A Taiwanese teacher has claimed that her school faced political pressure after she went topless during a gay rights rally in Kaohsiung last month.
Priscilla Zheng Min, a substitute teacher at a middle school in southern Taiwan, went topless at the rally in support of the Free the Nipple movement – a gender equality campaign that aims to empower women to reclaim their bodies and sexuality. Photos of her at the rally were widely circulated in Taiwan.
‘Right to civic engagement’
Zheng wrote on Facebook on Monday that a city councillor asked the Ministry of Education to “inquire” into whether a teacher participated in the gay rights rally.
She alleged that even if the school was not asked to take disciplinary action against her, the move would amount to direct pressure as local schools need the help of city councillors to secure funding.
“When local representatives ignore teachers’ right to civic participation and gender equality education by asking the Ministry of Education to ‘inquire’ into the situation, would schools still be willing to hire teachers who actively participate in public affairs?” Zheng said, adding that the councillor’s move would likely cause her to lose her job since it was only a temporary position.
“I hope that in the future, starting from this generation, work and involvement in social movements will not exist in binary opposition,” she said.
She said that during last month’s rally, she wanted to explain the ideas behind the Free the Nipple movement and urge people to reflect on how society perceives male and female bodies differently.
“Why do we always assume that teenage boys would definitely have a sexual impulse towards women’s breasts? Are breasts only associated with sexual desires?” Zheng wrote. “Many people forgot that a long time ago, it was also socially unacceptable for men to go topless.”
The Education of Ministry confirmed that it had made enquiries into the school at the request of some members of the public and city councilors, but it only asked the school whether Zheng worked there. It said it did not ask the school to take disciplinary action against Zheng.
Tainan City Councilor Wang Chia-chen of the Kuomintang party said that she only asked the ministry to look into the matter after receiving complaints from parents, according to Apple Daily.
Wang denied she wanted to “get the teacher into trouble” and complained on social media that her “freedom of speech was violated,” as many gay rights supporters criticised her on her Facebook account without fact-checking.
Zheng’s school said it had received complaints over Zheng’s conduct from conservative groups, but it supports Zheng’s ideas and decided instead to include gender equality in its curriculum and teach students to be respectful, the Liberty Times reported. The school denied it was pressured by the education ministry.
The Kaohsiung gay rights rally saw a record 12,000 participants, according to the China Times. A senior government official and local councillors also attended the rally.