Dress code gets a dressing down

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2012, 12:00am


The Shanghai Metro has come under fire for urging female passengers to 'have self-respect' and not wear revealing summer clothing - fashion advice that some condemned as sexist and inappropriate.

The transport agency first stirred up the controversy on Wednesday with a microblog post in which it warned that sexy clothing could provoke sexual harassment. It included a photo of a young woman wearing a sheer dress on a subway platform.

'Dressing like that, it would be unusual for a lady not be harassed', the post said. 'There can be perverts on the subway and it's hard to get rid of them. Please have self respect, ladies.'

Some online users said the post offended them. 'What I wear is my basic right, it does not deny the rights of others,' wrote a blogger known as SOY-BEAN-E.

Li Sipan , a postgraduate student at the University of Macau, said in an article that was published by Shanghai's Dongfang Daily yesterday that the message behind the post was that women who were sexually harassed on the subway probably asked for it.

Female internet users had reacted so negatively to the post because all women felt repressed by society about what was proper to wear in public spaces, she wrote. 'Women demand a public space with no censorship and respect for their body's sovereignty.'

Shanghai University sociology professor Gu Jun said the subway dress code could be seen as the product of a war between the sexes.

'Men see women's sexy way of dress as an expansion of women's rights in public space, and they feel threatened,' Gu said.

On Sunday, two female passengers donned black robes and masks on the metro's Line 2 to protest over the post. The passengers held up message boards saying: 'I can show off, you can't harass me' and 'We want to be cool but we don't want perverts.'

Still, some internet users supported the Shanghai Metro's advice.

Some 70 per cent of the nearly 17,000 respondents to a Sina weibo online poll yesterday said that women should dress more conservatively when on the subway, and that the dress code had nothing to do with discrimination.

'If you don't respect yourself, how can you ask others to respect you?' microblogger bingqing_8962 asked.

Despite the controversy, the transport agency has refused to apologise. The post was still on its official microblog yesterday.