Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nude Teacher Too Sexy For School?

image

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. 

32 comments:

dirtyrottenfeminist said...

Amazing post.

This is silly. This obviously a depiction of tenderness and love.

Not pornographic material.

Uhhh...ppl make me sick.

As a girl who nude modeled for art classes for two years, I am very comfy in my body.

So when that day comes, can I take that walk with you?

Amelia said...

I second the "amazing post."

Very interesting analysis. Eee! I just liked this post all-over.

:) Good work.

Renee said...

It would be great to have you walking by my side. Thanks for stopping by dirtyrottenfeminist and amelia.

Ebony Intuition said...

Why did the school even have a picture of the teacher and her husband the school is to damn nosie..

"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.""

I would do the exact same thing

Lynn said...

Great post, and I think you are right.

One issue in the feminist sphere is the way that dress/sexiness/nudity is determined to be oppressive because it MUST be for the male glare or it MUST be motivated by the desire to please and little more- which is pretty one sided.

In addition to Madonna-whore, we have this idea now of what the liberated female looks like, and apparently lipstick is a crime!

Am I crazy for also thinking this gets into rape blame as well? You know, the people that blame the victims of rape and connect it to the fault of these "slutty women" who "cause" men to objectify and rape?

Ever hear somebody say "Well what do we expect when we act this way?"

All this wrapped up into how a woman shows her body. It would be nice if our intentions were not dictated, but rather given some credibility?

FeministGal said...

i don't understand how the school had access to the picture in the first place? does they do google searches for nude pictures of all their employees? so odd. excellent post though :)

Renee said...

The photo appeared in a popular magazine in Australia apparently. I am not sure who brought it to the attention of the administration.

smartlikeme said...

Great post! I am continually frustrated that women can't seem to just exist, that we are so limited in our ability to self-represent. UGH. What you wrote was a lot of what I was thinking in my recent post about women's privacy in public spaces.

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