#TeacherBae aka Patrice Brown is a fourth grade teacher in Atlanta (according to Huffington Post) She has gained followers and critics due to her form fitting clothes she wears in the classroom. Many of the critiques deem her attire inappropriate. Those critiques overwhelmingly come from women. Men have largely supported her sexy clothing, celebrating her curves with a new hashtag and sudden support of women’s rights.
As the debate over appropriateness heated up, many have chimed in. Many commentators have stated that Brown has no control over her body shape. Yes, people with different body types sometimes have to dress differently for modesty. This is not a new phenomenon. This is not something that only curvy, pretty teachers go through. Brown is not being shamed for her curves. This is not body shaming. This is not “something she can’t control”. This is clothing. This is something she has complete control over. This conversation is about what our expectations are for our teachers’ behavior and ensuring sound judgement is demonstrated, especially when setting an example for children.
Appropriateness Already Has a Standard
I grew up in black schools being taught by black teachers. Many of them were sharp
dressers, many were curvy and beautiful yet none of them wore bodycon dresses to teach us in. The backlash the teacher is facing is a result of violating set expectations of appropriate attire for teachers. Teachers have long been respected in black communities because their image was respectable. So when parents are confronted with a teacher looking more like she is dressed for an Instagram hottie selfie shoot than for educating impressionable children, we are taken aback.
Body Positivity Is Not The Same As Body Exposing and Our Girls Need to Know That
In the fourth grade, young ladies are in dire need of role models to look up to. Young girls are getting bombarded daily with media messages that confidence means showing of their bodies and that sexuality is power. #TeacherBae reinforces this message to young girls. In a culture that forces our children to grow up way too fast, these messages can have potentially harmful effects. They hear the comments from the boys in the class about the teacher and her curves and get the message that sexy is valuable and it is how you get attention. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that fourth grade boys don’t notice. They do. #TeacherBae may or may not be good at helping students learn, but she has most definitely exercised some poor judgement in clothing choices.
Black Values Matter. The Voices of Black Mothers Matter.
It infuriates me to see this conversation continue to be framed as a teacher being “hated on” by jealous women. Women are raising this generation of children MOSTLY as single mothers. The environment they expect for their children should be taken into consideration without shaming them into silence. Men should consider their motives and be quiet. If this teacher was 260 lbs and attempting to wear spandex pants and bodycon dresses; I doubt she would get the same outpouring of love from “newly feminist” men.
Mothers want to protect their children. What they say matters and their expectations should be considered and used to set policy. This teacher is young and likes attention. That’s understandable. But reasonable expectation of appropriate dress attire should be observed and respected. Our teachers should dress in a way that does not cause distraction.