Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is our fear of TSA a fear of T&A?

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you know about the scandal about the TSA scanners at airports across the country. I must play devil's advocate for a moment and admit that I've never been on a plane before (well once when I was a baby, but I can't say I remember it). So I'm completely unfamiliar with the stark reality of the Distopyian Big Brother processes of boarding a plane. I've walked through a couple of metal detectors in my day when my grandma was about to leave by plane, but I have no idea of the apparent molestation occurring at most airports today. So if I seem heartless, maybe I'm just naive and my opinion doesn't matter. Airports today are made out in the media and in people's frantic conversations as an Orwellian procedure that rivals that of the Half Life series. What's next? Flying cameras monitoring our every room? Happy pills like in THX1138? Mouse hats like 1984 (OK, I know it was more sinister than a mouse hat, but it sounds funnier that way)? 

It seems like to me if there was an option between taking a picture, a vague image of my body underneath my sheath of clothes or being patted down in unmentionable places, I would pick the body scan. It's nothing they haven't seen before and the worst possible thing that could happen is that someone thinks you look good naked. If they thought you looked bad, they'd promptly delete the picture and never speak of it again. And if people can derive any type of enjoyment from a ghostly bluish specter, well then that's their problem not mine. America is known for being increasingly obese. Known for the most fast food per capita. But we've got it all wrong. So what if we're gorging on french fries and mayonnaise? It doesn't matter how we look, it matters how we feel. And we feel ashamed of our bodies. So much so that the thought of someone seeing the outline of our curves and crevices would prompt us to undergo a thorough, uncomfortable examination saved for most doctor's visits but in public. People are crying outrage over a choice they made. In ancient Greece people did almost everything naked including the Olympic games. Many famous art pieces are nudes. And the overwhelming number of nude portraits of women compared to that of paintings done by women has even prompted an underground movement known as the Guerilla Girls. 

Maybe our own fear and self loathing has something to do with the fact that those women looked like this:

And today's standard of beauty looks like this:

At the weight of most good-sized labrador retrievers and the height of around five and a half feet, the second image makes me second guess ordering fries with that veggie burger. If this is what most women think they should look like, it's no wonder that they are intimidated by the fact that a machine will show that they have outward curves as well as inward ones. Even if a woman's body looks perfect after alterations, what if the scan showed their scars? Revealed their secrets? You would have to seriously love your body to let a stranger see it when the media onslaught tells us that thin is in. 

Men are not excluded from these body expectations. Now men are either expected to be skinny or have every muscle tightened and toned (please note that I personally find none of the guys in the linked images attractive). Right now, I'm sitting at Starbucks (this is bound to be a common motif in my blog posts) at a table next to a group of male patrons. They are discussing their size and one of them is telling another that he needs to accept the fact that he is "bigger" and "chubby" and identifying himself and a friend as skinny.  So my proof that men face these issues of body dysmorphia as well as women didn't take much research to prove. 

So we either need to loosen the protocol of airports today (which would most likely result in comparable or more intense outrage) or we have to learn to love our bodies. Sadly, we're more likely as a nation to chose to remove a slight inconvenience (although when it was inconvenient to a certain minority, we didn't seem to have much of a problem) over learning to love ourselves curves and all and fight for change in mass media. If no one bought magazines with pictures like the one above, supported programs that cast only skinny women, or bought products marketed by waifish models; then a more realistic body type would become the norm. Much like my disbelief that someone would chose an invasive search over a passive scan, I find it hard to believe we would chose a lack of safety over an acceptance of ourselves. But that's the world we are living in now. We want to eat our burgers, but look like Kate Moss. We want to end terrorism, but not at our inconvenience. And quite possibly, we want to complain about the state of things in our nation, but not do anything about it. 

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