ONTD Political

Woman Misses Flight Because of Pro-Choice Shirt

7:03 pm - 05/23/2012
Yesterday I attended a meeting of pro-choice colleagues working to ensure women throughout this country get safe, compassionate abortion care. Today, I received an email from one of those colleagues, detailing the ordeal through which she was put by American Airlines on her flights home. They actually forced her to miss her connecting flight and demanded she change her top. The reason? Her politically salient pro-choice t-shirt was offensive to the flight crew.

That sign said: "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd fuck a senator."The t-shirt is the now-popularized version of a sign held by Oklahoma state senator Judy McIntyre (D) at a pro-choice rally in early March to protest Oklahoma's so-called personhood law, which in conferring the rights of a living, breathing person on a fertilized egg denies all rights of personhood of women, full stop.

At the time of the rally, and asked about the sign, State Senator McIntyre "acknowledged that some in Oklahoma, which is overwhelmingly Christian, may find her sign’s language offensive, but she wasn’t much concerned about them."

"I would hope they would have that same passion about how offensive it is for the Republican Party of Oklahoma to ramrod, because they have the votes to do so, bills that are offensive to women and take away the rights of women,” she reportedly said.

My colleague, O., of the same mind of many of us in believing that sign says it all, wore a t-shirt with the same message under her shawl and boarded an American Airlines flight home from our meeting.

So what happened? O. writes:

[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. 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.

The shirt was gray with the wording, "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd fuck a senator." I must also mention that when I boarded the plane, I was one of the first groups to board (did not pass by many folks). I was wearing my shawl just loosely around my neck and upon sitting down in my seat the lady next to me, who was already seated, praised me for wearing 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. 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.

Due to the fact that my luggage was checked, changing shirts without spending money wasn't an option. I consulted a friend with a law background who told me covering with my shawl would suffice. Upon boarding the now rescheduled flight with shawl covering my shirt, my ticket dinged invalid. I was pulled to the side while the gentleman entered some codes into the computer and then told, "it was all good." I did finally arrive home to pick up my daughter an hour and a half later than scheduled.

So let's review some facts. O. went through security and was stopped for additional screening, but not deemed a "security risk," and no one at TSA made the slightest mention of her t-shirt. She boarded her first flight, and none of the airline personnel at the gate mentioned her t-shirt. She quietly took her seat, wrapped her shawl around herself, and went to sleep.

When her plane landed the flight attendant confronted her and said she had to speak to the captain. At no point did anyone say quietly, hey... could you keep that covered with your shawl? Could you turn it inside out? We have a policy....

Instead, after the plane landed the flight attendant brought her up front where the captain berated her publicly and made her miss her connecting flight. It turns out when she asked if anyone had complained the answer was: NO, Only the flight attendant!

The captain and flight attendant took it upon themselves to call ahead to the next gate and make them keep her off the next flight, causing her to miss it. Two American Airlines employees decided *after the fact* to make an issue of this of their own accord and, instead of asking discreetly if she could cover her shirt or turn it inside out, she was humiliated in front of other passengers by a captain out of control. Yes, in some way this obviously has to do with profanity, but where does that stop? Is she allowed to walk into Target? Is she allowed to go to CVS? She was allowed to walk through the airport... If we women all over this country are being fucked over, and we can't say that, where does that end?

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? Let people know the basis of all of it, the people that "want government out of our lives" want to place it directly into our bodies? In a country supposedly founded on freedom of speech and expression, in which protestors can stand outside clinics harassing and threatening women and doctors, and run through every public square with gory doctored photos? A country in which other protestors can stand outside the funerals of gay soldiers killed in duty and scream disgusting insults, and still have their rights protected?

Oh, no. You can't do that. You can't take that message that your body is your own anywhere. Because in the United States today, that is like taking your burqha off under the Taliban. That is "offensive," "insulting" and "not for public consumption."

At least according to American Airlines, which apparently has not heard the term freedom of expression.

