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Don't you dare shame my daughter

Frauenfelder's daughter in the outfit that offended the TSA officer. Photo: Courtesy Mark Frauenfelde

On Sunday morning – Father’s Day in America — writer Mark Frauenfelder got a text from his daughter. She told him and her mum that while waiting in line at a security checkpoint in Los Angeles airport, a TSA agent shamed her for what she was wearing. After noting the age on her ID, the male agent looked Frauenfelder’s daughter up and down, and – with a glare – told her “You’re only 15. Cover yourself!”  Shaken and furious, she texted the details – and a photo of her outfit – to her father.

Put simply, telling a 15 year-old girl to “cover up” shames her — and sells every boy and man short.

As Frauenfelder wrote on Boing-Boing, “it doesn’t matter what she was wearing.” Pushing back against the stereotype of the purity-obsessed father of an adolescent girl, Frauenfelder was concerned not with his daughter’s appearance, but with her emotional well-being and her right to dress as she wants. He and his wife met with TSA officials at LAX, and saw to it that the agency has opened an investigation. His brief account, along with this Yahoo article, have taken his daughter’s story viral.

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There’s plenty to be angry about here: the TSA agent’s creepy rudeness as well as the toxic culture that encourages adults to scrutinize and police the outfits and bodies of teenage girls. As activist Maureen Herman, a friend of the Frauenfelders, wrote on Facebook, the command to ‘cover up’ is “the foundation of the oppression of women.” The idea that men are so weak that they can be driven to distraction – or violence – by what a woman wears is at the heart of rape culture.  The suggestion to “cover up” implies that those who don’t are at least partly responsible for their own abuse at the hands of naturally predatory men.

Put simply, telling a 15 year-old girl to “cover up” shames her — and sells every boy and man short.

There’s much to love about this story, too. I love that Mark’s daughter felt safe enough to reach out to her parents immediately, knowing both that what had happened to her was wrong and that she’d receive their support. That’s a credit to her — and to Mark and his wife. I love that the Frauenfelders stepped up as advocates for their daughter’s right to move through public space unchallenged and un-humiliated. I love that Mark (with his daughter’s permission) didn’t share the photo of what she was wearing to prove that the TSA agent was mistaken, and that her outfit really was “modest” and she was sufficiently “covered up.” He shared it to remind us that his daughter, like every woman, is a person who deserves respect regardless of what she wears.

A lesser father might have told his daughter she was making a “big deal out of nothing,” or tried to convince her that the TSA agent was really just looking out for her interests.  A lesser father might have said, “let this be a lesson to you about how you dress in public.” Instead, a great dad went to bat for his 15 year-old daughter’s dignity. May we draw inspiration from his example.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project. Other great reads from The Good Men Project include:

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