I have to say that I’ve never been stopped for my underwires at airport security. I’ve been stopped for other reasons: “Your library of books is too dense to show up on the X-ray”, “We can’t see through the metal box holding… oh, these are pencils”, etc. I’m also insanely paranoid about getting through the machine that you walk through; I hold my breath and creep over, every time! It’s illogical because I take everything off and shouldn’t set it off but I feel like half a criminal anyway.
Anyway, I’ve heard a few stories about underwires setting off these TSA machines at airports, while plenty of other women (including me) have never had this happen.
I FOUND THE REASON *cue rising chorus of aahhHH*
According to an airport screening officer who did an AMAA (Ask Me Almost Anything) thread on Reddit, the machine detects the total amount of metal on your body, not specific pieces of/or specific densities. So if you’re wearing jewelry, have dense underwires and maybe metal somewhere else on your person, you might set the machine off even while the next person wearing the same underwires doesn’t set it off. The machine has some unannounced allowance for the amount of metal going through, and any higher amount will ring. Also, light metals will go through more easily / contributes less to this allowance.
The new machines are all-over scanners, I think.
Also, a bit about TSA and public opinion:
I like the TSA. Yes I get anxious going through security (personal problem), and yes some rules seem arbitrary (they’re there though and they’re clearly labeled throughout the airport), and yes it can take forever (get there earlier), and yes there are sometimes very grumpy security officers (there are grumpy people in general, in all occupations), and yes I’ve heard people legitimately questioning their effectiveness/usefulness (I also question the usefulness of various school administrators but we can’t throw them all out can we), BUT as an extra procedure, it really doesn’t hurt anyone. The officers I’ve met for longer than a minute have always been friendly and helpful. I remember a lady TSA officer who had to search my bag after the X-ray, and I had a massload of pads because I was on my period then. She was a classy lady, that one. She searched my stuff good and thoroughly but rummaged through my pads without taking them out and embarrassing the crap out of me in front of my dad and other airport people, which I’d totally been expecting.
I really don’t think they deserve this really poor public opinion. It makes me sad 😦
Standing all day, looking at and through people’s stuff, herding person after person through the same spots, some cooperative and some uncooperative, and explaining and repeating information that is widely broadcast and clearly posted… this is not an easy job. Please don’t give airport staff any unnecessary grief and do give in to your urge to make everyone’s day at work go smoothly and happily!