Atlanta public school teacher Patrice Brown has become social media’s proclaimed #TeacherBae after photos of her began trending online over the weekend. But sadly, her 15 minutes of social media fame has so far been for all the wrong reasons.
Brown, who goes by Paris Monroe on social media, has shared selfies before class on both Twitter and Instagram in various outfits — including a pencil skirt, high heels, tight jeans, and — gasp! — a leopard print dress. In each photo, she looks happy, confident, and honestly, pretty damn good. But instead of taking the photos for what they were — lighthearted photos of a teacher who clearly looks happy to be at work and start the new school year — critics went to town, calling Brown out for being “inappropriate,” not just for her outfits, but for taking selfies while at work. (Though for the record, a scroll through her Instagram shows that most of her selfies are not actually taken at work, and many of those that were have since been removed, due to all the backlash.)
Brown has responded several times via Twitter, including a September 12 tweet in which she said, “I don’t understand why people hate and bash others for doing what they love and work hard for.”
And on Monday, she told The Daily Dot, “I just wish they would respect me and focus on the positive and what truly matters — which is educating the children of the future generations and providing and caring for them.”
Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. I find the criticism of Brown to be bothersome for several reasons. For one, let’s face it, she’s doing a job that most people would never do: educate children. As a former teacher myself, I can attest to the fact that educators are almost always overworked and underpaid, and they are definitely under-appreciated for the time, energy, and money they pour into their students. But to criticize a teacher for caring about her appearance — simply because she chooses to be fashionable while at work and has curves — is to focus on all the wrong things. What Brown wears to work, as long as it is within her school’s dress code, is her choice.
Is Brown an attractive woman? Yep. Do her clothes show that she’s curvy? Yep. But so what? Why is this something to shame? As a pretty curvy girl myself, I’m aware that no matter what I put on, anyone can see I have an ample chest and butt, and a smaller waist. There’s no “hiding” it — that’s just my body.
And to her critics, I’d really love to know: What is Brown “supposed” to wear to work, anyway? An apple-embroidered jumper dress? A sweat suit? The most formless outfit possible so that no one suspects that underneath it, she has a breasts and a butt? Would that make the good people of the Internet feel more comfortable?
Having your appearance picked apart and your character assassinated by strangers across Twitter has got to be a painful and demeaning experience to begin with. But I also know that as a teacher, nothing’s worse than having your motivation and talent criticized over something completely unrelated to the reason you’re there in the first place. During one of my semesters teaching freshman at a local university, a student wrote an anonymous online review of me, saying nothing about my enthusiasm in the classroom, my innovative teaching methods, or my fairness. Instead, he simply left this ridiculous comment: “She’s smoking hot.” To be objectified like that in a public forum instead of appreciated or valued for how hard I was working was deeply disturbing and disheartening, to say the least.
Most of us who enter into a teaching career do it because we feel called to do it. We are passionate about educating children and playing a role in shaping the next generation. It may be thankless at times, but we do it because we love it, and we truly care about our students’ success. And no matter what it looks like from the outside, the job is demanding, requiring us to not only teach during the day, but also spend our nights and weekends grading, creating lesson plans, making copies, and gathering materials for the week ahead. We answer emails, we attend meetings, and we constantly fight bureaucratic red tape and budget constraints.
And what we wear when doing our jobs should boil down to confidence and comfort — not the approval of callous Internet trolls.More On