Female Professor Fired For Burlesque Performance


In yet another case of an educator fired for what she did outside the classroom, psychology professor Sheila Addison alleges she was let go from her post at John F. Kennedy University for appearing in a burlesque show. What’s more, she says a male coworker performed in a similar show, and kept his job.

According to Inside Higher Ed, Addison has filed a federal lawsuit asserting that she was fired from the university for performing as Professor Shimmy at San Francisco’s Hubba Hubba Revue. She says she never talked about her burlesque work on campus, but that JFK’s president accused her of bringing “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university.” She also says that a male colleague, whom she doesn’t name in the complaint, performed in a semi-nude one-man show which he did advertise on campus, but wasn’t fired. Addison says JFK’s treatment of her “evidences the university’s disgust for a woman performing in politically, socially and sexually based performance art.” Her lawyer adds, “From our perspective, this is about the right of college and graduate school faculty to engage in artistic and political activity on their own time.”

Addison is just one of a string of teacher’s fired for extracurricular activities that could be considered sexual — Melissa Petro was reassigned after her school found out she’d written about her previous sex work, and just last week, Tera Myers left her St. Louis high school after a student found out about her past in porn. In all three cases, the departures weren’t about classroom performance — there’s no evidence that any of the women’s previous or concurrent jobs affected their pedagogical work. Instead, they were about some institutional sense of propriety — the idea that a woman who’s been public about her sexuality is somehow unfit to teach.

It’s also worth noting that the Hubba Hubba Revue isn’t just any burlesque show — it’s accepting of all body types and ages (its producer says it includes a 74-year-old performer). And Addison herself appears plus-size. Is JFK University “disgusted” not just by women performing, but by fat women doing so? The university told Inside Higher Ed only that Addison’s “allegations are without merit” — and they haven’t responded to our separate request for comment. Addison’s case remains for the US District Court of Northern California to decide — she’s seeking compensation for lost wages, as well as punitive damages.

The Professor’s Night Job [Inside Higher Ed]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin