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Not Your Mama’s Feminism

feministcolumngraphic-copyImagine: you’re a young educated Black woman who is dedicated to teaching fourth grade students in Atlanta, Georgia.

You were even named Educator of the Month. You’re both a teacher and a human being that lives in the social media age, so you often post pictures of yourself in the classroom to your Instagram. All of a sudden, your body has gone viral across the internet and strangers are now discussing your competence as an educator based on something you don’t have the ability to change.

For Patrice Brown, this is now her reality. Under the hashtag #teacherbae, a worldwide discourse on appropriate classroom attire was actually just a poor attempt at masking the real problem: the policing and hyper-sexualization of Black women’s bodies. The photos that Brown has posted on her Instagram showcasing her outfits consist of dresses that have sleeves and hit the knee, along with well-fitting jeans and t-shirts. @breenaughtyy on Twitter said: “That teacher looks good af but her attire is just inappropriate to be teaching a 4th grade class. Little boys are pervs by like 2nd grade.” Soon after, the internet exploded.

Fox 5 was told by Brown’s higher-ups: “[Brown] was given guidance regarding the APS Employee Dress Code, the use of social media, and Georgia Code of Ethics for educators, and she has been cooperative in addressing her presence on social media.” She shows up to school in these outfits, so obviously she was following the dress-code. She wasn’t reprimanded until the situation went viral.

Contrary to Brown’s situation, a custodian who was thought to be a teacher, Jamel Fenner, went viral as the male #teacherbae. Fenner circled the internet with photos of him sporting very familiar tight jeans and form-fitting t-shirts in a classroom. He went on to receive very different commentary from Brown online. @ChristinaFloyd said on Facebook: “Damn I need to go back to school.” Fenner’s clothes are just as form-fitting as Brown’s, so where’s his backlash? Why isn’t anyone body-shaming him? Instead of trying to shame Brown, a naturally curvy woman, we need to focus on her performance in the classroom and her passion for teaching.

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