A substitute teacher in West Michigan was allegedly fired last week for using the word “vagina” while introducing a class of eighth graders to the very vaginal paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.
Allison Wint, 24, used “an anatomical word,” as WWMT squeamishly puts it, while teaching an eighth-grade art class at Harper Creek Middle School in Battle Creek, Michigan. “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,’” Wint recalls saying, as the Detroit Free Press reports. The class of 25 students laughed, of course.
But the school’s principal, Kim Thayer, was not amused. Wint claims she was sacked for using the word “vagina … without previous approval,” a violation of the school’s policy, which stipulates that teachers “are required to get advanced approval when discussing any form of reproductive health.” (Never mind that Wint was obviously not discussing reproductive health.) “[The principal] said there are a thousand other ways to teach controversy, and that it was inappropriate,” Wint told the Free Press.
Hyperallergic reached out to Harper Creek Middle School to ask how the principal might suggest describing a Georgia O’Keeffe painting without using the words “vagina” or “vaginal.” Yonic? Vulvar? Snatch-y? Pussy-like? The school responded with a press release about the story that denies Wint’s claims about the reasons for her dismissal. School administrators did not respond to requests for further comment.
Since Wint was fired, outraged netizens have swamped the middle school’s Facebook page with critical comments, demanding that Wint be rehired and making their fair share of vagina jokes. Wint also defended herself from the school’s ridiculous puritanism. “Yes, I did say that word, however I was saying it in the context of art history; I wasn’t being vulgar,” she told WWMT. “I thought if I used a euphemism, that would make it into a joke. And I don’t think that’s a word you should be afraid of. I honestly had no words, because I’ve always been an advocate of not censoring art and music and writing. I was really invested in those kids, and I miss them a lot.” If any schools in Michigan are looking for a substitute art teacher, Allison Wint is available.