Firing a teaching assistant for being a lingerie model exemplifies today’s double standards

It’s a step backwards

The news that a female teacher was fired after parents discovered photos of her modelling lingerie shows that we still have gender-based double standards.

In a world full of ‘free’ nipples and progression towards body liberation for both sexes, it’s absurd that teaching proscribes different rules for men and women who want to earn extra cash in their spare time.

However, this one isn’t a ‘free the nipple’ argument. I’m not going to bang on about how we should all be frolicking around in our lacy knickers. This is about the fact we live in a society where a woman is punished and a man is not, for doing the same thing.

The story goes like this: Gemma Laird was a teaching assistant in a County Durham primary school before a parent found a few modelling shots of her in her underwear online. The parent complained, Gemma was fired.

“They had reported me for it,” Laird told the Daily Mail. “I was told that they didn’t want to damage the school’s reputation and that people would lose respect for the school if they found out I was a model. [The headmistress] said she doesn’t want her year-six pupils thinking it is acceptable to be a model. She made me feel dirty and like I was a prostitute.”

On the other hand, we have Pietro Boselli. He’s part-time model, part-time advanced maths whizz, and formerly a lecturer at UCL. His students found his shots online, and he went viral. He was dubbed the “world’s sexiest teacher”, broadsheet newspapers interviewed him, and to his students’ delight, Pietro kept his job. He is also, incidentally, an Armani model and has since left UCL.

Seemingly, ours is still a world in which women are stigmatised and judged for their subjective decision to remove their own clothes. Their self-expression is cause for censure. At the same time, men are celebrated for doing so.

Some argue this viewpoint is an overreaction, and that the decision to fire Gemma is justified on the grounds of situational difference: she was teaching young children, whereas Pietro’s students were university students, which makes it okay for them to obsess over pictures of their tutor.

But the truth is, Gemma wasn’t teaching in her underwear and getting it all out on show (as far as we know), and it’s unlikely that she was preaching lingerie modelling as a career path to her pupils. In the same way that Pietro most probably wasn’t teaching simultaneous equations whilst topless.

Really, it’s illogical that is is deemed appropriate for male models to do their thing, and teach, but outrageous for a women to do the same. And it is a neat, convenient example of the double standards that still apply when it comes to gender.