I’m going to be doing a community radio show this afternoon and as an ice-breaker, we’ll be discussing the Atlanta 4th Grade Teacher Tricey Brown. Several of her pictures went viral recently and she has been trending as #teacherbae. The notoriety is because her clothes are undeniably tight and what many would agree are sexy.
Many things can be true at a time and the first thing is that the conversation itself is inherently sexist. Society has reserved the right for itself to judge women, especially black women in ways they would never judge a man. If a male teacher, or preacher (Bishop Eddie Long) wore tight outfits showing off their form. The reaction might range from admiration to mockery but no one would accuse them of being responsible for “over sexualizing your children” and “inciting rape” as some have commented. It is also true that Ms. Brown’s attire could definitely be a distraction. More for adults than children I imagine.
We live in a society where it’s quite acceptable to objectify women as long as it’s within prescribed terms. We (including 4th-grade students) are bombarded with images of scantily clad women on television shows, in commercials, in comic books, in magazines, the Internet… everywhere. Of the pictures I’ve seen of Tricey Brown taken in an empty classroom, her breasts were not hanging out, her skirts were of appropriate length. Her clothes were tight, and she has a body.
I think without that body, the tightness of her clothes would not be an issue, even in an elementary school. I think that the range of feelings she invokes include jealousy from some and contempt from the same crowd that body-shame Serena Williams. There are others that project their own reactions onto the 9-10-year-old students, that’s wrong as well.
I’ve seen worse in church, and in the workplace. I’ve seen parents send their daughters to their Junior Proms, dressed in outfits that hide little. I’d ask those that step up to throw the first stone to consider whether they have some behaviors to change?
Still… she’s a distraction. To adults, more than children.
I have no idea of the goals and aspirations of Ms. Brown. If she wishes to achieve a career outside of teaching and the attention paid to her leads to that. Good for her. If she plans to advance in the school system and go into administration. She may find that she will be judged, possibly unfairly and her progress likely impeded. While remarkably different and inequitable, there are dress codes whether formalized or not in most professions for men and for women. Institutions generally reward conformity and punish individuality.
Tricey Brown has replied to the uproar by posting, “This too will pass.” Indeed it will. For those parents that object to her sexuality and want her removed. I suggest you also make sure you teach your children about sex and don’t let their babysitter be HBO, Cinemax or Starz. For those in need of a biblical reference, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Tricey Brown may be doing herself good or harm, but it’s really not for me to say.