#TeacherBae Photo Sparks Debate Over Teacher's Attire

September 12th 2016

Tricia Tongco

A photo of Patricia "Tricey" Brown, a fourth grade teacher in Atlanta, went viral over the weekend, sparking the trending hashtag #teacherbae.

Patrice Brown

The reactions to her photo (and others posted to her Instagram) are mixed. People have deemed her "the sexiest teacher in America," and posted memes hinting at jealousy, female competition, and sexual objectification.

But the slut-shaming that has ensued is the most dangerous.

As others on Twitter have pointed out, it's not Brown's attire that is being scrutinized and shamed – it's her body.

The emphasis on Brown's body as sexual temptation for her students fits into a larger, established history of the hyper-sexualization of black women.

MTV blogger Kris Crews recently wrote about how black women's bodies are more than fuel for sexual fantasies:

"It doesn’t matter what we wear — even when we avoid anything revealing or risqué, the combination of our race and gender has become equated with stereotypes about our sexuality. But while black women’s bodies are viewed as desirable, black women themselves are not. Black female bodies are treated as less than human — and have been for centuries."

She then details examples of this objectification, including the historical case of Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, a Southwestern African woman who was exhibited as a freakshow in the 18th century for her large buttocks and later posthumously dissected and displayed. And Crews notes that, while black women are no longer put in freakshows and posthumously dissected, they are still "cast as overly sexual or aggressive."

ATTN: previously reported on false assumptions about black women's sexuality while covering the case of former Oklahoma cop Daniel Holtzclaw, who targeted and raped black women:

"Black women are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault by police due to historically entrenched presumptions of promiscuity and sexual availability," a recent report by the African American Policy Forum determined. "Historically, the American legal system has not protected Black women from sexual assault, thereby creating opportunities for law enforcement officials to sexually abuse them with the knowledge that they are unlikely to suffer any penalties for their actions."

Additionally, 60 percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18, according to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint. As Forbes reports, "The Department of Justice estimates that for every white woman that reports her rape, at least 5 white women do not report theirs; and yet, for every African-American woman that reports her rape, at least 15 African-American women do not report theirs."

Given the context surrounding the scrutiny of black women's bodies, judging Brown's work attire as "too sexy" or "inappropriate" actually feeds into dangerous stereotypes about black women that simultaneously dehumanize and sexualize them.

[h/t The Root]