The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is investigating a report that one of its officers allegedly humiliated a 15-year-old girl wearing leggings, a tank top, and a button-down, telling her she should cover up as she went through an ID-check line in the Los Angeles Airport Sunday.
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“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,” the girl's father, Mark Frauenfelder, told Yahoo! Shine, echoing what he had written in a Boing Boing blog post describing the incident. “It shook her up," he added.
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Frauenfelder, who is editor in chief of Make magazine and the founder of Boing Boing, told Shine that his daughter, Sarina, was with a group of high school peers, on their way to visit colleges. He said that she began a rapid-fire series of texts to him and his wife by declaring, "I'm furious!" and adding, about the TSA officer, "He was so rude and hostile. He made me feel like a slut."
Frauenfelder posted a photo of his daughter in the outfit she had on during the incident and wrote, “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.”
A TSA spokesperson released a statement to Yahoo! Shine, which read: "TSA officers are trained and expected to perform screening methods in a dignified and respectful manner at all times. We work to make our screening procedures as minimally invasive as possible while providing the highest level of security for the traveling public. We regret that this passenger had an unpleasant experience and are in the process of thoroughly reviewing the circumstances.”
Frauenfelder and his wife happened to have just arrived at LAX from Tokyo shortly after the incident. They were able to meet with a TSA supervisor, who was respectful and attentive, and appeared to be taking the matter seriously, Frauenfelder said.
"I think that it is really dangerous for the TSA to do anything outside of their very narrow job description, which is to ensure the safety of passengers from violent attacks," he said, explaining to Yahoo! Shine why he decided to make an issue out of the incident. He added that it was a "huge abuse of authority" for a TSA officer to be "telling a girl that what she's wearing is something she should be ashamed of."
Another blogger—Maureen Herman, co-founder of the women’s advocacy group A Is For, as well as a friend of Frauenfelder's—also wrote about the incident Sunday, explaining why the TSA officer’s reported conduct matters.
“This may not seem like a big deal. To Mark it’s a big deal. To his daughter it’s a big deal. To us, things like this need to matter, because they inject shame (or try to) in a young woman who is just living her life, going to check out colleges, and throws on the first of what will unfortunately be many layers of sexism she will encounter in her life,” Herman wrote. “It’s like when someone experiences racism for the first time: it’s going to happen again, but the first time is especially jarring and hurtful.”
Herman unleashed more anger on her Facebook page. “Absolutely inappropriate, harassing, aggressive, creepy, unprofessional, and Taliban-y thing that he did,” she wrote. “ ‘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.”
Many of Frauenfelder’s nearly 24,000 Twitter followers were also angered to hear about the incident. “Wow. Give some people a uniform and, wow,” wrote one commenter, while others were a bit more charged, tweeting, “Maybe the TSA can keep a stock of courtesy burkas on hand,” and “American Taliban.”
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