Let's be clear: This is a woman who was not a security risk -- she got through the gauntlet of DC airport security, which I assure everyone is easily the most rigorous of any in the country -- and obviously was not considered a "risk" of any kind, because... she was not. She boarded her plane without incident and went to sleep. It was at the end of her flight that the flight crew decided she should not be able to board the next flight because her t-shirt was offensive. How is it okay for American Airlines to decide what she can wear on her t-shirt or not? I have been on flights with men wearing tatoos that demean women, and t-shirts that advocate violence against women, that demean women, that treat Obama with racist derision... What someone wears on their body is their business. Whether or not you would wear that t-shirt is not the point. It is not for American Airlines to decide what is politically okay or not.

In March, State Senator Judy Mcintyre told the Huffington Post:

"I was so excited about the fact that the women in Oklahoma have finally begun to wake up and fight for their rights. I saw a sea of signs that caught my eye, but this one in particular -- I loved its offensive language, because it's just as offensive for Republicans of Oklahoma to do what they're doing as it relates to women's bodies. I don't apologize for it."

We don't apologize for fighting for the freedom of women. We don't apologize for taking that war into streets, on sidewalks, into legislatures, into airplanes. We don't apologize for protecting our rights and our bodies and those of every woman in this country.

While there are plenty of people in power right now that owe women of the United States an apology, American Airlines owes a huge -- and public-- apology to O.

Tell them so.


I can't even begin to express how angry this makes me. I wonder if American Airlines will make a public statement about it.
lizzy_someone 24th-May-2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Even if, for the sake of argument, this was due only to the word "fuck" and not to the political message, it is kind of astounding to me how automatically people will condemn anything with profanity in it while not complaining over wildly offensive shit as long as it doesn't have swearing. I truly do not understand what is so terrible about the word "fuck." It is just a syllable that sometimes means "have sex with" and often means nothing in particular.
ms_maree 24th-May-2012 03:55 am (UTC)
You might not understand, but a lot of people (myself included) were brought up to see the word as offensive and to have our mouth washed out if we use it etc. (or castor oil, did anyone have to have castor oil as punishment for cursing? ugh).

And while objectively, I cannot see anything wrong with the word, I still flinch when it's used because it's been ingrained in me as a taboo word. It's just a cultural thing for many people.
kira_snugz 24th-May-2012 05:29 am (UTC)
my parents washed my mouth out with soap for swearing at least 30 or 40 times.
with irish springs soap usually, i can't smell it with out gagging, but i swear like a sailor (worse than some of the actual sailors i know). i think its a ymmv thing.

swearing was totally taboo, none of my friends did it, and we were raised that damn and using the lords name in vain was where swearing started.

but i never stopped. i just became selective about where i did it. now that i am an adult i swear pretty much everywhere, including at my parents place, i just relax back to damn and oh god where i would say s*** or f*** if i was at home.
ms_maree 24th-May-2012 05:33 am (UTC)
Oh I swear. I use 'fuck' when I drop something on my foot, or when I'm extremely angry (rarely). See, personally I understand why people use it in those situations just because it is a 'taboo' word. It meant to have impact.

But if it was an everyday normal word, it has no impact in those circumstances and nobody cares. But it is a loaded word, so you have to be careful where you say it.

ETA: and personally I hate to hear used casually in normal conversation.

Edited at 2012-05-24 05:34 am (UTC)
kira_snugz 24th-May-2012 05:47 am (UTC)
i may have won contests to see who could use it the most in normal conversation....

but it is kinda cool that we came out so different with all the washing of our mouths with soap.

i find that the fword has become used way more often these days, and that alot of people are easier about using and hearing it, because there are more awful swear words floating around. a hundred years from people will probably roll their eyes at it the way people now do about swear terms from the late 1800s and early 1900s

roseofjuly 26th-May-2012 05:43 am (UTC)
I was raised to see the word as offensive. But I am an adult now, who has formed my own opinions about things. Context is key.
lizzy_someone 29th-May-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
If it triggers bad memories for you, then sure, I can understand that. But I think it's weird when people get really riled up about casual profanity and don't care about, say, misogynistic statements that don't use swearwords, as if swearwords were the only offensive thing you could possibly utter, and as long as it doesn't have swearing, it must be okay.
mirhanda 24th-May-2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
It's vulgar and rude. I could turn it around and say what's wrong with cunt? It's just the plain old Anglo-Saxon word for lady parts. But we all know what's wrong with it, and you're being disingenuous to act like you don't understand why people are offended by vulgar language.
stevie_jane 25th-May-2012 01:05 am (UTC)
Pfft, why should people care about offending the uptight and their precious sensibilties? Swearing does no damage in itself. All too often the people who object to 'bad language' in general are simply myopically obsessed with manners in a really unhelpful way; they don't object to all sorts of truly damaging and disturbing shit as long as it doesn't involve swearing (or nudity).

