This morning, a TSA officer at LAX humiliated and shamed my 15-year-old daughter. She is traveling with a group of high school students on a college tour and we were not with her when he verbally abused her.
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.
I'm including the above photo of the outfit my daughter was wearing when the TSA officer shamed her. It doesn't matter what she was wearing, though, because it's none of his business to tell girls what they should or should not wear. His creepy thoughts are his own problem, and he shouldn't use his position of authority as an excuse to humiliate a girl and blame her for his sick attitude.
Our friend, Maureen Herman, dropped by our house today and we told her what happened. Maureen is the bass player for Babes in Toyland, the executive Director of Project Noise, and a co-founder of A is For, a women's rights advocacy group. She wrote the following response on Facebook, and it neatly sums up why this TSA officer's behavior is very wrong:
Absolutely inappropriate, harassing, aggressive, creepy, unprofessional, and Taliban-y thing that he did. "Cover up" is a dangerous cultural attitude that fuels more than rude comments. It's the foundation of the oppression of women, rape culture ("she was asking for it"), and the drive for reproductive control of women's bodies.
Hillary Clinton puts it well:
"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.
Yes, it is hard to believe but even here at home we have to stand up for women's rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us because America needs to set an example for the entire world."
Well said, Maureen and Hillary.
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.
I'll keep you posted.
UPDATE: Maureen wrote an excellent post about this on the A is For blog.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects