A while back I clipped a story of Feministe (not linked) writer Jill Filipovic’s run-in with the TSA. Following travel to an abortion speaking event in Dublin (presumably Ireland and not Columbus, Ohio), Filipovic opened her suitcase to find an inspection slip marked with the written text “get your freak on girl.”
Why? In one sense, because Filpovic had packed a $15 vibrator. “Not even anything that freaky!” she emails Danger Room. But in another, more accurate sense, because this particular TSA employee knew he or she could make an anonymous and harassing comment free of reprisal.
“My first reaction was to laugh. Hard. And I’ve had that Missy Elliott song stuck in my head all day,” says Filipovic, a lawyer in her non-blogging hours. “Then I took a photo of it to email to four of my girlfriends who I figured would find it funny. And I threw it up on Twitter. But of course I also find it totally invasive and inappropriate, and the more I think about it the more horrified I am.”
I am second to none in my concern over draconian TSA policies and the broad powers given its agents on the ground. But I think everybody involved is taking this way too seriously and using it as an excuse to get butthurt (a favorite martyr-complex tactic of professional activists).
I don’t understand why she didn’t just stop at the laughing part and go on with her day. Most tellingly, I don’t understand why she presumed hostility in the agent’s comment. Did it say that she was dirty? That sluts go to hell? That she should be married and home taking care of the children? It could just as easily have been a bored and lonely inspector saying to himself/herself, “shit man, at least someone’s going to be having fun tonight.” Or maybe it was a woman who was hip to her game and wanted to give her a scrivenal fist-bump. Instead she took it as an ex parte catcall, suggesting that this strong and independent woman can be felled by an anonymous comment by someone she’s never met and who in overwhelming likelihood doesn’t even know who she is.
I have to be honest that a perusal of Filipovic’s blog posts reveals all the trademark feminist anger but far less of the salacious sexual over-sharing that marks sites like Jezebel or The Frisky. But it’s worth noting here, the sex poz types are all about getting in everyone else’s faces about their sex lives, and in fact trying to piss people off (“fundie” and “vanilla” types) and make them uncomfortable. Cf. the slutwalks. But if anybody else talks about their sex life or tries to make them uncomfortable about prancing in the streets half-naked, then it’s creepy and invasive and slut-shamy and mentally rapetastic. It all makes me wonder if the modern sez-poz movement isn’t at least 50% an attention-whoring exercise – “Look at ME!! I had SEX!!!” just like Paris Hilton’s video.
Filipovic (notably a professional attorney and professional blogger) also had the audacious gall to suggest she had no idea this would turn into a firestorm:
“As much as this is a funny and titillating story, when I put the note on Twitter for what I thought was a relatively limited audience I was hoping it would open up a bigger conversation about privacy rights (or lack thereof) in post-9/11 America. It unfortunately hasn’t done that, and instead has turned into a media circus.”
She is either dissembling like a merry-go-round or has learned absolutely nothing about media in her day. I will not insult her intelligence by suggesting the latter. Saying you don’t want the attention of a scandal after sourcing the scandal to a sex-hungry press yourself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s a bit like Sarah Palin’s daughter complaining that complain that baby-daddy Levi Johnston was airing their dirty laundry in public – and going on Oprah to fire back.
(Grerp recently discussed a similar theme involving public criticism of a comedienne’s ugly tattoos but has taken down her excellent post on the topic.)
LAUGH AND THE WORLD LAUGHS WITH YOU
Let me contrast Dildogate* with my own experience. At times, it occasions me to purchase prophylactic implements. As is probably the case with most men, at first I was a bit sheepish about the whole thing. What if, say, the local pastor, or my friend’s mom, is in line with me?
But I threw that squeamishness off and embraced it, not because of the college health service message of “it’s great that you’re being safe about sex!” but because I could leverage the purchase itself as a small DHV.
Now when I put the items on the counter, I am nonchalant about the purchase. Usually the clerk will politely say “have a nice day.” I put on a cocky half-grin and, holding the box up, give him “you better believe I will” or “you betcha!” Most of the time I get a chuckle from the clerk and maybe a “good luck, man.”
I suppose Filipovic’s note is a Rorschach test – it reveals the reader’s mindset far more than the writer’s.
*I know it’s actually a vibrator, but “Vibragate” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue and sounds like a verb of its own.