Activists protested on the city's subway lines over the weekend in response to a microblog post that called on female passengers to dress appropriately to avoid sexual harassment.
Shanghai No.2 Metro Operation, which operates Lines 2, 11 and 13, posted the message last Wednesday on its official microblog, accompanied by a photo of a woman whose underwear was clearly visible through a see-through black dress. "It's no wonder that some people get harassed if they dress like this," the post said. "There are plenty of gropers on the subway. Please pay attention to how you dress, ladies."
Microblog users have forwarded the post more than 10,000 times since, drawing the ire of some feminist activists.
On Sunday, two protestors walked through the subway, carrying signs that read:"Just because I'm slutty doesn't mean you can be dirty."
One of the protesters, surnamed Fu, condemned the post, which she thought discriminated against women. "We will stage the same protest on the subway every weekend until the subway operator apologizes for its inappropriate comment against women," she told the Global Times yesterday.
Chen Yaya, a gender studies professor at Shanghai Normal University, criticized the operator's post as blaming the victim. Regardless of how a woman dresses, it doesn't excuse sexual harassment, Chen said.
"The subway operator's message suggests that scantily dressed women are somehow getting what they deserve if they are harassed," she told the Global Times.
Chen acknowledged that women should take steps to protect themselves from sexual harassment, but men have an equal responsibility to refrain from harassment.
Lan Tian, a press officer for Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, disputed that the post justified sexual harassment.
He said it was meant to be a kind reminder for women to protect themselves during the summer. "As the city's subway operator, we have the responsibility to warn women of the potential danger of sexual harassment on the subway," he told the Global Times. "At the same time, we are not justifying any kind of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior."
Lan added that the operator saw a significant increase in sexual harassment complaints during the summer. Since April, they have received six complaints from female passengers.
Sina Weibo, China's most popular microblog site, recently ran a survey that asked users to comment on whether female subway passengers should dress more appropriately to protect themselves from sexual harassment. More than 55 percent of 10,240 people who voted agreed that women should wear appropriate clothes in the summer to protect themselves.
Ye Qianting, 22, a white-collar worker who commutes to Jing'an district, said that she usually wears a long-sleeve cardigan sweater on the subway during rush hours. "On a hot summer day, I will wear shorts and a tank top," she told the Global Times. "But I will always bring a cardigan when I ride the subway, especially when it is crowded."