Via Broadsheet comes this story of a woman in Idaho who was forced to remove her bra before entering a courthouse. You see, the underwire was setting off the metal detector. So while it sounds excessive and obnoxious, it still doesn’t sound that bad at first glance. Until you find out that there was no privacy screen behind which she could remove the bra, they would not allow her to enter the bathroom, even escorted, to remove it, and all of the security workers were male.
Plato and her husband, Owen Plato, went to the U.S. District Courthouse in Coeur d’Alene on a civil matter on Sept. 20, she said. The couple was stunned with security workers with the U.S. Marshals Service asked her to remove her bra after the metal underwire supports set off a metal detector.
“I asked if I could go into the bathroom because they didn’t have a privacy screen and no women security officers were available,” Plato said. “They said, ‘No.’ I wasn’t carrying a shank in my bra. If it’s so dangerous, why did they give it back and let me put it on?”
Patrick McDonald, a U.S. Marshal in Boise, released a statement about the bra flap, saying “appropriate security protocols” were followed in the incident and that Plato was given “a number of options by the court security officers that would have ensured her privacy and enabled her entry into the courthouse. The individual, however, chose not to follow any of the options.”
Security guards suggested that Plato simply remove the bra in her car outside, or find a restaurant bathroom, McDonald said. But Plato said she was parked on a busy street, and wasn’t familiar with downtown Coeur d’Alene businesses. Instead, her husband held up his coat to shield her from the rest of the people in the courthouse lobby while Plato removed her bra underneath her shirt.
“The security didn’t bat an eye,” she said. “I put it on the security conveyor belt. One of the officers said, ‘It’s a girl.’ It was mortifying.”
McDonald acknowledged that security workers told Plato that she couldn’t pass through security wearing the bra but said she wasn’t ordered to remove it.
“She’s inflating it,” U.S. Marshal Patrick McDonald said. “All of a sudden she just took it off. It wasn’t anything we wanted to happen and it wasn’t anything we asked for her to do. She did it so fast.”
McDonald said Plato is the first person he knows of who has been asked to remove a bra at the courthouse, but Plato maintains the Marshal’s Service told her that other women have been asked to remove their brassieres to go through security.
There are very clearly a number of problems here. The first is that Plano was asked to remove the bra at all. I’ve been to the U.S. Embassy in Australia. It’s the tightest security I’ve ever been through. My belt set off the metal detector. And they didn’t even make me remove that, just show them the buckle and allow them to run the wand over it and the rest of me. So really, Plano should have been able to be checked over with the wand, lift her shirt up to demonstrate what was causing the problem, and be on her merry way.
Except that — problem number two — there were no female security officers! This is of course a long-standing problem, but that doesn’t make it any less appalling. If you are going to require that people strip, officers of both sexes need to be present. This should not be optional. Ever. E-V-E-R.
Neither should the privacy screen. The fact that they didn’t have one of those, of course, is problem number three. How, exactly, is this acceptable?
Also, if we’re going to require that people remove clothing and run it through the X-ray machine, somehow it seems to me like a bra is a bit more personal than your shoes or belt. Do you, ladies, want several security guards and every person in line behind you to know what your bra looks like? I don’t. And I’m not an excruciatingly modest person — just, like most women, someone who has a very limited list of people who are allowed to see our undergarments. Men should be able to understand this, too. Who, exactly, wants to whip off their boxers under those circumstances?
If the bra itself needs to be inspected for some reason, again, it should have been done behind a privacy screen by a female officer. This still sounds like an invasion of privacy to me, but it’s at least less publicly humiliating.
And lastly, we’ve got the lovely sexual harassment going on here. The men smirking at the mortified woman. The “it’s a girl” comment. The utter insensitivity to the fact that she wanted some basic privacy. And then the asshole who says that “she’s inflating it.” When, usually, do we hear those words? Allegations of sexual harassment, of course. Which in the end, it sounds like this was. Woman is sexually harassed by power-holding men, woman actually has the audacity to complain about it, and the man says “bitches are crazy.” It’s a script, really. The “we didn’t force her” comment is also pretty golden. Yeah, they didn’t make her, but she had no other option unless she wanted to enter the courthouse. Sounds kind of like “I didn’t make her sleep with me . . . I just told her I’d fire her if she didn’t.”
And no, I’m not impressed by those who want to downplay it.
Broadsheet does, interestingly enough, suggest a few solutions to the problem:
What’s the solution to an unwarranted security attack on your person? Various women have offered advice based on experience: One woman stared down all the security guards who ogled her as she was repeatedly patted down; another whose belt was setting off the alarm took her pants off altogether. One Japanese bra manufacturer has launched the Frequent Flyer Bra, “a garment especially designed to not set off airport metal detectors.”
I have to say that I’d love to see a woman being harassed like this aggressively whip off her shirt, shocking and embarrassing the hell out of the security guards. Of course, most women are not so bold. And though I don’t think Broadsheet was in any way suggesting otherwise, the solution really should be having regulations and procedures in place for these types of situations, employing female security workers and punishing (or, I don’t know, firing) male security workers when they act like assholes and/or sexual harass women.
Not that we can really expect that any time soon.