The new American Morality Police?


The TSA has a new mission, apparently: to make sure young women are wearing appropriately modest attire.

Here’s what happened, as my daughter described it in text messages to us: she was at the station where the TSA checks IDs. She said the officer was "glaring" at her and mumbling. She said, "Excuse me?" and he said, "You’re only 15, COVER YOURSELF!" in a hostile tone. She said she was shaken up by his abusive manner.

You can see a photo at the link. She looks like an ordinary, casually dressed teenager, nothing particularly scandalous or revealing. But now in addition to making sure travelers are safe by preventing weapons from coming aboard, security services are adding a new mission of blocking excess exposed skin.

By the way, TSA, if you’re going to pick on someone, try to make sure it isn’t Mark Frauenfelder’s daughter. Unless you want to get splashed all over BoingBoing.

Comments

  1. Louis says

    I am planning a trip to the USA for next year. I think I might need some special “Challenging Airport Outfits”. Borat style mankini?

    Louis

  2. says

    You can see a photo at the link. She looks like an ordinary, casually dressed teenager, nothing particularly scandalous or revealing.

    Which isn’t the point, either. If she had been dressed in more revealing clothes, it’s still not the job of the TSA to comment on what she’s wearing. It is not her fault that some creepy dude can’t handle all of his the fee-fees.

    The article, quoting Hillary Clinton:

    Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.

    I love Hillz, but this is an easy answer. “Extremist” men want to control what we wear so women become responsible for men’s actions.

  3. says

    The only surprise here is that the TSA thug wasn’t overt religious. When you hire bullies to bully the travelling public, you have to expect that people will be bullied.

  4. MrFancyPants says

    This is particularly bad because if she had complained, then the TSA officer would in all likelihood detained her and caused her to miss her flight. Because they can. There need to be official guidelines for how TSA employees may act in this situations, because this was clearly wrong and we need ways to complain about this without fearing retribution.

  5. frog says

    So…it’s not okay for a young woman to go out in anything less than a burka, but it’s okay for the TSA to use scanners that show people practically naked?

    My intelecktual conziztency, let me show you it.

  6. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    I am really glad Frauenfelder included in the article that it didn’t matter what she was wearing, she wouldn’t ever deserve having some creep trying to shame her. Also, it’s nice that she can talk to people about that shit, so many young/not-so-young women suffer in silence.

    Though I do have to say I’m rather alarmed that a baggy plaid shirt is somehow scandalous.

  7. says

    @frog #5 – Seeing her (effectively) naked is the exclusive pervert purview of the TSA agents. Perhaps he was jealous that others were getting their own view?

  8. says

    From the article it sounds like the officials over this TSA agent are taking the complaint seriously, which is heartening. I hope it results in a censure. If TSA does better than CFI it’ll be seriously sad (for CFI), but I’m hopeful.

  9. Kevin McCoy says

    This is a disappointingly sensationalized headline and blog post. It heavily implies that this is a new policy of the TSA, rather than the far more likely explanation of one TSA agent who was being inappropriate. It also fails to mention that the original poster wrote that he and his wife met with TSA supervisors and “it looks like they are taking this seriously”. I’m no fan of the TSA in general, and this sort of behavior by anyone, especially someone in a supposed position of authority, is unacceptable. But I’m really disappointed with the way it’s being presented here by PZ Myers.

  10. anteprepro says

    This is a disappointingly sensationalized headline and blog post.

    Welcome to Wry Humor. Come on in, the water’s fine.

  11. says

    Here’s a silly question, but did you make a complaint to this officer’s manager or to TSA?
    If not, I don’t think it is fair to blame all of TSA for the fault of one employee. That employee did act badly, and should be reprimanded. Complaining to a blog won’t accomplish that. There are plenty of TSA policies worth complaining about without adding false ones, and this does not seem to be general TSA policy.

  12. says

    nondescript:
    1) It’s not PZ’s complaint.
    2) If you had read the linked article, you would know that the TSA has been contacted and is looking into the incident.

    Did you not read anything?

  13. says

    Ok. From the last part of the report, it looks like they did report it and TSA is taking it seriously.

