

I am flying in December, and will be flying much more next year as my new job will require about 3 off-site "residency" weeks per year where I travel to run clinical skills workshops for students. I live a good 2-3 day drive from my aging parents and my lone remaining grandmother. It is not an option for me to say "I just won't fly any more."

When I fly in December, if I'm pulled out for either of the imaging machines, I will adopt the same demeanor and rhetoric I use when a medical person tries to get me to step on a scale: "No, thank you." Polite but firm. "Not today, thanks." I will submit to the "enhanced" pat-down and tolerate having my hair stroked, my labia and breasts touched, my waistband fingered. I will ask to have it done in full view of all other passengers, not in a "private area," and I will ask for a witness, possibly a police officer. And then I will go to my gate and write up my report for the ACLU. And I will adopt this same strategy until the policies change.

Because I do not believe there is adequate evidence that the levels of x-rays in the backscatter machines is safe, particularly for those with histories of melanoma, depressed immune systems, children, or the elderly.

Because I believe there is adequate evidence to show that the images produced by these machines can be stored, have been stored, and have been used as fodder for others' amusement.

Because even if I am not wearing a maxi pad or an adult diaper, wearing a breast prosthetic after surgery, fitted with an ostomy bag, or living with genitals that don't match my expressed gender, I know others are, and I think subjecting them to potential humiliation and ridicule is wrong and does not make us more safe.

Because I am a fat woman, but I am smallish fat, probably not the size of fat that would get me snickered at between employees or by other passengers, whether I was being photographed or patted down, but many people are bigger than me and they live with enough opportunities for ridicule in their life already.

Because I know that having an essentially nude image taken of me might not be traumatic for me but it might be for others.

Because I know that being intrusively groped might be something I can tolerate via dissociation, but not everyone can.

Because I know that it is not OK for the government to make images of the nude outlines of childrens' bodies, particularly in a world where Mike Diana can be convicted of obscenity for making crude drawings of sexual molestation.

Because I am not confident that the TSA has effectively removed convicted sex offenders from the ranks of people allowed to feel up or look at the naked outlines of the bodies of adults and children.

Because I hope that if enough people request the "enhanced" pat-down, a not-insignificant segment of TSA employees will start to object and make the very valid point that when they were hired, they were not told that touching people's junk was in the job description.

Because if you want it on board badly enough, you will shove it up your personal area, and they haven't started doing body cavity searches. Yet.

Because I know that it is perfectly possible to get all kinds of things on board that could serve as weapons, even if you feel up everyone's junk.

Because they're still not screening the people who clean the aircraft cabin or re-stock the soda cart, while the back side of baggage claim is still "protected" by an 8' high chain link fence. While in the meantime they're x-raying pilots and cabin crew over and over and over, when all a pilot needs to bring a plane down is... the controls.

Because I do not believe in living in a police state.

At the same time, I am on to the fact that conversation about civil liberties and police states is just now starting to go viral, when we have held people in Guantanamo for 8 years now without pressing charges against them, when 1 in 4 women is the victim of an attempted sexual assault in her lifetime and that's without counting "enhanced pat-downs," when suddenly it's the single black mother feeling up the educated white guy instead of the other way around. Suddenly images of violated (young, attractive) women are being used, and commenters on blogs are saying "dude, what if that was your wife or your daughter?" as if starting this week, physical assaults on women and girls was a Very Serious Issue, never mind the fact that it took an upset white guy to finally get the media's attention. Never mind the fact that some upset white guys are practically advocating physical and sexual assault on the TSA screeners, both male and female.

Kyriarchy: I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

ETA: You are welcome to link to this post; you are not welcome to cut-and-paste the contents except as a brief quotation with a link back.

I edited this post to add more visible credit to the cartoon's author and to add a thought about vulnerability for fat people at about 1230pm West Coast time on 11/18/10.

Second ETA: I explicitly called out the "cisgender" piece of this puzzle when I tweaked this post for California NOW; however most links seem to be coming here for the nonce. Since I apparently thought I'd added "cisgender" to my money quote here but failed to do so [headdesk], I added it on 11/19/10.

Third ETA as of May 2011 - this post has become a magnet for spam pharmaceutical ads, so I'm closing comments.
[User Picture Icon]
From:trinker
Date:November 18th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'd like to signal boost - you okay with that?
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:filkerdave
Date:November 18th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Moi aussi
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:jonathankorman
Date:November 18th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Spot on. I'll be forwarding this.

