Illustration comparing a typical woman's pocket to a man's and if it can fit a woman's hand. Only 40% of women's pockets can while 100% of men's do.

Security Theater Doesn’t Help Anyone Other than Makers of Clear Bags

When you regularly walk, ride transit, bike, or use any combination of those modes, you often have stuff to carry with you, and a previous post about packing for the walking + transit commute included robust discussion in the comments about needs and preferences for life outside a personal vehicle. Does the forecast include chances for rain in the afternoon? Make sure you’ve got a rain jacket or umbrella with you. In contrast, on the rare occasion when I drove to work in downtown Saint Paul recently, I was able to go through the entire rainy day without needing to set foot outside because of driving and then using the skyways and tunnels. And I always have an umbrella in the trunk of my car in case.

I was excited to have the chance to hear former First Lady Michelle Obama a couple of weeks ago. When I got the pre-event email reminder though, I rolled my eyes. Oh no! Had the Clear Bag Plague infected non-sporting events now? The Xcel Center email included its bag policy. I just saw the words “clear bag” and “maximum one gallon size plastic storage bag” and groaned. I had Lynx season tickets in 2017 when they had to play at Xcel during Target Center renovations, and I didn’t have to deal with that then. I could just go to the game after work with my regular bag. Then I noticed the squishiness of the language: they “encouraged” us to do that. I called Xcel to verify a regular purse of those dimensions would be allowed. And they were. But for half a day my friend and I were trying to figure out how this would work with an arena full of a lot of women there to see Michelle Obama.

If you attend major league hockey, football, or soccer games in the Twin Cities and ever have need to carry more than what fits in the typical pockets in women’s clothing, you are familiar with clear bag policies. Under a clear bag policy, you are limited to nothing larger than a wallet unless it’s in a clear bag that meets certain dimensions, like 12” x 6” x 12”.

I’ve been a season ticket holder for both Minnesota United and the Minnesota Lynx for the past two years. My first season attending soccer games at TCF Bank Stadium was a frustrating introduction to the security theater of clear bag policies. About halfway through the first season at TCF Bank Stadium, I got turned away from the entrance carrying the bag I had been bringing all season. They suddenly deemed it didn’t meet the restrictive bag policy – 6.5” by 4.5”. There was a bag check for $5 in another building away from the stadium. I was debating how much I really wanted to attend this game when a different security guy came over to me and gave me a gallon-sized plastic bag to use. I put my too-big-for-them bag inside the plastic bag and went over to a different security gate to try to enter. I watched as other women were allowed in with bags the same size or larger than mine without plastic bags. I got through that security gate without problem. I’m unclear what the magical security is that comes from putting something in a clear plastic bag. For their second season in TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota United gave all season ticket holders clear plastic bags with their logo that met the larger 12” x 6” x 12” limit. Score for the clear plastic bag makers.

Black clutch bag

8.5″x5″ bag deemed too dangerous for an MLS match at TCF Stadium

Black clutch bag compared to a white square measuring 6.5" by 4.5"

8.5″x5″ bag compared to the 6.5″x4.5″ limit for an MLS soccer game

Black clutch bag inside a clear ziploc bag

Now the too-big small bag is magically safe enough for entry

Meanwhile, I was attending WNBA basketball games with the regular bag I use in my everyday life. A game after work? No problem! No having to remember to switch bags that morning. Just open my bag for inspection by security on entry and go on.

Every major sporting venue in the Twin Cities is now on the Green Line and therefore easy to access by transit. Some of them include plentiful bike racks as well. But only two of the major league sporting venues are immune to clear bag security theater (thank you Target Field and Target Center). Not sure what it is about hockey, football, and soccer, but in the Twin Cities those have all fallen prey to security theater and manufacturers of clear plastic bags. The new soccer stadium, Allianz Field, is continuing the security theater clear bag policy from TCF Bank Stadium, although it doesn’t have to. Sporting Kansas City’s guidelines reference “MLS Best Practices” in allowing regular ol’ opaque bags smaller than 14” x 14” x 6” in after inspection, so Minnesota United can’t blame their league for their nonsense.

So what are you supposed to do with your stuff? If you won’t just succumb and buy a clear plastic bag you won’t want to use for anything else, the people who come up with these policies seem to assume that you can throw it in your car or have capacious pockets. Minnesota United’s web site tells you to take your umbrella back to your car (“Those that bring them to the gate will be asked to return them to their vehicles.”). Oh wait. They’re banking on almost 40% of fans arriving to the new stadium by transit, and more by walking or biking. Hmm. Is there a team vehicle available by the entrance for storage since there aren’t lockers? Bonus points to the Minnesota Orchestra, which provides lockers for attendees of its performances (and promotes biking to the show).

So if you don’t have a car trunk, what about your pockets? Great if you’re wearing clothing marketed to men. Most clothing sized specifically for women have insufficient to no pockets. Let The Pudding demonstrate:

Illustration comparing a typical woman's pocket to a man's and if it can fit a front wallet. Only 40% of women's pockets can while 100% of men's do.

Graphic source: The Pudding,

Illustration comparing women's pockets to men's showing only 10% of women's can fit a woman's hand while 100% of men's pockets can

Good thing our hands are attached. Graphic source: The Pudding,

This view of the world, where you bring almost nothing with you or have to carry a specific bag to an event, also relies on your trip being just for that event, which is rarely how it works for me as someone who is most often on transit and foot. If any of this security theater actually made us safer, that would be one thing. There’s no reason to believe it does. In the meantime it promotes plastic junk and works against transit riders, walkers, pedestrians, and women who travel in any of those ways.

Heidi Schallberg

About Heidi Schallberg

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Heidi Schallberg tweets @laflaneuse more than she posts here. Her posts reflect only her opinion and not those of any organization.

Articles Near This Location