You’d expect the story of a young woman crawling out of abject poverty and an exploitative dead-end career into a professional well-respected vocation to be heralded with praise. But this story does not end well. The woman, having spent years putting a dark past behind her, is once again punished and ultimately ridiculed — kicked back into the dirt from whence she came.
Because if you were once involved in the sex industry you can never be a teacher. In fact, that pretty much means that you are never qualified to do any work beside sex work.
It’s not the sex industry that is the problem. It’s our inability to separate it from real life and real people.
Over and over again the major news networks recycle the same story — small town teacher discovered to have once posed nude is not only fired, but propped up for public scorn.
Cristy Nicole Deweese, a high school Spanish teacher in Dallas, Texas, is the most recent subject to be brought under the gavel after it was revealed that she had posed for “Playboy” in 2011. After briefly deliberating, the school board made the decision to terminate her, despite the fact that the picture was taken before she was ever employed by the school district.
Was she a good teacher? How far behind her was this explicit past?
For me, though, the real question is: Why does this even matter? What about posing nude makes her unfit to teach children? Does it make her a bad teacher? Is the fact that she once displayed her body mean that she is going to be more sexualized by her young, impressionable male students, who would have never discovered her pictures if they had not been searching for pornography anyway?
They are ripping off her clothes in their minds regardless of what they have seen online.
I don’t think women should be losing their jobs over what, to me, appears as a personal triumph. They climbed out of an industry that exploits and harms women, both culturally and physically, and found their way to professional career.
In fact, the amount of strength that they must possess to be able to pull off a transformation like that is amazing. Women like this should be held up as examples, like morbidly obese people who shed hundreds of pounds, for representing the fact that change is possible, that hope can be real.
What society is saying by punishing these women is that you can’t change, that you can’t put the past behind you. It will come back to haunt you and there is nothing you can do about it if you haven’t made great choices your whole life.
But all of this revolves around an even bigger concept. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “slut-shaming” before, and it must sound especially ironic when talking about actual sex workers. But seriously, what is so wrong about working in the sex industry? Why is this a mortal sin, and yet the capitalist infrastructure that has nurtured sex work into a multi-billion dollar industry deserves not even an eyebrow raise?
If capitalism is good, then sex work cannot be deemed as bad. These women are not whores; they are not trash.
They are just doing what they can to make money. Won’t you be lucky enough to choose what allows you to buy bread? Most people don’t get that luxury.
And to those bemoaning, “I don’t want a prostitute teaching my kids!”
Well, that’s completely wrong.
Generalizing someone by a few decisions they made long ago is the same as calling someone a bigot for making one racially insensitive comment. Having done something does not mean you are that thing. And it is foolish to assume that any teacher would bring the sex industry into the classroom. If, up until that unfortunate discovery, she was regarded as a good teacher, a few old pictures resurfacing does not change that.
Is Anthony Weiner a bad politician because we have seen his wiener? No! His politics and his penis have little to do with each other. Unless of course, it’s the politics about his penis.
And still, after all of that controversy, he ran for public office.
I applaud you, Anthony Weiner, and all victims of slut-shaming who are able to put it behind them.
It’s time we start giving teachers the same chance.