This week, art teacher Allison Wint told the Detroit Free Press that she believes she was fired from her job after using the word “vagina” in her lecture about the art of famed American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. While it certainly should not be problematic to refer to a vagina during a class lesson, talking about O’Keeffe’s work without the word is doubly impossible, as her paintings, often of flowers, strongly resemble vaginas. To teach about O’Keeffe’s work without saying vagina simply cannot be done.
According to the Detroit Free Press article, Wint told her class of eighth-graders, “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 says that she used the word perhaps ten times, and she believes that’s what got her fired.
Harper Creek Middle School, which employed Wint, said that it was not her language that got Wint dismissed, but the fact that Wint deviated from the school’s set curriculum without informing the school beforehand.
“She was not terminated due to uttering the word ‘vagina,’” said school superintended Rob Ridgeway.
Wint says that the day following the O’Keeffe lesson, another school official chastised her not for deviating from the curriculum, but for using the word “vagina” “without previous approval.” The Michigan teacher says that the official told her that it was against school policy to refer to female reproductive organs. (The question asks itself: does the rule apply to male reproductive organs?) Wint says she was asked to gather her belongings and to leave the school premises within one hour.
“[The school official] said there are a thousand other ways to teach controversy, and that it was inappropriate,” Wint said. (Controversy?) “I was really invested in these kids. I miss them a lot.”
“We do not shy away from controversial issues,” the school said. “The District did have concerns that the substitute teacher did not follow district art curriculum. These concerns, in addition to other failures, were the basis for the determination. We work very diligently to ensure that all students, staff, and contracted personnel are treated fairly with respect and privacy.”
Wint acknowledges that the school was entirely within their rights to remove her, but that she was not aware of any related policy beforehand.