March 27, 2008
Los Angeles, Ca. (The Weekly Vice) -- Mandi Hamlin, a 37 year old woman who was forced by the Transportation Security Administration to remove nipple piercings before boarding an aircraft, wants an apology - and she'll sue if she doesn't get one.
Hamlin, who resides in Texas, demonstrated for reporters the manner she used to extract nipple piercings after being informed she could not board the aircraft without doing so.
When Hamlin attempted to pass through security, a hand held scanner beeped when it was passed over her chest. When she told security that she had nipple piercings, she was informed that she'd have to remove them.
She was directed behind a curtain where she intended to take them out. When she couldn't remove the second piercing, she was given a pair of pliers to finish the task.
Hamlin offered to show a female security officer the piercings in private and says she would have agreed to a pat down search as alternatives to removing the piercings, but no other alternative was offered.
She also claims she heard male officers snickering when she requested the pliers to remove the piercing. After finally removing the nipple piercings, she was allowed to pass even though she had a belly button piercing that had not been removed.
TSA officials say they are investigating to see if policies were being followed. The agency released a statement saying "Our security officers are well-trained to screen individuals with body piercings in sensitive areas with dignity and respect while ensuring a high level of security."
The Weekly Vice Opinion:
We're a little surprised that the TSA has handled this in such a stupid way. Literally millions of passengers pass through security with nipple rings, belly button rings, rings on their fingers, necklaces and other such jewelry.
We are absolutely on board with careful screenings of airline passengers. It's the world we now live in. But an ounce of common sense has to be used during the process. Nipple piercings are tiny and fairly easy to identify. They can also be very painful to remove, since skin tends to grow around the metal of the ring. Keep in mind nipples aren't the only genitals people pierce these days.
When pliers were requested, someone should have had enough sense to recognize that the humiliation of the incident had gone on long enough.
Since female security agents were on hand who could have offered an alternative, there really is no excuse for the TSA's handling of this case. It might not merit a lawsuit, but it certainly merits a firing somewhere we think. There simply is no way to line up person after person to extract nipple, clitoris and penis piercings at every airport in the country. There absolutely needs to be a common sense policy change of some sort. We thought hand scanners were supposed to help solve this issue, no?
The Weekly Vice