Teacher Fired for Saying the Word 'Vagina' Because It's 'Inappropriate'

censorship

A teacher getting fired for using "inappropriate" language doesn't sound so far-fetched or unreasonable, but when that "inappropriate" language is an anatomical term, then it gets a little harder to understand. So you can imagine how one substitute middle school teacher who was recently fired for saying the word "vagina" in an art history lecture about Georgia O'Keeffe is feeling right now. (No, seriously, this really happened.)

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Allison Wint lost her job at Harper Creek Middle School after using the appropriate biological term for a crucial part of the female anatomy while addressing an eighth grade class. She was fired on the basis that she didn't obtain "advanced approval" before "discussing reproductive health."

Wint, for her part, says she didn't know about the "advanced approval" clause -- but then, since she wasn't actually discussing "reproductive health," why should it matter? Mentioning that Georgia O'Keeffe was visually inspired by vaginas (something that anyone who's ever looked at one of her paintings knows) in the context of an art history class is hardly the same thing as talking about birth control or safe sex. Indeed, you can hardly talk about Georgia O'Keeffe without mentioning that aspect of her work -- so what was Wint's alternative?

As the teacher told the Detroit Free Press, "I thought if I used a euphemism, that would make it into a joke. Being afraid of the word ... creates an aura of shame around the body part."

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Exactly! Unfortunately, that "aura of shame" exists -- and it's exactly the problem here. Vagina, as a word, is literally no different than "nose" or "elbow" or "ankle." It's a part of the body, and just because that body part is a sexual organ doesn't automatically make it a sexual word. And even if it was, why should kids be conditioned to associate shame with sexuality?

I can only guess that all of this is somehow rooted in fear -- a deep, misogynistic fear that women will rise up and take over the world. Why else would we be treating the word vagina like it's Voldemort? But these people are afraid of the wrong thing. What they should be afraid of is raising a generation of intolerant, sexist emotional cripples who are incapable of processing even the most basic truths of human existence.

As a parent, I would have been more upset if my kid's teacher used a euphemism instead of the proper term -- though honestly, I wouldn't have been upset either way. Because hey, guess what? I don't think there's anything wrong with having a vagina, unlike the administrators at Harper Creek Middle School.

And sadly, this isn't the first time something like this has happened in Michigan: Michigan state House Representative Lisa Brown was banned from speaking in 2012 after she said "vagina" in a house debate about an abortion bill. An abortion bill. What was she supposed to say?!

This story makes me sad for both my daughter and my sons. How are kids supposed to grow up feeling comfortable with themselves? How are they supposed to appreciate and accept their bodies -- and respect other people's bodies? It's no wonder teen girls are now feeling the need to get "vaginal rejuvenation" surgery. We're making them feel like their bodies are so shameful, we can't even speak about them out loud. 

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At the very least, incensed parents have inundated the school's Facebook page with comments supporting Wint -- and I don't blame them. She deserves support, and this story deserves attention. Hopefully, the more awareness it gets, the less likely it will be for something like this to happen again.

 

Image via iStock.com/selimaksan

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