Since the NTP is back in the news—Kaitlin Pearson, whom Ethics Alarms dubbed the perfect example of the Naked Teacher Principle, was allowed to continue her job as a teacher’s aide—this is a propitious time to address a question I received off-site by an esteemed reader, who sent me a photo similar to the one above (but of another female competitive bodybuilder/mom—who is 50 years old) and commented, “This is a picture of a local soccer mom with a teenage son. Is she setting a good example for her son, and does her conduct trigger the Naked Teacher Principle?”
Let me finish with Kaitlin first. I personally wouldn’t have let her continue, if only because she was not forthcoming about her other pursuits when she interviewed for the job. That doesn’t mean that the resolution of her particular case is in defiance of the NTP. It states,
…a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.
I have never said that the principle requires such a teacher to be dismissed, but only that she could only blame herself if she was. Many factors come into play in such situations, and it may be that the slight variations from the NTP formula were decisive for Kaitlin—she’s not technically a teacher; this is a primary school, where the sexual issue may not be as much of a problem, and she’s enough of a celebrity (and so attractive) that some unrelated biases may have been working in her favor.
Back to the reader question: I don’t think there is any application of the NTP to mothers, whether they are bodybuilders, lingerie models, Playboy centerfolds or strippers. Parents can have a wide range of parenting problems related to their occupations and avocations, and they should be be able to balance the issues and deal with them; it’s just one more part of parenting. It’s not easy when your mom plays a serial killer, a prostitute or a “Baywatch” lifeguard on TV, it’s not easy when your mom or dad is a politician who is being ridiculed in the press, it’s not easy when your mom is an Olympic weightlifter, or when one of your parents is morbidly obese. I don’t think any of these disqualifies someone from being a parent, and an unusual athletic pursuit like female bodybuilding or fitness competing is no different. And yes, she’s setting a fine example for her sons—defying female stereotypes, showing diligence, discipline and sacrifice, seeking strength, longevity and health.
I think the question is worth pondering, however, where a secondary school teacher is involved. Does the photo above, easily available on the web (all competition photos would be) raise the same issues as the kinds of photos that invoke the Naked Teacher Principle, like this, of NTP subject Cristy Nicole Deweese…
…who was in fact fired from her teaching job? I don’t believe it does. The naked photos that trigger the NTP are always sexually provocative in nature and usually intentionally so. Bodybuilders, who do wear as little (or less) on their bodies as some of the victims of the NTP, are nonetheless doing so in the pursuit of their sport, not to titillate. While it is true that some find bodybuilders sexually arousing (most do not), that is not the objective of the activity. There are biases, some understandable, against participants in this sport, but they are athletes, and to declare that the appearance of women who compete in bodybuilding contests render them unqualified to teach would seem to disqualify any female athlete, and some male athletes too, whose competitive garb are necessarily revealing, like swimmers, divers, gymnasts, runners and volleyball players.
The distinction gets tougher when the competitive bodybuilder also begins posing for sexual effect, as in this:
What is this? A fit woman seeking to inspire by showing the results of her hard work and dedication? Or an intentionally provocative muscle-cheese-cake photo guaranteed to spark the fantasies of 8th grade boys and render their ability to concentrate on algebra futile? I would come down on the side of the latter, and argue that if Andrea were a teacher, she would have an obligation to 1) let her employers know that such photos existed before they hired her 2) either have a pre-emptive strategy to deal with the issue when such photos became available to her students, or 3) not pose for such photos. Yes…I think this kind of bodybuilding photo triggers the NTP.
But it’s a thin line, isn’t it?
Graphic: Girls With Muscle