Middle school was some bull shit for me, so I don’t remember a lot about the classes that I took while I was there. On purpose.
But I do remember my very first 9th grade art class. My teacher was Mr. Testa, who was so flamingly fabulous. Looking back, I gave him so much hell, but it’s probably because I was too immature to tell him that I secretly wished he would adopt me. He was strict, but fun.
I also remember him giving us lessons in art history. It was the first time I learned to appreciate the beauty of ancient African and Greek art and architecture. In fact, when I went to Greece, after I joined the Navy, I had a deeper appreciation of the butt naked art that seemed to be plastered on any and every souvenir in Rhodos. If it had not been fo Mr. Testa, I would have never formed that kind of artistic appreciation.
He even had us talking about controversial artists, like Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Mapplethorpe. In those lessons, I’m sure he used the word vagina many times, and I’m positive I giggled each time he said it. I was an immature asshole of a teen who was petty, so of course I rocked his nerves. I’m also sure that I drove him to drinking when I laughed at the reason why Georgia O’Keefe’s art looked like lady parts. I was a kid, and I didn’t know that art was not limited to comic books. You could actually paint photos of flowers and make people think they’re crazy, because who would paint pictures of vaginas? As a teenager, that sounded like a great way to mess with people’s mind to me.
Either way, the conversation was very mature, and it was one that I needed. It was a real talk chat about natural beauty and self love.
I could not imagine my son not having the same conversation in his art history class when he gets to middle school or high school. Middle and high school kids should especially be challenged with an understanding of classic art, controversial topics, and classical music. After all, I don’t send my kid to school to twiddle his freaking thumbs all day. I want him to get the most out of his education, and intellectually challenge his teacher in all of his studies. (He probably won’t, but a girl can hope.)
But apparently, not everyone is okay with their kids learning about classic art, or having mature conversations. A West Michigan art teacher was fired, not for showing a Georgia O’Keefe painting, but for saying the word “vagina” when describing the legendary artist’s work.
According to the Detroit Free Press
Allison Wint, who had been teaching art at Harper Creek Middle School since January, says she was speaking about a broader topic of controversy in art when she held up reproductions of paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, some of which have been seen as erotic.
At some point, Wint remembers saying: “Imagine walking into a gallery when [O’Keefe] 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.’ ”
She was hoping to have a thoughtful dialogue with a class of about two dozen eighth-graders on Thursday – but school officials have said her lesson ran afoul of policies. Through the course of the lecture, she went on to use the word vagina “maybe 10 times,” she said. “But it was never in a vulgar capacity.”
I can’t even describe how utterly insane this rule sounds to me as a parent. But what makes this situation even more sad is the fact that teachers are not allowed to use a word that critics of our time have always used when describing O’Keefe’s work.
I am very confused about why the word vagina is a “no no word” in this school district to begin with. Every 8th grade girl has one, and thanks to some medical marvels, some kids have both boy and girl parts. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But there is something wrong with teaching kids that the word is bad to use. Kids will never learn how to take ownership of their bodies if we can’t even whisper the word that describes the anatomy that they were born with. And why is their anatomy a source of embarrassment? Sounds pretty backward to me.
I also don’t get what’s harmful about the word vagina? It boggles my mind that the same people who are making laws about what comes out of a vagina, are the same ones who act fearful of young girls knowing that they have one. Until she ends up pregnant.
All I know is that I don’t want my child to be shielded from the truth about the world around him. I want him to know why such artists were controversial, and how that impacts him as a creative young man. I want him to admire natural beauty in the world, and not be afraid of the body parts God gave him.
Plus, if I ever take my son out of the country, and he sees ancient art with boobs, butts, dicks, and vaginas, I want to feel a sense of relief that my tax dollars are hard at work when he tells me what he’s learned in school about such sculptures and artists.
I’m not sure why this rule is even a “thing.” Unfortunately, the end result is that children have to be handed lessons that does absolutely nothing to make them into cultured individuals, yet satisfies the bureaucratic powers that be. And that’s sad to me.