Nude Teacher Too Sexy For School?

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Ms. Tziolas was recently released from her position as a teacher at Narraweena Public School.  It seems that the photo for which she posed with her husband, was deemed to sexual for the administration.  Parents came to her support though with a petition and a rally.  They just want their teacher back.  In response Ms. Tziolas has filed suit alleging wrongful dismissal.

This story caught my attention due to a question posted at Dirty Rotten Feminist.  The question was,  “What would you do if sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia just disappeared tomorrow? Seriously? If fighting the good fight was done, and everyone was magically equal in all respects of the word? What would be the first thing you’d do?” My response was, “This is going to sound weird but I would walk my neighborhood naked. It would be something to experience a world in which my gender, and body signified only what I intended it to signify. My nakedness would be a symbol of my freedom.”

The controversy regarding this photo explains why my wish is so relevant.  When we look at a body, it becomes host to social construction.  A naked woman in a patriarchal society is always sexualized regardless of her intent.  What matters is how the image is read by others, and not what the body signifies to the individual.  For women the body is the receptacle of negative stereotypes.  ‘Woman’ is less than, licentious, devious, and weak.

By firing Ms. Tziolas what the administration was effectively doing was disciplining behavior that it had deemed obscene, due to the understanding that good girls keep their clothes on.  Good girls perform their gender based on a strict code dictated by patriarchy.  Her nakedness directly confronted the Whore/Madonna complex and challenges the reader/viewer to question what the body signifies.  What if Ms. Tziolas is neither the whore or the virgin?  What if she is just a body on display bereft of a sexualized lens?  Could we then appreciate the beauty of the image without attempting to stigmatize and or discipline her?  If women possessed actual autonomy over their beings it might be possible to see this photo as an expression of freedom and love, but as long as the feminine is uniquely conflated with a male sexual gaze, images like this one will continue to be considered problematic.  He who has the power to name, ultimately controls how images akin to this are understood. 

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