I would however object to cunt because of the misogyny involved; misogyny is damaging so it's not the same.

Edited at 2012-05-25 01:06 am (UTC)
mirhanda 25th-May-2012 01:08 am (UTC)
It's not uptight people, it's pretty much any decent, non-selfish, non-self-absorbed person who knows there is a time and place for everything, and in public isn't the place for vulgarities.
roseofjuly 26th-May-2012 05:45 am (UTC)
Says you. And I like how you just called everyone who disagrees with you selfish and self-absorbed simply because we don't get our shorts in a twist over *gaps* a profane word.
zemi_chan 25th-May-2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
ita, and I'm especially glad you made that distinction with the word "cunt." I would also venture to throw racial slurs into that mix.

Personally, I absolutely hate it when people "reprimand" others for being offended by racial slurs.

Edit: Although, I should probably note that while I'm okay with most general, (as in not directed at "race," gender, color), swear words, I wouldn't subject any strangers or unfamiliar acquaintances to my swearing unless I was sure that they shared my resolve.

Edited at 2012-05-25 08:44 pm (UTC)
nyxelestia 25th-May-2012 01:47 am (UTC)
She may be asking because English isn't her first language or some similar situation. I certainly had this problem while learning another language; why two different words or phrases can mean exactly the same thing but one is okay to use in polite company and the other is not (and occasionally even mixing them up). You're allowed to say "we had sex" but not "we fucked"; or, "he screwed me over" is okay but "he fucked me over" is not. If you didn't grow up with the cultural taboo attached, then it does come across as completely arbitrary and random.

I think the commenter was mostly talking about how people will be okay with truly insulting and vile dialogue so long as there is no swearing in it, while losing their shit at relatively innocuous lines of conversation because of one swearword.
roseofjuly 26th-May-2012 05:44 am (UTC)
Comparing "cunt" to "fuck" is pretty disingenuous.
lizzy_someone 29th-May-2012 04:00 am (UTC)
Saying it's bad because it's vulgar is sort of circular, I think. It's considered vulgar because...well, because we arbitrarily consider it vulgar. We do not consider the word "copulate" or the word "really" equally vulgar, even though they are often synonymous with "fuck." And there's nothing inherently vulgar about the phonetic substance of the word; one language's swearword is often another language's totally bland, unremarkable word. I'm not saying it can't reasonably be described as vulgar; I'm saying I don't find that explanation particularly enlightening.

And rudeness is all a matter of context. If I say "fuck" casually when the only person who can hear me is a close friend who also swears casually, I fail to see how that would be rude. It could conceivably be rude to abstain from profanity in some contexts -- if the other person is using it as an attempted friendly overture, and I pointedly maintain a high register, it could be seen as a rebuff to their gesture. And it's not like I can't understand how to act in socially acceptable ways -- I personally don't swear around family members, employers, my professors, young children, etc., and I wouldn't encourage anyone to do so. In some cases it works, though. My best friend swears playfully around her mother, who enjoys it and swears right back. They have a very close relationship; I wish I were close enough to my mother to feel comfortable doing that. If you're offended by profanity, it seems to me that it's either because you have bad memories associated with it (in which case it would make more sense to think of it as a personal trigger or quasi-trigger rather than an inherent affront to morality), or because you choose to be offended by it. Which, whatever, it's your decision, make it if you want; all I'm saying is I don't understand it. As an atheist, I don't entirely understand certain religious choices people make either, but I don't go around telling people they shouldn't make those choices. I just don't think they should expect everyone else to adhere to those same choices.

"Cunt" is completely different from "fuck." It's bad because it's a misogynistic slur (though I do think it's possible for it to be used in a positive, reclaimed way). "Fuck," to the best of my knowledge, is not. (Or racist, ableist, classist, cissexist, heterosexist, etc. I could be wrong.) There is a real difference there, and some people are coming from honestly different perspectives than you, so it's not appropriate to accuse me of dishonesty when I am expression genuine bafflement.
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