Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Full-body scanners at airports (by Suzie)

Last weekend, I flew to Atlanta with a friend who uses metal crutches. She got patted down every day of the trip: coming and going at the airport and visiting a museum. In the future, she doesn’t care if she gets patted down or has to go through the new full-body scanners.

I do. I’m in remission from soft-tissue sarcoma, which has been linked to radiation. The government says the radiation risk from scanners is minuscule, but some reputable scientists have questions. I'm already under so much surveillance, with X-rays and CT scans, that I hate to undergo one more source of radiation.

Because I’m ensconced in the medical system, I’m used to strangers seeing my naked body. Nevertheless, I find it a bit creepy that someone somewhere in the airport is seeing it. You can bet on the system being abused in a society in which a lot of men get off by violating women’s privacy, like the old-fashioned peeping toms or the guys who install hidden cameras or the ones who use cell phones to look up a woman’s skirt or down her blouse. The thrill is the lack of consent.

Britain already has had a case of a male worker ogling a female colleague and then letting her know that he saw her naked. After all, it’s more fun when a guy can humiliate a woman.

Kelly Kleiman has raised similar concerns in the Huffington Post.

In regard to pat-downs, some heterosexual men are incensed at the idea that another man might touch their bodies, especially their genitals, or that someone will inspect their bodies. Women are much more accustomed to this, although that doesn’t mean we like it any more.

I haven’t heard of women complaining about being patted down by another woman (although they do complain about pat-downs in general). That wouldn’t bother me, and that’s the option I’ll choose. I figure my urostomy bag might raise questions with either option.

National Opt-out Day is planned for the day before Thanksgiving. I dislike a protest that will make travel more difficult for people who already find travel difficult. Please find a way to protest that doesn't hurt others.

On my way to Atlanta, my bag leaked and I got drenched in urine. Luckily, I was wearing black velvet, not white linen, and it couldn’t be seen. On a short flight, I didn’t want to ask someone to get my suitcase down, root around for new clothes, wash myself all over with paper towels in the restroom, change my urostomy bag, put my wet clothes in a plastic bag, and put on new clothes. Instead, I sopped up some of the urine with paper towels and then taped the bag down with my beloved pink tape. Because I couldn't board with scissors, I had to tear the tape with my teeth. I’ll be better prepared next time I fly, but it did occur to me that it would be funny if someone had to pat me down.

What do you think of "enhanced" pat-downs and full-body scanners?