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Feminist Success vs Sex Discrimination -hmmm

So today I got an e-mail asking me "What do you think of this sex discrimination?" (note to self- stop using so so much; note back to self- that is so not going to happen in this post) and went on to explain "Before Title IX this teacher probably wouldn’t have been allowed to teach while pregnant. How should she be reminded that treating the girls and boys differently is also sex discrimination? "

The question was in response to a blog post about teaching while pregnant (been there, done that; always interesting). Anyway the question about sex discrimination referred to the following section of the post:

My students, though middle-school aged, are fascinated. They want to touch my belly in hopes of catching a fleeting little kick. It's weird having a group of girls crowding around me, laying hands on my belly, oohing and ahhing. I don't know if that's considered inappropriate, but they are so excited for me that it's hard to say no.

As a former science teacher I can appreciate the girls' sense of wonder about the formation of a new life. But I don't want these young girls to get too excited about pregnancy; after all, when I was in 8th grade one of my classmates actually birthed a baby of her own. The boys are definitely not allowed to touch my stomach. In fact, outside of a handshake or a pat on the back, I try not to touch them at all—and I explicitly ask them to refrain from touching me.

My response to the person who sent the e-mail was:

I very strongly disagree with you. This is so NOT sex discrimination:

1. That historically she wouldn't have been allowed to teach has nothing to do with this- other than we should celebrate progress. We did what we did for fairness, justice and, well, for keeping good teachers. The teachers, who can now teach while pregnant, owe us nothing. It is us (old second wave feminists) who owe them for being so awesome to bring a dream we had about pregnant women being able to teach as long as they can/want a reality.

2. This is very much about “my body my choices”. This is her body- whom she chooses to touch it, what she chooses to do with it is her choice. That is at the very core of feminism and human rights. I’m sorry you don’t like her choices but they are her choices not yours and that they are her choices is another opportunity for celebration. Old second wave feminists- we helped make this happen. GO US!

3. I understand her dilemma because in the post she explains it to me. I so admire what she is doing - balancing her roles as a Black woman, a teacher, a role model, an almost mother-- in ways that are best for BBR (Baby Boy Rhames), her and her students is just awesome! Included in the balance is an understanding that for many girls this is a direct tie to what they may experience. She explains that she understands that this is important, while at the same time she doesn't want to get the girls too excited about pregnancy (she is so concerned about too early pregnancy among her students). To see a woman-a Black woman- their teacher- pregnant and teaching and working with them is well (wait I have to find some synonyms for awesome). That she chooses not to have the boys touch her belly is so her choice (and from my perspective totally understandable) and even more is such a powerful lesson to the boys and the girls about who has the power to chose who touches them.

This is not sex discrimination; this is magnificent, wonderful, stunning. Never mind the synonyms don’t work. This is awesome.