This blog post is to dedicated to all of the female teachers out there who put themselves in classrooms filled with adolescent boys armed with camera phones on a daily basis. Warning: the digital world has become a virtual playground for some of our more perverted little darlings. Because my life seems to be filled with irony, it would be the year that Kafkateach tries to be positive about the use of technology in the classroom and the power of using social media with our students that I would become a victim of the “low snap.” Granted, for most of the period of time that students have been coming to schools with camera phones I have been pregnant and immune from the threat of someone actually wanting to “snap” a photo under my maternity dress. But now that I’ve been released from the safety of my reproductive cacoon, the “low snap” is an ever present danger.
For those of you who still may not have figured out what I’m referring to, the “low snap” is adolescent boy slang for snapping a cellphone picture up women’s skirts. I’ve seen stories on the news of some perv doing this to women in line at Starbucks, but the dynamics of the classroom make female teachers a more likely target of the “low snap.” So likely, in fact, that I first heard about the phenomenon of boys taking cellphone pictures up their teachers’ skirts from a fellow female teacher friend who was a victim of this horrible behavior a few years back.
Let me explain how it works. You, good hearted teacher who is actually doing your job and walking around helping students, might be distracted while you are providing assistance to one student while his little friend is behind you maneuvering his spy cam below your skirt. I caught the little darling only because his friends couldn’t stop giggling. Being a teacher does make you grow eyeballs on the back of your head and for some reason I just knew there was a kid behind me with a cellphone. I turned around and grabbed it only to check the camera roll to see a picture of my panties on it! Luckily, with three little kids Kafkateach has not had the time, the money, nor the inclination to go lingerie shopping and my undergarment selection consists mainly of oversized pregnancy panties. Thank goodness because the photo was a lot less revealing than it could have been. Nonetheless, Kafkateach was still mortified when in order to prosecute the little perv, pretty much every male security guard, police officer and male administrator at my school had to look at a photo of my panties. Male teachers can rejoice in the fact that they will never have such a professionally humiliating experience.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the police officers and administrators at my school who handled the situation very sensitively and professionally. My poor friend who had a similar experience with a student was not so fortunate. Her principal and her school cop basically blamed her and did not punish the boy involved. My little darling got a ten day out of school suspension and our police officer offered to arrest him for lewd and lascivious behavior (a great vocabulary lesson for the kid if nothing else).
Of course in the Digital Age, a cellphone picture of a teacher’s panties will spread on social media faster than a California brushfire. After spending most of my planning period in the assistant principal’s office, I ran back to my room for a quick lunch of chicken nuggets only to lose my appetite when a wonderful former female student came to me upset because she overheard some boys talking about a different picture of my panties on Instagram! Turns out the kid I caught earlier probably had the idea put in his head to do such a thing because of a photo circulating on social media that was taken the day before. In less than 24 hours I had become a victim of the “low snap” at least two times! This time was worse because the kid had a whole night to post it on social media and group text it to all of his friends! So it was no lunch for me and back to the assistant principal’s office I went. Unfortunately, by the time we tracked down the student involved, he had gotten word and deleted the image from his phone. We got the image from his friend’s phone but because we didn’t have it on his phone I couldn’t prosecute him criminally. He did incriminate himself in a text where he was bragging about “low snapping” but since there was no direct evidence of him taking the photo, a ten day out of school suspension was the best we could do.
So how do female teachers protect themselves from the “low snap”? The obvious solution is to wear pants. Only it’s really friggin’ hot in Miami! Besides the fact that pants would mean I would also have to find time to coordinate a blouse and a belt at 5 am when I’m trying to get dressed in the dark so as not to wake up a sleeping spouse. My teacher wardrobe mainly consists of ten dollar dresses from Ross. Throw it over your head and you’re good to go! As a bonus, the stretchy polyester material never wrinkles and they can double as maternity dresses. Most women hate pant shopping. Dress shopping is a much more pleasant experience. Pants have a tendency to hug the female curves in an almost more provocative manner than dresses so while they may prevent the “low snap” the kids might still be tempted to take a “high snap” of your back side (a little less invasive, but degrading nonetheless). We will only be fully protected from sexually objectifying cellphone photos if we choose to wear burqas. What’s that you say? “Why don’t you just ban cellphones from your classroom?” Because we’re BYOD baby! When the district issued tablets fail to pick up the school Wi-Fi, I have the students break out their cellphones because their cellphones never fail. When students chose to leave their tablets at home because they claim they’re too heavy (side note, my six year old daughter refers to the tablet as “the heavy Ipad”) or they bring them uncharged to class, I allow them to use a cellphone instead. The BYOD environment makes the “low snap” almost impossible to avoid. Even the tablets have cameras on them! What’s a poor female teacher to do? We can always do what we do best-teach. The following day I planned a nice lesson about patriarchy, misogyny and footbinding in classical China. Technology may have changed, but the male impetus to control and fetishize the female form has not.