THE FRIENDLY SKIES—We don't know if it was American Airlines (AA) that Morality in Media's Dawn Hawkins complained to after her terrifying "porn flight" in February, but if so, the company's response has been to go overboard in the opposite direction.
In any case, this new "story of 'O'" involves an attendee at a meeting of pro-choice activists held Tuesday in Washington, D.C.. According to a post by Jodi Jacobson of RHRealityCheck.org, the woman, identified only as "O", was forced to miss her AA connecting flight home because "her politically salient pro-choice t-shirt was offensive to the flight crew."
But first, a little background: Back in March, Oklahoma state Sen. Judy McIntyre attended a rally against her state's "personhood law," and a ballot measure passed last November that was scheduled to become law on May 1, but which was struck down by the state's Supreme Court as "clearly unconstitutional" because it would interfere with a woman's right to have an abortion. The law would have granted to a fetus all the rights and privileges of an actual person.
But what's central to the current story is the fact that during the protest, McIntyre carried a protest sign which read, "If I Wanted The Government In My Womb, I'd Fuck A Senator."
Catchy phrase, no? Indeed, though the slogan, McIntyre acknowledged, might offend some of her state's overwhelmingly Christian residents, it nonetheless caught on with pro-choice activists everywhere, and some even put it on t-shirts, one of which "O" was wearing as she boarded her AA flight home from the activists' meeting.
"[O]n the plane of the first leg of my flight home, I spent the majority of [time] sleeping, using my shawl as a blanket," "O" wrote in an email to Jacobson. "Right before we were set to land the flight attendant from first class approaches me and asks if I had a connecting flight? We were running a bit behind schedule, so I figured I was being asked this to be sure I would make my connecting flight. She then proceeded to tell me that I needed to speak with the captain before disembarking the plane and that the shirt I was wearing was offensive."
"O" noted that since she'd boarded the plane early, she hadn't come in contact with many other passengers, but that the woman sitting next to her actually "praised" her for wearing the shirt, and later statements by airline personnel indicated that there were no passenger complaints about the shirt.
"When I was leaving the plane the captain stepped off with me and told me I should not have been allowed to board the plane in DC and needed to change before boarding my next flight," "O" wrote. "This conversation led to me missing my connecting flight. I assumed that because I was held up by the captain, they would have called ahead to let the connecting flight know I was in route. Well, upon my hastened arrival at the gate of the connecting flight, it was discovered that they did indeed call ahead but not to hold the flight, only to tell them I needed to change my shirt. I was given a seat on the next flight and told to change shirts."
Of course, with "O"'s luggage checked through to her final destination, she had nothing to change into, and when she arrived at the connecting flight's gate, her shawl carefully covering the offensive word, her ticket came up as "invalid." She was then pulled to the side by one of the attendants, who "entered some codes into the computer" and "O" was told that, "it was all good," and she was allowed to board the later flight.
Jacobson does an excellent job of recapping the "problem," noting that "O" went through the TSA screening process, and although pulled aside for additional screening, she was not considered a "security risk," and none of the TSA agents, nor any of the airline workers at the gate or elsewhere in the terminal, even mentioned the shirt. Jacobson also reported that the plane's captain "berated her publicly," and he and the flight attendant "took it upon themselves to call ahead to the next gate and make them keep her off the next flight." Apparently, simply (and quietly) asking "O" to use the shawl to cover the shirt's message would have been too easy.
"If we women all over this country are being fucked over, and we can't say that, where does that end?" asked Jacobson. "No. In this country, you see, fundamentalist right-wing male legislators in every state can take away your rights. They can deny you access to contraception, breast exams, Pap smears and other primary preventive care. They can deny you access to safe emergency contraception and safe medication abortion. They can force any woman in need of a safe abortion to listen to lies about outcomes of the procedure long disproven by medical science and public health professionals. They can mandate that you to listen to religious dogma at crisis pregnancy centers, force you to look at an ultrasound or hear a heartbeat, make you wait 24, 36, 72 hours before you can get a safe, legal abortion, just because they feel like it, and just because they feel like it, they can raise the costs of that abortion—in terms of travel, childcare, medical expenses and time—to really shame you good. Moreover, they feel empowered to coerce you into procedures like trans-vaginal ultrasounds, which I maintain is a form of state-sponsored rape. But protest these laws and the War on Women with a t-shirt that gets right to the point?... Oh, no. You can't do that."
True, American Airlines does have a rule that allows it to refuse to carry any passenger who is "clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers," but as noted, the only person offended by "O"'s t-shirt was a flight attendant—and although the airline's spokesman Tim Smith defended the vagueness of its dress code as necessarily so "because it is virtually impossible to write down or precisely delineate every situation that may, or may not, create an issue," the airline apparently had no problem allowing a male passenger to board who was wearing only short shorts, a woman's halter top and stockings—the man's preferred travel attire.
Say; maybe there is some sort of discrimination going on here! Perhaps adult stars returning from dance gigs at adult clubs, who haven't had time to change out of their costumes before boarding their flights, can let us know how they've been treated?
BTW, there's a petition asking American Airlines to apologize to "O."
Pictured, l-r: The shirt; the man; state Sen. Judy McIntyre with sign.