    “My wife and I met with the TSA at LAX and they are opening an investigation. The supervising officer we met with, Officer Murphy, was apologetic, concerned, and professional. He cc’d me on his incident report to his manager and it looks like they are taking this seriously, which is good to know.”

    Bad employee did bad thing and was reported to management, who took the incident seriously, as he should.
    Of course, it is more fun to just pile on the hate to TSA anyways, facts be damned.

  14. says

    I’ll guess the TSA guy was complaining about the fact that she exposes about an inch of midriff. There was a teacher at my wife’s (and my) high school, back in the 1970s, who would complain when girls did that (IIRC, I think my wife and her best friend both occasionally got in trouble for it).

    And a small joke: TSA stands for “Toothpaste and Shampoo Administration”.

  15. erichoug says

    Hey, I had one of them threaten to confiscate my Insulin once because I hadn’t removed it from may case and put it in a quart bag. Despite their own policy of exempting marked medication.

    The real question is whether this is some idiotic TSA policy, something the local TSA is pushing or one random asshole that works for TSA.

    In any case, the TSA person in question needs to be un-employed as to any supervisors who encouraged or condoned this American Taliban behavior.

  16. Jonathan, der Ewige Noobe says

    #5;
    You say that like a burka wouldn’t have been even better grounds for a Glorious Patriotic People’s Endoscopy.

  17. Gregory Greenwood says

    Give a misogynist, or any stripe of bigot, even the smallest fragment of power, and it is only a matter of time before they abuse it.

    It is a measure of the hypocrisy of this sexist jerk that he is so grossly unprofessional and creepy that he feels entitled to tell this teenager how to dress when it is absolutely none of his business – apparently in pursuit of some regressive, outmoded and deeply misogynistic concept of ‘public decency’ – and yet he has no problems using clothing penetrating scanning equipent that shows the various passengers, including fifteen year old girls, effectively naked. Where is his ‘righteous moral outrage’ at the fact that such technology is being used on very flimsy security grounds? Why hasn’t he taken a stand on that?

    It seems doubtful indeed that this is really about ‘decency’ – this seems to be about a deeply inadequate sexist bigot using his sliver of power to ‘slut-shame’ women and girls. If he is so affected by seeing a teenager in such average every day dress, then he needs to recognise that the problem lies in himself, and not in her.

  18. Gregory Greenwood says

    Gah – I missed that the clothing penetrating scanner stuff was already covered upthread. Sorry about that.

  19. carlie says

    It doesn’t matter that it was a single employee – something is awry in the way TSA trains employees if he thought he could get away with something like that.

  20. anuran says

    What do you expect? You hire people who want to exercise authority and are fine bullying and humiliating people. You give them a little bit of power. Of course they’ll abuse it.

  21. otranreg says

    she was at the station where the TSA checks IDs

    Station?! What, you have to pass security checks to take a train there now?

  22. carlie says

    What do you expect? You hire people who want to exercise authority and are fine bullying and humiliating people. You give them a little bit of power. Of course they’ll abuse it.

    Unless they know they’re being watched and will be fired for it. Most people will still choose their job over the opportunity to be a jackass, if they know that’s what’s on the line.

  23. unclefrogy says

    not to disagree in any way with the criticism of the TSA or the way they do their job, I no longer consider flying as a means of transportation.
    I think H. Clinton hit the nail on the head with her comments in general. Her comments reveal why she is so despised by the reactionary right wingers.
    The reaction was probably to the tights more than to the midriff reveal. really no worse than beach wear for sure and very much in style out here. They really are bold and unashamed and maybe to a fundie shocking, sorry dude welcome to the wide world!
    the negative reaction seems to be saying its ok for a government agency can know anything and everything about who and what you do (even strip you naked whenever they want) but how dare anyone publicly reveal what the agency is does or says!
    uncle frogy

  24. says

    It’s nothing new. Back in the late 60s when I was a long-legged, skinny teen and wore a lot of mini-dresses, I was stopped by a policeman, who pulled up next to me in his police car. He demanded to know if my mother knew I was out of the house wearing “that dress!” “Yes, sir, officer, sir. She made it for me.” I was lucky. He just shook his head and drove off again.

  25. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Bad employee did bad thing and was reported to management, who took the incident seriously, as he should.
    Of course, it is more fun to just pile on the hate to TSA anyways, facts be damned.

