Thursday, March 25, 2010

It All Depends on What You Mean by "Safer"

A security guard at Heathrow Airport was issued a harassment warning after he "ogled" a female colleague who walked through a body scanner. The body scanners:
were introduced at Heathrow and Manchester airports to check for concealed weapons and explosives following the failed Christmas Day bomb plot by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a jet over Detroit in the United States.
They're supposed to be a security/safety measure designed to reassure passengers.

But, this incident and learning what, exactly, the machines reveal, make the scanners seem decidedly unsafe. Another article described them in this way:
The full-body scanners take "naked" images, revealing everything under someone's clothes - including a clear outline of genitals.
They violate a very basic sense of privacy and they allow that violation to be repeated over and over everyday.

We learned of this case because the security guard made "lewd" comments to his co-worker after she was scanned and she reported it. What about all the guards who might "ogle" in silence? And I, at least, feel quite insecure, knowing that my body could be on display, to someone I don't know, in a manner I didn't choose. That is the price I must pay to travel? I think it's a bit steep.

Last fall, I re-read a piece by Angela Davis (or maybe I heard her say it), in which she noted how we have increasingly problematic definitions of what will "keep us safe." Her focus was our (U.S.) fascination with locking people up to make us "safer." I've also heard Alexis Pauline Gumbs speak to our reliance on defense and force to make us feel safe rather than things like education, eradication of poverty, community building, and being good global citizens. I think we increasingly face the questions of how to define safety and how much (and who) are we willing to trade in the name of being safe?"

H/T to TheBaldSoprano

No comments:

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...