I would imagine that anyone reading this blog has heard about the US Transportation Authority’s nipple fiasco at the Lubbock, TX airport several weeks ago, but for those who may have missed it, here’s the 411: A woman in the Lubbock airport was wand-scanned after walking through the detector, and her nipple rings set off the alarm. She explained that removing the rings would be nearly impossible, and asked to have them checked by a female TSA officer (two were present at the time). The male officers denied her request, and asked that she go behind a partition to remove them with some pliers (no report on whether the pliers were confiscated from a previous passenger), or else she would be denied permission to board the aircraft. After some difficulty, Mandi Hamlin was able to extract the rings and managed to catch her flight.
If you’re reading this with your jaw agape in astonishment, you’re not alone. The story has been picked up by most of the major news outlets, initially as one of those odd or quirky tales, but has been growing into one of those stories that shows some of the more ridiculous antics by a quasi-government agency with an obvious lack of focus. If you have been following this story, you might be interested to learn that the TSA itself has a blog (really!) on which this incident has been addressed. Sort of.
The TSA blog has a rather odd title, and a lackluster subtitle: Evolution of Security – Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part.
Charming. Anyway, even more interesting than the blog article on this, are the approximately 300 comments, most of them anonymous, and most – although not all – opposed to the treatment that this woman received. Many of the opinions expressed the hope that she might sue the TSA, and that the officers involved would be fired (or suitably disciplined). Surprisingly, I did read several comments from people supporting the actions of the TSA officers, although they did not give any arguments to support their opinions, making it seem as if the TSA were “just following orders.” I think that it’s certainly worth a few minutes of reading time.
Soem of the more interesting comments:
“What if she had blasting caps in her bra? What if she was part of a covert test at the airport and they just took her word they were piercings? They would have failed another one of those tests you guys like to bash them for failing.”
“Let’s face it, women are mules and their undergarments a fortress for any item they feel they have a need to conceal. As far as humiliation, she wasn’t too humiliated when she got the piercings, why should she be humiliated to remove them “in private”.
“In this case, I would probably add layers of ignorance and prejudice. Texas being “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” the Lubbock TSOs perhaps asserted their personal beliefs that someone with a nipple piercing is “perverted” or “sinful” and therefore deserves to be publicly humiliated. ”
“I suppose the TSA could offer passengers the choice of a male or female screener for their private inspection. But that could lead to its own problems. For example, what if a female screener were to complain that having to inspect a male’s genital piercing creates a hostile work environment and grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit? I can easily see that happening — in fact, I’ve known at least one female body piercer who will not do genital piercings on male clients.”
“If you are willing to wear piercings, then you should be willing to accept the consequences that come with it. With [Attorney] Gloria Allred by her side, it is obvious she is only seeking money.”
“If people insist on mutilating their bodies as an expression of their “alternative lifestyle” or to announce their individuality (“Look at me! I’m different – just like everyone else…) then they should be prepared for the fallout. You have piercings? You’re going to have to go through more in depth searches at the airport… thus, costing the rest of us time, too. So, thanks.”
The chastity groups have been tossing the story around for the last couple of weeks, mainly because of the number of men who have genital piercings and are now concerned about traveling. My own frenum piercing did not set off any detectors, and I’ve even placed the lock to my chastity device in my pocket, just to see what would happen. (Nothing). Although I find it difficult to imagine having a piercing big enough to set off an alarm, I’ve certainly seen them. I can’t even imagine trying to remove, say, a 0-gauge captive ball PA piercing with a pair of pliers.
Just like the people who have had to toss out baby formula for their infants, or the people on long flights who have their own food confiscated, the entire incident points up the growing ridiculousness of the current system.