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Home > People

Tamara Hoover: Texas Boob

24 June 2006

'Let's keep things in perspective. Showing a boob is not immoral.'
- Comment, conservativethinking.com

'Why is she being fired? They are only tits, boobs, breasts, mammary glands, titanic orbs of bouncing fun flesh, whatever!'

- Comment, austinist.com

The English language is so rich and lustrous that it tends to offer a buffet of alternatives to any common noun, each with its own hefty and mercurial backpack of connotation. Take 'breasts'. 'Breasts' is supposedly neutral, but squeamish news tends not to go even that far. Instead you get the also purportedly neutral yet gloriously bemucked 'topless', so a sentence such as 'a Texas high school teacher is fighting for her teaching license after her partner posted topless pictures of her on the Internet' is always going to be drenched in prurient dribble.

The teacher in this case, Tamara 'Miss' Hoover, has caused a flurry of online comment, and a million fruitless searches for the toplessness in question after her partner - a gay lesbian *woman* - removed them from Flickr. The commentators are concerned with semantics too. The rude ones who think (if you can count the creaky process they painfully undergo as 'thinking') that 'her husband should be doing a better job keeping her in line; it's disgraceful!', think of the breasts as 'tits' - sharp, dismissive, hypocritical, one hand on the personalised pad drafting a letter to the local paper, other down pants. Others, attuned to the silliness of the situation, use the more affectionate, chummy, cartoonish 'boobs'. It's physically impossible to use the word 'boobs', much less the singular 'boob', without smiling. And brilliantly, it's also a colloquial word for 'minor error'. It's like an arty, lesbian Superbowl wardrobe malfunction with added innocent children.

It seems like a fairly familiar story by now, here as well as in the US - teacher does something interpretable as sexy, gets fired, gives rise to heated debate about privacy and conduct unbecoming and corruption of students and nature and art and boobs. Tamara Hoover being a beautiful (tick) previously well-respected (tick) art teacher (tick) and gay woman (tick tick tick) presses almost everyone's political and ideological buttons. The pictures at Flickr have unfortunately now gone private, but they were, y'know, *nice* pictures. Hoover is photogenic, and the photos were manifestly taken in an artistic context. We missed the boob pics but judging by the rest of the set, they weren't likely to be Heather Mills-esque Teutonic strawberry-balancing melon-swoggling sexploitation shots.

The point, as has already become tiresome, is that as a teacher she had a responsibility not to broadcast her baps on the public Internet. So conservatives bleat about higher moral standards and foolishness and the gay agenda and pornography by any other name, and liberals in their turn baa about the first amendment (does it cover boobs, so to speak? An interesting constitutional point) and art and yes, a degree of foolishness *but* self-expression, and prudishness. It certainly was a foolhardy thing to do under the circumstances, but it's probable that Hoover and her partner just don't think of nudity as, y'know, a thing. Lots of people think of nudity first and foremost as a nice, natural thing, or as a many splendoured essential-in-art thing, and in their dreamy Garden of Eden-wandering state tend to forget that in the outside world 'nudity' is inseparable from 'screaming dripping sexness with throbbing top-shelf lewd filth akimbo'. To a sad, pulsing-vein-in-forehead, puritan-hangover majority, nakedness is synonymous with sex. Even though sex is only *one* of the vast number of things you can do naked, and you don't even have to be naked to have sex. It's a baffling leap of logic.

Still, the sight of a boob is always going to cause a disproportionate fuss, and is never going to do a teacher or solicitor or airline stewardess any favours. The display of inappropriate flesh is no more conducive to job-retention than a bank manager sporting a tattoo of a fat wanking Lucifer on his neck. There's a growing list of female teachers being canned for unwise, embarrassing, yet essentially harmless extra-curricular flashing. A Dundee teacher whose mobile was stolen and saucy self-pleasuring video spunked all over the net kept her job, but only just. Meanwhile Kristina Howells was fired after appearing Bristols-bared in a Cosmopolitan health feature entitled 'How Normal Are Your Breasts'? This is really very sad. It's sadder when you read that the pictures were taken before Howells took the job. Also, it transpires she was hired after her male predecessor was fired for allegedly downloading (adult) porn on school computers. This is dafter than a whole glossy full of teacher-jubblies and the school would have had little option but to fire the imprudent, horny berk; but still, you'd think what with the drastic shortage of good teachers in the UK they could overlook a little downloaded eye-joy. In fact, what with the constant threat of pupil violence, the towers of paperwork and exhausting politics of teaching, schools should be considering offering free subscriptions to premiumminge.com to their stressed-out sirs. Needs must.

There was at least a small victory for nonsexual nudity recently, when naked garden sunbather Lynette Burgess was cleared of indecent exposure after her neighbour took her to court. (He had video evidence, the big perv.) It'll be a while before such a lenient approach is taken with wanton exhibitionist teachers and their boobs, but in the meantime at least we can rest easy that there aren't any other visible sources of nudity, in a sexual context or otherwise, for our children's eyes to fall upon. At least until the Superbowl.

Show your underwired support.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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