Russian teacher and plus-size model Viktoria Popova was simply trying to boost her self-confidence when she posed in a swimsuit. But in doing so, she apparently “hurt the image” of the school she worked for.
Popova was recently fired from her job at Russia’s Omsk School No. 7 after her superiors found photos on Instagram of her posing in a swimsuit, according to the BBC and the Siberian Times. The pictures were brought to the school’s attention after angry parents spoke out against the 26-year-old for posing in the style of an American 1950s pinup girl.
The photos in question are not overtly sexy or risqué by most standards, especially compared to what flies on social media these days. They show her wearing a polka-dot tankini that covers her entire torso and just shows a little cleavage, which is essentially unavoidable when you’re curvy. Her black bottoms are almost boy-short style. She’s wearing colorful heels and a headscarf, and poses playfully in a shop. In one image, she makes a kissy face while bent over, but other than that, they all seem pretty innocent. But Omsk officials felt otherwise.
According to the Siberian Times, Omsk City Hall said that her act had caused “irreversible damage to the reputation of the teacher” and “by spreading frivolous images on the internet in order to promote a commercial project, she also hurt the image of the school.” They claim she broke “a code of conduct at Omsk school No. 7 which ‘supports morals and ethics.’”
So, they fired her.
Popova is shocked. “I do not understand why I am getting the blame,” she told the Siberian Times. “I wasn’t posing in underwear or stockings,” she pointed out. “I said to them: ‘Don’t you know about American 1950s pinup style?’ I’m sorry but this was not promoting some men’s saloon. People do take pictures nowadays. They pose on holidays and post pictures online.”
And even if they were a little racy, Popova didn’t intend for anyone to see them. The curvy girl didn’t think these images were going to be posted online. She had recently been signed by a local plus-size modeling agency but this photo shoot was for “training,” the Siberian Times reports. She was hoping to keep these images for herself. However, it seems they were then used to advertise the shop, Ulle, which specializes in plus-size clothing. The owner of the modeling agency, Ekaterina Bredova, posted them on Instagram June 7 calling her “our gorgeous Viktoria,” and the post received over 2,000 likes and 400 comments. They were also shared on the agency’s Instagram profile.
“When I signed the contract with the model agency, I didn’t realize the fact that pictures can be used and uploaded online,” Popova told The Siberian Times. “I went to them not to become a model, but to lift my self-esteem. And I didn’t plan to share the pictures online. … I just wanted them to be stored in my album.”
Bredova was unaware of Popova’s day job as a teacher, and “could not predict the reaction her pictures would produce with the school authorities.”
And no one could have predicted the way the internet would react: Since the news broke, over 4,000 people (teachers, presumably) have taken to Instagram to support Popova. They are sharing photos of themselves in swimsuits with the hashtag #TeachersArePeopleToo. “We are teachers, but we are also humans, therefore we have the right to look different outside the school and in our social media,” one person wrote. “I want to support my Omsk colleague and take part in the action,” wrote another. Others are calling her firing an act of “hypocrisy, stupidity and idiocy.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a curvy woman has been fired for photos. This past September, a plus-size — and reportedly pregnant — woman whose images went viral for a body-positive photo shoot said the steamy session caused her to be fired from her job. The woman told BuzzFeed that Austin Bank Texas, expressed concern about the pictures and let her go.
Luckily for Popova, the BBC says after her story spread online the Omsk Region government announced that Popova could return to her old job. “The question of Viktoria’s future employment has been decided: She may decide to work as a teacher either at this school or another one.”
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