Earlier this week, CNN political commentator Angela Rye posted a video of herself being patted down by a TSA agent.
— Angela Rye! (@angela_rye) December 16, 2016
The thing is, I had the exact same experience when I was flying last week. The experience left me bemused enough to immediately jot down notes on my phone in a McCarran International Airport bar, but humiliated? Nah.
My husband and I were leaving Las Vegas after a quick vacation when my vagina set off an alert on the 3D scanner at TSA security. As I stepped out of the scanner, a TSA agent asked me to step to the side. She gestured to the video screen which showed the outline of my body with a big yellow box over the crotch. (It’s my box in a box!)
“There is something in your…groin area that is setting off the machine. Are you wearing a belt?” the TSA agent asked. I lifted my shirt to show her that I wasn’t.
“I’m going to have to pat you down,” she said. She was almost apologetic. The look on her face showed me she wasn’t any more excited about this than I was. I’m not that modest, though. (I just went through two years of infertility treatments, so I’ve had relative strangers up in my lady business in ways much more intrusive than what this lady had in mind.)
“Do what you have to do,” I said.
So she did.
TSA Lady was all business, and she told me what she was doing the entire time. I got a pat down more thorough than anything I’ve ever seen on The Wire. With the back of her hand, she touched my entire denim-covered crotch region. First she brushed in one direction, and then the other. She ran her hand around the inside of my waist band in front and in back.
Finding nothing offensive, she seemed a bit flummoxed as to what could be setting off the scanner, and I didn’t know what to tell her.
My friends will be very surprised, and probably relieved, to find that I refrained from making any inappropriate jokes. (It wasn’t easy, y’all. My brain was screaming for me to comment on how, given the upcoming Trump administration, all the women I knew were having their pussies weaponized and hadn’t TSA lady gotten the memo from Pantsuit Nation?)
As a last ditch effort to determine whether or not I was storing a WMD in my nice one, TSA Lady swabbed my hands and put the swab in her little machine. I was clean.
She ultimately decided that it may have been the sagging material of my jeans at the crotch area that alerted the machine, and she sent me on my way. (I don’t rock a saggy crotch in my jeans, so I’m trying not to think too hard about the implications of her comment relative to my anatomy down there.)
My husband and I headed to an airport bar and I jotted down notes about the experience because it was unusual and kind of funny and I’m a writer and that’s what we do. And then I forgot it even happened until just now.
When I first watched the video of Angela Rye’s pat down experience with TSA, I thought she was blowing it out of proportion. The same thing happened to me, after all. Watching it again, I see that Rye appears visibly shaken by the experience. I also see a TSA agent who is simply doing her job.
It’s worth noting that in my case, I was a white female being patted down by a black female TSA agent. Rye was a black female being patted down by a white female agent. I’m not going to pretend that our experiences have the same historical or cultural context. I never had any doubts that my pat down would end with me continuing happily on my way to catch my plane to go back home.
The second to the last note I jotted down on my phone before ordering a beer at the airport bar was: If I had been wearing a hijab, I probably would have been strip-searched.
The last note? I apparently have a robot vagina.