The TSA is not our society gone wrong. It has only made visible what was already wrong.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:rmjwell
Date:November 18th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Dude.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:sageautumn
Date:November 18th, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Do you mind if I boost on Facebook?
(If so, please just say so.)
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You are welcome to.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:beachlass
Date:November 18th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Fantastic post. Thank you.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You're welcome.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:arielstarshadow
Date:November 18th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'd like to link on my Facebook as well, if that's all right? Because...

A-bloody-men.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Certainly you may.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:paradisacorbasi
Date:November 18th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Incredibly insightful and very brilliant.

I've been seething that people have been making "ha ha funny you get felt up" jokes and imperiously declaring "so just don't fly because you CONSENT TO ha ha getting felt up by CHOOSING to fly".

I think I have to signal boost this too.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:archanglrobriel
Date:November 18th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
(Link)

I've been seething that people have been making "ha ha funny you get felt up" jokes and imperiously declaring "so just don't fly because you CONSENT TO ha ha getting felt up by CHOOSING to fly".


Oh me too! It's been driving me buggy that so many people are going this route with it. People are acting like the realities of "just not flying" wouldn't massively impact people's lives and in many cases, employment viability and prospects. If I live in San Francisco and a publisher wants to meet me in New York City, I'm guessing he or she isn't going to want to wait the week it's going to take me to drive there, or reimburse me for the expenses incurred from gas and extensive, repeated stays in hotels.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:trouvera
Date:November 18th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Great post. I've been wibbling about what to do about flying home for Christmas. Still haven't made a decision about that, but this has definitely added some grist to the thought process.

Mind if I re-post or send folks this way?
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Go right ahead.

And for what it's worth, I don't think my decision is "the right one." Not everyone can tolerate the feel-up (and obviously I don't think people should have to.) Going with the path of least resistance is a survival mechanism that is perfectly valid. There are no "right" decisions here.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:rmjwell
Date:November 18th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Add me to the list of people awaiting your permission to rebroadcast this. Hell, I want to print it and post it at my workplace.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Be my guest.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:archanglrobriel
Date:November 18th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
OMG yes. YES. 1000x Yes. I'd love to point people to this from my LJ, are you ok with that?
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, certainly.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:snowcalla
Date:November 18th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This was fantastic. Re-posting!
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:raychoo
Date:November 18th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Well said. As you so often do, you take stuff that's been bothering me, distill it, find supporting references, and put it down in words more articulately than I ever could (largely because this stuff reduces me to ARRRRRRGGGGHHH).

Will also repost, assuming that's cool.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Aw, thanks. I am not always good at originality, but synthesis and summation seem to be my superpowers.

You are welcome to repost.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:crossfire
Date:November 18th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
One of the members of ontd_p served up a nice privilege check yesterday. It is awesome.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
(Link)
hotcoffeems is dead on, which is not surprising, as I've seen her elsewhere be totally incisive.

When it's happening to other people, it's easy to say "well if some people like you weren't (terrorists/drug dealers/thugs/bangers/etc.) that wouldn't happen to you so maybe you should go protest your own community" (a far more articulate version of the anyeurism-inducing racism that pops up in the SFGate comments every time the news references a black or Muslim person around here).

When it happens to you, suddenly the natural order of things is topsy-turvy. Cats and dogs living together!

(for some values of "you," naturally.)
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:dcart
Date:November 18th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'm pretty sure you didn't spoil anything with this post. Awesome.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elainasaunt
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Mea culpa, I posted this on my Facebook, and only then read the comments. (Here via rm's LJ.) I found it really powerful, and said so when I linked it. I've already had a comment from someone saying you made arguments they had never considered. But of course if there's a problem with linking it, I'll take it down.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
No, it's fine. I rarely post publicly but decided to unlock this one.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:yeloson
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you.

I've been really pissed that people go, "Sexual assault!" now that it happens to white guys, and also, hey, where were all these people worried about sexual assault that goes on outside the TSA, all the time?
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Exactly.

I find it really confounding that now the *conversation* is about sexual assault on (white) women and children, and the *imagery* is about sexual assault on women and children, but the *momentum* is actually because of sexual assault on adult men.

Because I'm like, y'all, if you are worried about who is eyeballing and touching up your wimmins, let me just mention to you that leaving the house is pretty much a daily risk for your precious jewels of womanhood, so where is the viral media campaign about that? Where is "Opt Out Day" for harassment, stalking, and sexual violence? "On November 24, take the pledge to not feel women up with your eyeballs like a total creep."

