The TSA has officially gone too far. A young woman’s experience recently went viral after she was taken into a private room at the airport and forced to pull down her pants to show to TSA agents her bloody menstrual pad. Since when is a visit from Aunt Flow reason enough to force someone to take off their underwear in order to get through airport security? We all want to be able to travel safely, but is this really necessary? And this isn’t the first time this has happened. It might be about time for us ladies to skip the panty liners altogether when we’re traveling and consider the free-flow alternative. If we get a little bit of blood on the airport floors and seats in the process well, then that’s their problem.
A Deeper Look
Zainab Merchant, a graduate student at Harvard University recently flew from Boston to Washington D.C. where she was stopped by TSA while going through security. As a Muslim woman, she has expected this to happen as it does on all of her other flights. However, instead of the agents taking the extra time to go through her bags and being subjected to extra pat-downs, a TSA agent announced that they would need to take “a deeper look.” Merchant’s anxiety immediately increased as several agents tried to take her to a private location. She asked that any further pat-downs be done in public as she feared what they would do to her out of the eyes of the public, and was refused. It just gets worse from there.
The Bloody Pad
TSA threatened to get state troopers involved if Merchant didn’t enter the private room with them, so she reluctantly agreed. She asked to contact her lawyer first and was denied once again. Even though she explained that she was on her period and wearing a pad, the TSA agents wouldn’t have it. Instead, she was forced to pull down her pants and underwear inside that private room, showing them her bloodied pad. After it was all said and done, she asked for their names and badge numbers so she could report her experience, but the agents refused and covered their name tags as they walked out the door.
When interviewed by the Huffington Post, she said:
“I’m not going to stop fighting for my rights. This is affecting us on a daily basis now. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to give up, no matter what happens. I just want them to give us answers as to why this is happening and what I can do to rectify it, because I haven’t done anything wrong.”
It isn’t so much for her to be told what she can do in the future to prevent this from happening again. If you think this only happened to her because she’s Muslim, well you’d be wrong.
Choked For Wearing A Panty Liner
When 65-year-old Evelyn Harris was flying out of Baltimore Washington International Airport last year, she was pulled aside for a separate pat-down by TSA agents. Assuming there was a problem with the images produced after walking through the scanner, she tried to ask the agent if there was something wrong or if she was simply chosen at random. The agent yelled at her for speaking, and it all went downhill from there.
“She grabbed my throat hard, causing me to choke and cough. She yelled at me for coughing. She then put her hands inside my bra and panties and groped my private parts with the front, not the back, of her gloved hand. Afterwards, I worried that I may have been infected if she had groped someone else without changing gloves. Her attitude was so threatening and hostile, that I was afraid to look at her face and name plate.”
This isn’t a security check, this is sexual assault. Not only was this done publically, but without warning. Even my gynecologist gives me a heads up before putting her hands anywhere near my nether region. I know that TSA is only doing their job and trying to protect travelers, but all they have to do is tell us not to wear pads or panty liners. It’s that simple. Of course, Harris made a complaint, but the video of the incident was conveniently erased before anyone could get back to her.
Know Your Rights
TSA can’t actually force you to take off anything other than your outer garments, like a sweatshirt or your shoes. They CAN NOT perform strip searches or make you remove any medical devices like prostheses. If they ask you to do either, you can refuse and should them demand to speak to their supervisor or airport police. Unfortunately, once you enter that infamous private room, they’ll do whatever they want to you and any complaint you make will be your word against theirs. Most people don’t know that you have every right to refuse a private screening. In fact, it’s recommended! Procedure calls for you to be escorted from the checkpoint if you refuse and you will likely have to rebook your flight, but there are no fines or fees from the airport or your airline for refusing a private pat-down. You also have the right to take photos or videos during the whole procedure, unless you’re going through the security scanner, so don’t let them make you think you need to put your phone down.
Skip The Panty Liners And Free Bleed
Since the TSA won’t tell us to skip the menstrual pads and panty liners when going through airport security, let me tell you. Embrace free bleeding! Get a few pairs of those period panties that are all the rage these days and free bleed on their airport chairs. Free bleed on their airport rugs. Free bleed on the couches in their fancy lounges. Maybe then they’ll make some kind of announcement over what menstrual products are acceptable. Imagine if either of these women were wearing tampons! Would they have to pull them out to show the agent to prove they haven’t shoved an explosive device up their vaginas? If we have the technology for scanners to see through our clothes, I think they can manage to detect a damn panty liner. Until then, just skip menstrual products altogether and let us all free bleed at the airport!