Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Body Scans, Disability, Menstruation, and Security Theatre

January 5th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Image of backscatter X-rayThere’s an intense, important discussion going on at FWD/Forward about how the latest ramp-up of security theatre of air travel could affect persons with disabilities. Blogger Lauredhel points out that the following items all show up in a back-scatter x-ray produced by a full-body scanner:

  • Urinary catheters.
  • Incontinence pads.
  • Colostomy and ileostomy bags.
  • PEG feeding tubes.
  • Mastectomy prostheses.
  • Certain medication pumps and implanted ports, such as insulin pumps.
  • TENS machines.
  • Pacemakers.
  • The bodies, including genitalia, of transgender and intersex and genderqueer people.

Lauredhel notes, “All of these are the signs of bodies already marginalised. Some of these signs may be clear on current security screenings – some may not.” She explains how the resulting invasion of privacy is likely to be even more invasive than for able-bodied, cis-gendered, cissexual folks.

The list suggests that menstrual pads and tampons will also be visible. Will menstruating travelers be asked to confirm that they’re indeed menstruating? Will they be compelled to prove that item is really a tampon and not a concealed weapon? And what about menstruators who are transgender, intersex, genderqueer, or otherwise do not conform to conventional expectations about gender expression? Will they be subject to further interrogation or required to “prove” their sex?

If you didn’t already hate flying and the aggravation of TSA security theatre, you will.

4 responses to “Body Scans, Disability, Menstruation, and Security Theatre”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Therese Shechter, re:Cycling. re:Cycling said: New post at re:Cycling – Body Scans, Disability, Menstruation, and Security Theatre […]

  2. Laura Wershler says:

    The law of unexpected consequences strikes again. Wow! Some serious ideas to consider here. I heard on Canadian TV today, that to “protect” our privacy, the person who reads the scan will be in another room, not able to see the actual person being scanned. The lack of visual cues provided by such a set-up will probably lead to more people being stopped, questioned and harrassed about the kinds of items you’ve noted here that will be visible on these body scans. I’d like to see this issues covered by major news media. I for one, will be seriously considering just how badly I want or need to fly to the U.S. over the next year or so.

  3. […] In reference to Body Scans, Disability, Menstruation, and Security Theatre January 5th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling @ […]

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