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Home > Culture and Society

Texas Boob II: Sydney Does Dallas

1 October 2006

School trips, for any young student, are generally the shizzle. You get to escape the classroom, go somewhere on a bus (exciting! And full of illicit opportunity), run around like Taz on PCP (bad and wrong but largely tolerated) and actually enjoy learning things as you whizz by them, although it’s easy to pretend you’ve learned nothing and thus maintain your reputation. Also, if you’re lucky, you get to look at nakeds in art galleries. Or maybe some goats fucking. But nakeds usually pip that for sheer flushed frolics and laughter. And, perhaps, a quiet zing of relief that yes, it *is* supposed to look like that.

However, if you’re a kid in Texas, it might not go quite like that. A few months ago a Texas school came down like a ton of sin-bricks on an art teacher who’d put naked artistic pictures of herself online, and now another school in Dallas is hanging a teacher out to dry for the even lesser sin of allowing some kids to see a nude in a gallery. Ms. Sydney McGee took 5th graders to gallery - some bigmouth told his parent about one of the pictures (no one seems to know which) - parent complained - principal miraculously found and administered list of problems with McGee of which this incident was only the latest. Funny, that. A school board meeting this week unanimously rejected McGee’s request for a transfer. Her attorney had said 'This case is about censorship... It's about retaliation front and centre.’ Superintendent Rick Reedy supported principal Nancy Lawson’s admonishment of the teacher, saying 'You have to start somewhere when you've seen things you don't believe are in the best interest of the students.’ Why yes, Rick, and that somewhere is that guy’s lewd and naked ass.

The sad thing is - and these absurdities are certainly crossing over from 'quite funny’ to 'a bit too sad to be quite funny’ - these hysterical reactions in the name of mythical childhood innocence have little to do with pernicious sexual thoughts, and more to do with powerful abstract notions of sinfulness. Nudity is a simple and basic horror for some sections of American society, something whose censure needs no explanation and which is beyond any justification. To attempt to stand up for artistic nudity (titter) is to announce 'I am a pervert who has no business being within two miles of anyone under 21’ Representations of the naked body in art are not art, but something malign masquerading as such. A cockroach in the tapioca. A flaccid, looming threat whose deadly implications cannot be spoken of. It leads to hardcore violent porn and lady-throttling and/or an eternity scrubbing Lucifer’s lavatory as surely as a puff on a spliff leads to full-on smack addiction. It’s a thoroughly, thoroughly weird perspective, and although the likes of Nancy Dawson might imagine the surrounding fuss acts as a sort of protective fig leaf against nudity itself, all it does is nurture that dangerously ambivalent attitude towards the human form and its lovely mystery which lays the foundation for a lifetime of confusion and woe.

In the name of consistency, the school is now offering a trip to a sculptor’s yard where students will be able to drag statues to the ground and beat them with their own shoes (two lessons in one there, at the very least). No nudity in changing rooms. Skeletons in biology labs to wear Y-fronts... yeah, see, it’s just not that funny, is it?

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