I updated my earlier The New Yorker/TSA Sexual Assault Cover post but wanted to do a separate entry to highlight my turn from disappointment to disgust.
[TW for discussions of sexual assault, especially regarding the new invasive TSA pat downs.]
HOLD THE PHONE! I’m mad.
I just saw this piece at Forbes, which questioned why it is a hetero pair instead of a woman TSA employee groping a woman, since that is TSA regulation. The author of the post, Kashmir Hill, wrote to The New Yorker to ask why the artist chose to conceptualize this moment in this way:
The New Yorker sent me a response from art editor Françoise Mouly via email:
When we chose to publish Barry Blitt’s image about the TSA’s new frisking rules, we were looking for a comment on what got people talking, not for a literal illustration. The image Barry Blitt presented captures what the conversation is about, and, while we were aware of the TSA’s same sex rules, we didn’t feel the TSA issue was about same-sex touching. Similarly, the artist did not portray a man groping a woman, which would have had implications of sexual violence and rape, which we also felt were not part of the conversation at hand (so to speak.)
First, why does a woman groping a man NOT have implications of sexual violence? The implications of sexual violence do not arise here because of gender, though other gender pairings would make the implications much more strong (as I say above). They arise because this is an extremely unequal power relationship: the passenger, in order to get on his flight, MUST submit to be fondled and in this case, kissed. There is no choice on his part. If he feels uncomfortable and wants to stop the screening, he can be fined thousands of dollars and he will miss his flight (which he may have to take because his work requires it of him and he needs to keep his job). Of course, this is not a problem if one assumes that he is enjoying it and would consent anyway. But that is a HUGE assumption based on the beliefs that all men are always looking to get some good hetero action at any point with any lady who is willing to give it (an idea that is part and parcel of our problematic rape culture).
There is so much FUCKED UP about that.
So, what is the conversation about? What was it, New Yorker/Blitt/Mouly, that “got people talking”?
Even more than before I contend that this cover is making light of a subject that is triggering and traumatic to survivors of sexual assault and is upsetting to those who fear being sexually assaulted/groped/violated simply to get on a plane.
I am not just disappointed anymore. I am disgusted.