Monthly Archives: December 2012

creepy teachers & why they’re an issue*

*Trigger Warnings: rape, abuse, molestation.

School has started and I’ve been too tired to blog even on break. I have decided that I don’t think I’ll be blogging as much about fashion anymore. I don’t like it enough. From now on, my posts will be writing-oriented rather than fashion (but I’ll still have cultural things here and there, like music or films if I think they’re relevant.)

A topic that I have been thinking about and contemplating for some time is that of creepy teachers, the ones at school who may never actually harm anyone but who stare at their students in such a manner that is more out place at a learning institution than Don Draper is being monogamous. In other words, for those who haven’t had the privilege of watching Mad Men, it’s ridiculous and everyone knows it.

First, let’s establish what a creepy teacher IS. We all may have varying definitions of creepy, but according to Merriam-Webster, it means something that is “producing a nervous shivery apprehension.” Oxford Dictionary’s is similar: “causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease.” If we took this literally, we could use it a lot more generally–a physics final with a terrible professor, being late to a birthday party where you don’t know anyone, starting college, getting fired from your job–all of these could be creepy. But creepy is a word that is almost never used in these contexts and instead seems to apply to people, usually men, who have “wandering eyes.” And let’s be honest–teachers being creepy are some of the worst types of creepy people ever.

The thing about teachers in general (just like the word creepy, in general) is that  they are supposed to be teaching you how to do mathematics or science or Spanish or history. Something that I doubt has ever been in a teacher’s job application under “criteria” is “must stare at female and or male students in suspicious manners. Must meet with specific “favorites” after class for hours on end and must try to do everything in their power to deny any accusations of peculiar behavior.” And yet, here I am, in high school, worrying and wondering about the fate of these teachers’ current students.

The issue really first came to my attention when my younger brother was in middle school. In a history class in which he was not a student, he informed me, the teacher would purposely line up all of the girls in the front row just so he could see them better. He would meet with them outside the classroom to talk to them about how they were doing but really just stare them down. The girls were forced to wear scarves and jackets to cover themselves up when they were around him. At one point, students claimed, he got a visible boner in front of the whole class because the girls in the front row were all wearing skirts. Now, obviously, seventh graders are going to be over-dramatic and we can’t always be sure if what they’re saying is what they actually mean, but when I started observing said teacher (who was also the dean of students,) it became clear that he was not just a weird person or “misunderstood.”

And yet, the teacher is still there. After all of the things I have seen him do to students (touching a girl’s bare back when it wasn’t necessary, starting at younger girls who don’t even attend the school until their parents have to whisk them away, making the dance group do an unplanned encore performance at a regular Monday assembly) and just being an all around peculiar person, nobody has filed any complains and nobody has been fired. For one thing, the teacher is white. This basically gives him almost all of the protection he needs against being a molester, let alone a suspected “creep.” I’ve attempted to bring it up with other adults, just to see what they think, and all of them try to justify his being in a position. “He’s a good teacher and he really cares about the students,” was one and “maybe you see it that way, but a lot of people like him,” was another. Overall, the vibe I received from adults concerning the issue was “why should we care?”

Well, that’s a damned good question. Why should we care? These girls and boys are only in this class for nine months out of their middle school careers, less than 4 hours a week. They don’t have to see him for the rest of their lives. Once they reach high school, they aren’t required to talk to him for any reason. He’s just a person, just another guy hanging around and doing his job. Ah, yes. Doing his job.

Is being overly touchy-feely with girls doing his job?

No, as mentioned prior, it is obviously and most certainly not.  Sure, maybe the guy hasn’t raped any of the students, maybe he hasn’t molested them, maybe he’s just doing what he appears to be doing. But apparently, that’s not enough to bother people. Until the guy does something like rape someone or molest them, then action MIGHT be taken (and even then people will doubt that it happened.) And more to the point, what does it tell the people going into his class everyday? That being unsafe in a work space is normal? Girls are already taught from an age that seems to be steadily decreasing that our bodies really aren’t our own–they are other people’s to talk about, abuse, and control. The problem with creepy teachers is that they reenforce this idea that a school, a space that is supposed to be safe and encourage people to reach their highest potential, is just another place. Another place where people in positions of authority (white men) can do what they want.

And maybe, just maybe, this idea could come into the workplace? Other people in positions of authority (partners at a firm, say, colleagues of the head of a department at a television network) are probably aware that the CFO (position of power, but not as high,) John, keeps making crude comments to the women and/or men and may even go so far as to touch them more often than is necessary. And will they do anything about it? Probably not. Because it’s annoying to hire someone new, and more the point, why should they care?

It seems that while there are many creepy teachers who don’t actually show signs of being weird and then abuse children, there are just as many who do show signs, and before the attendees of the school and their parents know it, someone’s life has been changed. I am not saying that every creepy teacher needs to be fired immediately, but the least we could do is create an environment in which its acceptable to talk to people in positions of authority if they make us feel uncomfortable and have the power to stand against them.

Creepy teachers bother me because they’re just another part of the puzzle of victim blaming since nobody wants to acknowledge their behaviors, which are already traumatic enough, until it’s “too late.”. Creepy teachers are often ones who never shut up about the dress code because they want to be able to act like they are letting “girls respect themselves” when in reality, they want to justify their feelings towards their students by acting like it’s how they dress since they are obviously dressing for other people, another large component of victim blaming. They just aren’t as innocent as they seem and their destructive actions need to be taken seriously. They can’t be waved off.

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Filed under Feminism