Although many forms of rebellion are the antithesis of ritual, others are directly codified by it. The idea, by Max Gluckman, a South African anthropologist, is that ritualized rebellion serves as a release for impulses that threaten institutions, by which they ultimately reinforce them. For instance, during Carnival, you can drink and revel to a point that would normally be frowned upon, and you could return to the normal Catholic social order afterwards. In a much more fantastical way, the film series, “The Purge” is built around the same idea: you take one day to commit as many crimes as you want, but only that day; in this way, crime the rest of the year is abated.

I found myself performing a small ritual of technological rebellion over Spring Break. I’m not sure if this act serves to maintain social order in any way, but it does make me feel better.

Many security experts, including Bruce Schneider who coined the term, view the airport and airline security apparatus as “security theatre”: a show of supposedly improved security that does not actually achieve it. It makes people feel safer without actually preventing much terrorism, and also wastes a lot of time. All the time I spend putting my toiletries in small containers are a waste. Taking my shoes off is uncomfortable, and the shoe bomb only happened the one time, unsuccessfully. The long lineups and scans and invasions of privacy do little except to annoy me and other passengers. They make me want to rebel.

And I do, in a very small, inconsequential way. On every airplane, you are told that electronic signals from your phone can interfere with the airplane’s control systems. I am not sure if they actually do. Consequentially, here is my small ritual:

Resources needed:

  • mobile phone
  • airplane (you are sitting in)
  • cabin crew


  1. The cabin crew will tell you to switch your phone to airplane mode for takeoffs and landings.
  2. Continue to use your phone during takeoffs and landings.
  3. If you are spotted by a crew member, pretend to switch to airplane mode and put your phone away. Do not switch to airplane mode.
  4. Take your phone back out. You may continue to use it.

Do I really need to use my phone during takeoffs and landings? Absolutely not, and the data signal becomes so weak that it’s pointless to keep it on– it honestly just serves to drain my phone’s battery faster. But do I continue to do this as a form of small rebellion against the air travel apparatus? Absolutely.

I do not believe that this affects anybody else, and especially not the airplane’s control systems. It mostly pacifies me in a system that leaves me feeling powerless, in line after goddamn line. I took four flights over the break, since I had two layovers. I endured scans several times and patdowns. It feels nice to say “no” in a small way.

I’m lucky enough to be a cisgendered woman of the “model” minority, so I’m hardly ever selected for a random search. Whenever my belongings set something off in airport security, I only experience minor panic and am let through with little trouble. Perhaps if I was of a different race or have other circumstances, I’d be less inclined to perform this small ritual. But as it is, it’s a little rebellion to help me endure an arduous process.