For everything that feminism has achieved for equality between the sexes, it seems that – even in 2016 – women continue to face constant scrutiny in their day-to-day lives. And this is particularly so when it concerns the way that they dress. However, when one educator was called out for her supposedly “provocative” work outfits, she decided that enough was enough.
Patrice Brown – or Paris Monroe, as she calls herself on her social media accounts – hails from Atlanta, Georgia. She currently works as a fourth grade paraprofessional, or teaching assistant, at a public school.
It’s fair to say that Brown is pretty good at her job. In fact, according to her Instagram page, she’s previously won “Educator of the Month.” However, that’s not the reason why she’s now found her 15 minutes of online fame. Instead, it’s because of a handful of pictures that she’s posted on that same Instagram account.
Of course, many of the photos that Brown posts on her Instagram page are modest or show off her normal work outfits. And while others could be considered more revealing, none of her photos are deliberately provocative or titillating.
Nevertheless, one of Brown’s Instagram photos went spectacularly viral in early September 2016 thanks to the outfit that she was wearing at the time. Yes, posing in a seemingly empty classroom, the teaching assistant showed off her curves in a figure-hugging, yet modest, pink dress.
The photo was shared on Twitter alongside the hashtag #TeacherBae. And, at first, many of the comments seemed supportive of Brown, complimenting her on her figure and appearance.
As is perhaps inevitable on social media platforms, however, the discussion quickly turned sour. In fact, a huge backlash against Brown subsequently followed, with many users criticizing her choice of outfit for a school environment.
In a since-deleted tweet, for instance, @breeNaughtyy called out Brown’s apparent lack of awareness. “Her attire is just inappropriate to be teaching a 4th grade [class],” they wrote.
Meanwhile, another Twitter user remarked, “I just feel like the dress is too tight for a teacher.” The debate raged on, with Brown at the center of it all – whether she liked it or not.
Of course, there are always two sides to a debate, and there were in fact plenty of people voicing support for the young woman. For example, @RAMrants tweeted, “That poor woman is being sexualized simply for having killer curves. It’s pathetic.”
Many other people also drew attention to the fact that Brown’s curves seemed to be the real crux of the issue. For instance, hip hop radio station HOT 97 found Brown’s dress on ASOS, making the case that she was wearing a professional outfit that only looked “sexy” on her because of her curvaceous form.
Since the controversy surrounding Brown’s dress began, many other curvy black women have also come out in support, addressing the inherently sexist views of her critics. Facebook user Sherrell Hood, for instance, posted a collage of other professional, curvaceous black women in uniform – whether working as police officers or nurses. And, Hood asked, “When will people realize that we were created this way?”
However, no matter what anyone else thinks of Brown’s dress, the real question was whether it followed the school’s dress code or not. And with absolutely no skin above the knee on show, it seems almost ludicrous that it would not.
Yet Brown was still called in by the Atlanta Public School system. In fact, a statement was released stating, “[Brown] was given guidance regarding the APS Employee Dress Code, the use of social media, and Georgia Code of Ethics for Educators, and she has been co-operative in addressing her presence on social media.”
As a result of this “guidance,” Brown made her Instagram and Facebook accounts private. She also removed the photos that had caused the controversy in the first place.
Interestingly, it appears that there is something of a precedent for this situation. For example, one educator told Uproxx that dress codes can be unclear and non-specific, which can lead to confusion. “In most cases, administration makes it known that teachers should dress professionally,” they explained. “Unfortunately what’s professional looking on one may look like club gear on another. It’s a really a slippery slope.”
But what about the lady herself? Well, in the aftermath of the ordeal, Brown seemingly hit back at her critics, reminding them about what’s truly important. The focus shouldn’t be on what she’s wearing, she said, but on how well she does her job.
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.”
It appears that the school board may have reconsidered their position, however, as Brown’s Instagram account is once again public – albeit with almost all of the images of Brown in the classroom removed. Still, following the controversy, Brown has now amassed some 300,000 followers.
It may seem like an awfully big deal to make about someone just trying to do their job, but the criticism that Patrice Brown faced over what she chose to wear to work is typical of the struggles that women still face in 2016. Nobody should be attacked over something so insignificant. So it’s great to see that this outspoken paraprofessional wasn’t afraid to fight back.