Um, yeah.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From:delux_vivens
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Suddenly an able-bodied white man is the one who was complaining.

POC have been complaining about hostile and humiliating treatment by airport security long before 9/11-- esp black and latino men. From what I can tell, pretty much everyone bitterly bewailing how awful it is now cheerfully ignored it before, but now everyone is supposed to be galvanized with shock and horror? Um...

I'm gonna post about this at my lj.
(Frozen) (Thread)
From:delux_vivens
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
ps: great post.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:tylik
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This. All of this. Thank you for writing this - I've been nibbling at bits around the edges, while I'm ill and working on my quals, but this just puts it together.

May I link?

Oh - and am I the only person who has at least one friend working for TSA? Shout out to Michael, the former marine I trained with for many years. Bad ass, martial artist, completely sweetheart, and a damn fine role model for impressionable youth. I never worked so hard in conditioning as when I was paired with Michael. And he's the guy who taught us all how to pack our weapons for flying - invaluable. (And non trivial, when you're packing things like spears that are taller than you are.)

Edited at 2010-11-18 04:46 pm (UTC)
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks. Linking is fine - I rarely post unlocked any more, but I made this one public as I thought some people might want to share it, and I stand behind it 100%.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:azurelunatic
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Because my public, polite, and firm refusal makes it easier for others to follow my lead.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes. Going back to eyeteeth's Milgram cartoon, I'd like to possibly embolden someone else to say "no thank you" if that's what they're feeling.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:auntiegriz
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Great post. Do you mind if I signal boost? (Here via karnythia.)
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You are welcome to.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:kaitou1412
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Here via Annlarimer... Agreed on all counts. Plus one more. One thing that I think a lot of people get wrong is that they think, 'well, this is a horrible thing, but it is a tradeoff I'm willing to make if it makes me safer.' But there's absolutely no evidence that it will.

One reason that the scans are not helpful is that…well, it’s people that are looking at them and making a call. And people are really awful at catching things that they don’t see often. It’s called the prevalence effect. This article (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122561355&ft=1&f=1001)from NPR is pretty good, though if you’re interested, Joe Hallinan’s book Why We Make Mistakes gets into a lot more depth.

It basically boils down to the fact that even if you’re actively looking for something and trying to do a good job, if you don’t see what you’re looking for very often your brain doesn’t expect to see it, and gives up early. And it’s not something you can control by just trying harder, it’s just the way a human brain works. So in a study where you have people looking for luggage with gun or knife in it, and it’s rare, you’ll miss 30% of the luggage with a weapon in it.

And that’s in a laboratory setting! Put it in the real world, with added stress and distractions, and a broader range of things to look for… knife, gun, bomb, toothpaste, water bottle, shampoo, scissors, ink cartridges… Plus the need to process people quickly, plus pissed off passengers. I can’t have any faith that these measures are going to help even the most diligent, most professional TSA guards. All they’re going to do is make it harder for someone to catch things.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Absolutely.

Security theatre, my least favorite kind.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:podle
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you for this - great post. You have a talent for writing about these issues in an intelligent, insightful and informative way. Once again I've come away with new information and points of view that I hadn't thought of.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
<3
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:_plastic_jesus_
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Great post, I, like everyone here will be reposting. Thank you.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:fabrisse
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Here via delux_vivens. Permission to link from my journal?
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture Icon]
From:kightp
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I love you with the heat of a thousand burning suns.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Aw.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:ame_chan
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Brill. Utterly mag. And funny because I came home from psych class last night thinking, "Huh, Milgram sorta reminds me of the TSA." because just happened to be on the chapter that talks about evil and these sorts of experiments.

Boosted the signal.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
eyeteeth is the one who gets all the Milgram credit. It should've jumped out at me but I'm too distracted.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:shelleybear
Date:November 18th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)

At One Point

(Link)
I was really pissed-off at having washed out of the T.S.A. training program.
Now?
Probably the best thing that could have happened to me.
And, if I may add.
These screeners were hired (as you pointed out) before this technological gestapo tactic was created.
Trust me, the T.S.A. DOES NOT give psychological screening and or profile to new hires.
The pervert may not be wearing a trench coat.
They may, if fact, be wearing a government issued uniform.
(Frozen) (Thread)
[User Picture Icon]
From:elusis
Date:November 18th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)

Re: At One Point

(Link)
My mother and her husband were also turned down for TSA jobs, and frankly I'm glad.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)