Airport Scanner Agents Target Female Travelers

A brief post on a rather scary abuse of power by TSA agents, originally posted at Hollaback!


The TSA, the government body responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure safe travel, have received several complaints from women who claim to have been targeted by airport screeners to view their bodies.

According to online magazine, Ellen Terrell, who travelled from Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport told CBS News that a female agent appeared to be singling out certain females on request from male agents in an adjacent room. Terrell was even directed through the scan a number of times because the picture was said to be “blurry.”

Following the third scan the TSA agent apparently became agitated telling her co-workers on her microphone:

“Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go.”

Terrell told CBS that she felt “totally exposed” and was positive that their only motive for sending her through the scanner multiple times was to “have a nice look” at her body.

Another woman said that she felt “targeted by the TSA employee to go through the see-you-naked machine because” she is “a semi-attractive female.” While another said:

“The screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone rather than doing true random screening. I felt this was inappropriate. A woman behind me was also ‘randomly selected.’”

CBS contacted the TSA and this is the response that they received:

“All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images… To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images.”

Good job too! It seems like a no brainer to me that males would be allowed to view females in the “see me naked machine,” particularly as pat-downs are always performed by the same sex, the same policy should be put in place for the scanning agents. I am absolutely happy to endure the most extensive of airport security to ensure complete safety when travelling, however, it is truly staggering that there are degenerate creeps that would abuse not only the system, but would violate an individual’s fundamental human right to privacy. Terrorists are not in the habit of hiding weapons of mass destruction in their bras.

3 responses to “Airport Scanner Agents Target Female Travelers

  1. Thanks for posting this! It is creepy indeed to think that people working these machines could be targeting certain bodies to scan for such misogynistic reasons. Ugh.

    I wonder, though, about your conclusion and if you would be open to cracking that open some more. Maybe?

    I’m curious: are you concerned with people being scanned by folks of the same coercively *assigned* (key word) sex, or of the same perceived or (even better) self-determined /gender/? I ask because for many trans* people, myself included, being patted down by someone of the “same sex” is very confusing to think about– I was assigned female at birth (there’s one sex/gender component), I currently sport facial hair and a”male” on my forms of identification (there’s a second), and neither female nor male really works for or defines me (there’s a third). I identify as genderqueer, although this would certainly be a tricky guideline to make fair even for trans* folks with binary gender identities. So my concern with your suggestion of “same sex” scanner enforcement is essentially that, while it may be an attempt to take safety for “women” into concsideration, it would potentially (likely) be the reincarnation of another very transphobic /genderist policy. Would “same sexes” just be assigned to us nonconsenually (ouch), or would we get to choose what/which persyn is more appropriate to scan us?

    And, would I get to choose another genderqueer persyn to pat me down? 🙂

    1. You bring up some very good points. I am not the original author of the post, so I can’t speak for that person, but I can offer my own thoughts. First off, I think the whole “strangers intimately touching me or looking at my body because it’s their job” thing is messed up. I identify as a woman, and even when it was another woman who was rubbing my butt over my pants, it made me extremely uncomfortable. And I can imagine how triggering that might be for survivors of any kind of sexual abuse or assault.

      I’d love it if each and every one of us, regardless of our gender identity (and whether that matches up to what others think that might be), could choose who gets to look at scans of our body and pat us down. Unfortunately, public opinion and public policy are far behind on many fronts, including awareness of transfolks and their rights… I myself am no expert on many things related to trans and genderqueer folks, but I think that it’s only fair to allow everyone their choice, not just those of us who fit into neat gender boxes.

  2. This was always going to happen with body scanners. It is why people rightly objected to them and why the authorities should be forced to use different methods. There is no wa y to guaranatee that your scan is not being used, if only monetarily, for the thrill or personal issue of the operator (whatever gender) .

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