Beijing: An appeal by the Shanghai subway asking female passengers to dress up in a "dignified" manner to avoid assaults by perverts, has drawn strong protests from women and war cries of 'we have right to be coquettish'.
Several women in the Chinese city protested a statement from the municipal subway authority that "scantily clad women attract molesters".
"I can be coquettish, but you can't harass me," read banners raised by protesting women commuters who were offended by the subway's lecturing.
"It was a fight against the company's statement on its micro blog. We believe women have the freedom to choose what to wear, and how people dress should never be an excuse for sexual harassment," one woman who joined the protest told state-run China Daily.
The women protesters covered their heads and faces with black cloth, walked into metro compartments and on platforms on Sunday to register their protests.
The rare demonstration followed after a subway operating company in Shanghai updated its micro blog on June 20 with a picture of a woman wearing a semi-transparent dress standing on the metro platform.
"It would be a miracle if you dress like this in the subway without being harassed. Girls, please be self-dignified to avoid perverts," it wrote on the micro blog along with the picture.
The appeal came after recent incidents in which some men made vulgar gestures at women which were recorded on mobile phones and circulated on microblogs.
The subway's appeal however drew mixed reactions.
"Can it be reasonable that I'm doomed to be robbed if I drive a BMW car? That's the same," said Zhu Xueqin, a professional psychological counsellor, who also works on gender studies.
The words seem to be a reminder for women, she said, but they are actually gender discrimination.
"With this attitude, how could the metro operator cope with a sexual harassment case in which a woman wore a miniskirt?" asked Zhu.
Some supporters of the metro company said the statement is a reminder of goodwill.
"But the tone is far from being courteous," said Xiong Jing, a senior officer from Media Monitor for Women Network, a Beijing-based non-governmental organisation committed to properly reflecting women's needs and concerns.
"It's improper for the company, as a manager and maintainer of order in the subway, to criticise its women passengers, who are actually victims, on its official micro blog. We hope it can offer an explanation".
More women said molesters wouldn't be eliminated even if they put on heavy clothes.
"I was once sexually harassed on a bus in winter when I was in high school and I was wearing a school uniform. It has nothing to do with what a woman wears, which I think most people will agree with," said Tian Wei, a 26-year-old white-collar worker in Shanghai.
Some women said sexual harassment should include all the behaviours that make someone uncomfortable, rather than only those with substantive actions.
"I feel very sick when some men look me up and down when I take the subway. I don't wear any improper clothes, and it's fairly rude and makes me angry," said a Shanghai resident surnamed Wang.
"Women are taught to be self-respectful since childhood, but some men show bad manners in (not) respecting women and themselves," she said.
However, some men said they also feel perplexed by the way some women dress on the subway.
"It's embarrassing if a scantily clad young woman happens to stand in front of me. Sometimes I can only bend my head or take out my mobile phone to surf on the Internet," 25-year-old Shao Yuru, a civil servant in Shanghai told the Daily.
First Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 15:51