    No one has been arguing that there are no major problems with TSA policies. But the simple fact about this story is this, petty people with puritanical ethics are placed in a position to make other people’s days or lives more difficult. This is hardly the first time some fool tried to shame someone under their brief control. We just do not hear about most of them. In this case, the person being harassed was a daughter of an owner of a very popular blog. And that blog regular fights against these kinds of abuses.

    Also, nondescript, please explain what facts have been damned.

  26. robro says

    Bad employee did bad thing and was reported to management, who took the incident seriously, as he should. Of course, it is more fun to just pile on the hate to TSA anyways, facts be damned.

    Actually, I would think that it is very much the TSA’s responsibility to train its agents in the correct application of their authority, the appropriate behavior toward and treatment of the public (whom they are presumably serving), and to supervise them rigorously and continuously. Does a single “bad thing” taint the entire organization? Yes, because that man’s supervisor should have been on it and not have to wait for a meeting with officials. Plus, when you multiply this sort of thing by the many examples of TSA agent ineptness, and considering that TSA screening is little more than “security theater” in the first place, I think you can safely say we’ve got a problem.

  27. says

    I love Hillz, but this is an easy answer. “Extremist” men want to control what we wear so women become responsible for men’s actions.

    Except extremist women do the same thing. I guess they somehow absorb the attitude from the culture, but it’s nonetheless very conspicuous: It’s always the women, never the men.

  28. anteprepro says

    Back in the late 60s when I was a long-legged, skinny teen and wore a lot of mini-dresses, I was stopped by a policeman, who pulled up next to me in his police car. He demanded to know if my mother knew I was out of the house wearing “that dress!” “Yes, sir, officer, sir. She made it for me.”

    If I ever have a daughter, I half want to teach her that it is proper to respond to such things with a “Go fuck yourself”. This kind of shit is just fucking outrageous and infuriating.

  29. says

    LykeX:

    Except extremist women do the same thing.

    Of course they do. 1) They are raised in and absorb the same culture as the men and 2) it’s REALLY FUCKING SCARY (and often REALLY FUCKING DANGEROUS) to stand up and declare that the powerful are wrong.

  30. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    What concerns me is the TSA is given power to screw up your life in a not small way, with no immediate oversight. It appears to be ‘comply or suffe’r if they want. Whatever they want. The arguments upstream about it being one bad employee just don’t cut it with an institution with that much power. Do these employees get the same screening and training as police officers?

    This time it was the daughter of someone with PR clout – we probably won’t hear about the next incident, or the one after…

  31. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    suffer’… Not suffe’r . I blame my cold fingers :)

  32. anuran says

    If I ever have a daughter, I half want to teach her that it is proper to respond to such things with a “Go fuck yourself”. This kind of shit is just fucking outrageous and infuriating.

    While I appreciate the sentiment telling a cop to go fuck himself is very dangerous, possibly fatally so if you’re the wrong color.

  33. says

    This is mildly amusing to me, because last time I flew (returning from American Atheist con in Austin TX), the imaging scanner had a hard time seeing through my large bulky sweater. The TSA agent had to run it twice, then called for a pat-down. As she was manhandling me, she said in an irritated tone that I shouldn’t wear such a thick sweater next time I flew. I rolled my eyes and said, “I’m going to New York. Do you have any idea what the weather in New York is like right now?” (March, it was really cold.)

    You can’t win with the TSA.

  34. Artor says

    The negative reaction seems to be saying its ok for a government agency can know anything and everything about who and what you do (even strip you naked whenever they want) but how dare anyone publicly reveal what the agency is does or says!
    uncle frogy

    How did you manage to pull that out of your ass sideways? Where, in any of this subject, did anybody imply that they are okay with the broader TSA abuses, or gov’t intrusion in general? This is a specific incident under discussion, and while separate, it is also exhibit #234,456,437 in the case of TSA vs. the People.

  35. bad Jim says

    Looks like a hint of cleavage, in addition to the bare midriff and tights already mentioned. What floors me is that this happened at LAX. What did this guy think girls here wear? Perhaps what really disturbed him was that she was traveling without her parents

  36. ck says

    Alexandra (née Audley) wrote:

    Of course they do. 1) They are raised in and absorb the same culture as the men and 2) it’s REALLY FUCKING SCARY (and often REALLY FUCKING DANGEROUS) to stand up and declare that the powerful are wrong.

