This teacher says using the word “vagina” during an art lesson cost her a job
If there’s one place it should be okay to use the anatomically correct names for body parts, it’s in school, right? Well, not exactly. A Michigan substitute teacher claims she was fired for using the word vagina during a discussion with a group of eighth grade students.
Allison Wint was giving students an art history lecture that focused on the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, when she tells the Lansing State Journal she said, “Imagine walking into a gallery when [O’Keeffe] was first showing her pieces, and thinking, ‘Am I actually seeing vaginas here, am I a pervert? I’m either a pervert or this woman was a pervert.'”
In total, Witt says she used the word vagina about 10 times — because it’s impossible not to use that word when you’re talking about Georgia O’Keeffe paintings — and while students got a bit giggly, she didn’t use the word “in a vulgar capacity” and never imagined her art lesson might land her in the unemployment line. “I thought if I used a euphemism, that would make it into a joke,” Witt told the Lansing State Journal. “And I don’t think that’s a word you should be afraid of.”
Unfortunately, administrators disagreed. Wint says she was approached by the principal the following day, asked if she used the word vagina in class “without previous approval,” and ultimately terminated. Says Wint, “She said there are a thousand other ways to teach controversy, and that it was inappropriate.”
The school initially told local news station WWMT that teachers must get approval before discussing “reproductive health” and offered a corresponding page from their handbook. After some backlash, they posted an official statement on Facebook saying Wint was instead terminated for not following “district art curriculum.”
As for the parents, they’re not buying it. The school’s official statement was met with a flood of comments calling the school a “laughing stock” and expressing anger at administrators’ puritanical views.
“Perhaps female artists and feminine subject matter were missing from the curriculum.”
“Does your district ‘art curriculum’ forbid talking about Georgia O’Keeffe or just vaginas?”
“You guys should be ashamed of yourselves and of your 18th century views about certain issues that are perfectly normal; our bodies should never be demonized. Women’s bodies should never be made into something shameful. Schools should be about learning, not about dumbing down our children.”
“If vaginas are so bad, why is your school mascot a beaver?”
Obviously there are two sides to every story, but there’s no doubt this teacher was at least left with the impression that she was being terminated for her use of the word vagina, and that’s just ridiculous. Vaginas are not inherently controversial, and it’s impossible to even talk about Georgia O’Keeffe without explaining the symbolism in her work, which, yes, is full of vaginas. Big freaking deal.
If there’s one bright spot in this mess, it’s the many parents who are speaking out in support of this teacher and of their kids learning things in school that actually challenge them and open their minds. If people are uncomfortable with anatomically correct names being used in intellectual discussions, that’s their problem, and it doesn’t mean kids should be kept in the dark.