The Transportation Security Administration’s reputation has been plummeting rapidly into an abyss these last few weeks. In addition to ongoing and widespread resistance to new “enhanced” security measures imposed by the TSA, police in Atlanta began an investigation today into allegations that a TSA official kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman passing through Hartsfield-Jackson airport.
And among all of this TSA wreckage, Rush Limbaugh thought it appropriate to suggest President Obama take one of his young daughters to an airport to “have a TSA grope her.”
According to Limbaugh, this would “show it’s safe for everybody, just like he did in the Gulf with the oil spill.”
And then there’s Mike Huckabee, who proposed that Obama take his wife, daughters and mother-in-law to Washington Reagan National Airport to undergo body scans and public pat-downs. Huckabee said:
If it’s OK for your wife, your daughters and your mother-in-law, then maybe the rest of us won’t feel so bad when our wives, our daughters and our mothers are being put through this humiliating and degrading, totally unconstitutional, intrusion of their privacy.
If this was supposed to be some kind of sincere, concerned-citizen approach to political criticism, it failed.
Why target only the women and girls in President Obama’s family for hypothetical public humiliation and traumatization? Why not senior members of the Obama administration, or President Obama himself? Because it wouldn’t be as shameful. The Fox News comments are informed by the assumption that women’s bodies belong to the men in their lives (husbands or fathers), and any public exposure of those bodies (when not sanctioned by men) is dishonorable and shameful for their male “owners.” The same logic, that public exposure of women’s sexuality is shameful, drove the recent rejection of ads on network TV for a product designed to increase women’s sexual arousal. Men can dance in the streets to promote Viagra in TV commercials–but a product to aid women’s sexual activity? Shameful.
Add racism to the mix: Huckabee’s remarks are an eerie echo of slavery-era tropes in which sexual humiliation, assault and rape of Black women were used as tools of domination and emasculation of Black men by white slave owners–not to mention the horrific effects of sexual violence on Black women themselves. White men’s sexual ownership of Black women’s bodies was used to assert power and control over Black men, to challenge their supposed “sexual prowess” (another racist stereotype). By “owning” Black women’s bodies, white men put Black men “in their place,” shaming and subordinating them via women’s sexuality.
So I wonder, is putting President Obama “in his place” the goal of Limbaugh and Huckabee’s strong-arm, bludgeoning approach? Because any legitimate argument Huckabee and Limbaugh might be making against the TSA procedures is invalidated by insidious racism and sexism.
Image via WikiMedia Commons.