Cultural Models of Bodily Images of Women Teachers
Cultural models are simplified images and storylines that encapsulated what is regarded as typical for a social group. Cultural models of teachers include body images of dress, adornment, and comportment, and are useful in examining society’s standards and values. Two participants, Erin and Gabbie (pseudonyms), shared stories about their tattoos, which in the U.S. have historically been seen as a mode of resistance. These tattoos that reflected the teachers’ personal lives were regarded in light of the cultural model of the U.S. teacher, a typically conservatively dressed and coiffed female. According to discourse analysis of the participants’ stories, each teacher’s students did not interpret these tattoos in the same ways. Erin’s students were surprised at the tattoo and interpreted it as a sign she no longer fit the typical teacher mold. Gabbie’s students were not surprised at the tattoo but noted it as confirmatory evidence that she fit the needs of the alternative, nonmainstream school context where the cultural model would be ill suited. This analysis makes a case for more complex interpretations of teachers’ bodies that do not fit the mainstream cultural models of teachers.
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