    You forgot #3: Acting as enforcers for the extremely powerful affords them a certain amount of power over those with less social standing than themselves.

  37. says

    Nondescript:
    Perhaps one day, FSM willing, our culture will reach the point where everyday sexism is rare. When such a situation arises, then you can whine and moan about the TSA being criticized.
    *unfortunately*, we live in a country where sexism is an everday occurence ranging from microaggressions like women being told to smile more all the way up to rape. Many people do not even understand why some incidents are considered sexist. They think in such a narrow context that they cannot see the broader context of women facing shit like this everday. Theres a level of sexism that is so normalized that many people dismiss complaints about it. What PZ has done is argue that this normalized sexist behavior is still wrong. Combatting patriarchy happens on many levels and in many ways– not just criticizing the gender wage gap.

    So I am glad he brought this to wider attention because not speaking up just keeps the status quo churning along.

  38. flatlander100 says

    OK, the guy was out of line. No question about that. But some of the comments on the site you link to were way over the top. She wasn’t denied boarding, she wasn’t set upon by morality police and beaten about the head and ears. He made an intrusive comment he shouldn’t have. But likening what happened to the morality police in Teheran is nuts.

    That said, and since I’m playing contrarian anyway, let me say a small word on behalf of the TSA people at airports. I haven’t had any problems with them. And now and then I run into one with a sense of humor who lightens the process. Like the one at the Oakland airport. As we lined up and began shedding jackets, shoes, etc….. y’all know the drill…. very early one morning [butt crack of dawn flight], the TSA guy just past the conveyor belt xray machine began humming, loudly, “The Strpper.” Got a laugh out of most of the people in line who heard him. Put a smile on my hadn’t-had-a-coffee-yet face.

    Yeah, I’m absolutely scertain there are jackasses working for TSA. Hard to name a large organization of which that could not be said. But most of the ones I deal with are silent, or standard garden variety polite doing a job that must bore them to tears. And a few do better than that. Just been lucky I guess. And it doesn’t hurt to cut ‘em a little slack.

  39. francesc says

    Uhm, I know that the point is not what she was wearing, she should be able to flight in whatever clothes she choosed to but… only a pederast would think she was improperly dressed

  40. madscientist says

    I knew it – the TSA really are the Taliban Society of America. They haven’t caught any terrorists because they *are* the terorrists.

  41. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @flatlander

    Oh well as longas YOU Have no problema all my arab friends are oversensative or liars right?

    Person A; I have a headache
    Flatlander; no I’m fine

    Above: privledge narcissism

  42. David Marjanović says

    “Toothpaste and Shampoo Administration”

    Thread won.

    I’ll guess the TSA guy was complaining about the fact that she exposes about an inch of midriff. There was a teacher at my wife’s (and my) high school, back in the 1970s, who would complain when girls did that

    There was such a teacher* at mine, too, in the 90s. Tried to imply it was school policy. Not being in the US or in some dictature, the school has no dress code; everybody knew that, so everybody just ignored that teacher.

    * The same one who learned everything she taught by heart in the 1950s or so and then just regurgitated it every year. Tried to teach my brother that sponge-fishing was, at the time of her teaching this in the late 90s, an important branch of the economy in Mediterranean countries. Never forgave me for pointing out, in the mid-90s, that fungi aren’t plants. Occasionally annoyed my brother with it. If she’s still alive (she’s in any case retired *phew*), I’m sure she’s still angry about that.

    The reaction was probably to the tights […] very much in style out here.

    Here, too. Fashions affect the entire Free World® nowadays (within at most a year or two), all the way to Gezi Park.

  43. RobertL says

    Sometimes I read things on the Internet that piss me off. Sometimes there are redeeming features that lighten the mood. The comments on that site about cropping the photo so that her ankles aren’t shown made me smile.

  44. DLC says

    This guy needs to be fired. If that can’t be done, he should be suspended and given a reprimand, and shipped to baggage inspection. Okay, so for a moment or three after reading the story I wanted to visit him long enough to make his blood do non-euclidean things while shouting “what the fuck!” at him, but the impulse passed.