(S)he shall not be moved: Gender, bodies and travel rights in the post-9/11 era

Abstract

Using examples from the gendered targeting of airport security assemblages post-9/11, this article points out that the travelable body is straight; healthy; identifiable in sex, gender and race; not clearly religious; and, depending on where it is in the world, of a particular race and/or ethnicity. This article looks at the securitized production of the travelable body through gender lenses. It reads several key changes in people’s rights to movement as gendered, as significant and as signifying fundamental changes in (gendered) security orders. Particularly, building on Cynthia Enloe’s use of the idea of secure states containing insecure women to critique both the actual security of the state and women’s position in it, this article makes the argument that the gendered violations of people’s rights to movement and bodily integrity post-9/11 is a step backwards both for human security within the state and for the national security of the state.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    ‘Cis-’ is a prefix used to describe people whose sex identity (cissexual) and/or gender identity (cisgender) matches the sex and/or gender that was assigned to them at birth according to patriarchal bi-gendered distinctions between male and female. This is a constitutive Other of the prefix ‘trans-’, which describes people whose sex and/or gender identity does not match the sex and/or gender that was assigned to them at birth. Like we talk about white privilege, male privilege, and straight privilege (that is, advantages accorded to people perceived as white, male and/or straight), we can talk about cisprivilege advantages accorded to people who are cisgender and/or cissexual. One of those is the ability to travel without questions about their sex/gender and/or genitalia (see discussions in this article). Like we talk about sexism (bias based on sex and/or gender) and heterosexism (bias against those who are not heterosexual), we can talk about cissexism (bias against the trans-, intersex and/or sex/gender ambiguous).

  2. 2.

    There is a literature suggesting that (some of) these shortcuts are justified. While, politically I reject this argument, this article is not directly interested in that claim. Instead, it is interested in the constitutive properties of those shortcuts and, then, how they affect mobility.

  3. 3.

    Informational website ‘Genderqueer Identities’ (genderqueerid.com/what-is-gq) defines genderqueer as ‘a term that may be used to describe those with non-normative gender, either as an umbrella term or a stand-alone identity, typically encompassing those who are in one, or more, of these six categories: 1) both man and woman […] 2) neither man nor woman […] 3) moving between two or more genders[…] 4) third gendered or other-gendered[…] 5) having an overlap or blur of gender and orientation and/or sex[…] 6) those who “queer” gender, in presentation or otherwise, and who may or may not see themselves as non-binary or having a gender that is queer’.

  4. 4.

    The original citation is from the US Department of Homeland Security noted in Works Cited.

  5. 5.

    See discussion, for example, in Baker (2002).

  6. 6.

    See discussion in Krause and Williams (1996).

  7. 7.

    Some critics of human security theory (for example, Hoogensen and Stuvoy, 2006) suggest that it remains a top-down approach wherein the state has to provide security to all of its people. This is problematic given feminists’ (for example, Peterson, 1992) valid concern that the state is a security threat to some of its (most vulnerable) citizens. This is a valid concern, though (within the paradigm of human security theory) that it would not change the suggestion that state security sector policies should be concerned with providing people with these dimensions of security.

  8. 8.

    See, for example, discussion in Shepherd and Sjoberg (2012).

  9. 9.

    For a discussion of securitization, see Buzan et al (1998).

  10. 10.

    This is not to say that there is any situation in which the use of identity shortcuts to identify the likelihood of violence is acceptable only to say that there is no empirical justification for certain (if not all) categories of untravelability if the desire is to catch people who are doing things classifiable as ‘terrorist’. In other words, if airport security assemblages are themselves justified, the categories they rely on are shortcuts for signifiers of danger rather than actual categories of more dangerous people.

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Sjoberg, L. (S)he shall not be moved: Gender, bodies and travel rights in the post-9/11 era. Secur J 28, 198–215 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/sj.2015.4

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Keywords

  • sex
  • gender
  • travel rights
  • security
  • terrorism