Summer in the Chinese city of Shanghai can be suffocating. It’s not so much the heat that does it – temperatures typically hover between 24 – 31°C (76 – 88°F) – it’s the humidity. Yet as many of city’s residents peel off layers to battle the sweltering weather, Shanghai’s subway system is advising women to cover up as part of a campaign aimed at fighting sexual harassment on public transportation.
Following the twisted logic that a woman dressed in sexy attire clearly deserves to be groped, whistled at or hit on, Shanghai’s subway published a photo of a commuter wearing a sheer dress on the Chinese social networking website Weibo with the following pearl of wisdom: “It would be strange if a woman wasn’t sexually harassed if dressed like this. There are many perverts. Young women, please cover up if you want to avoid cat-calls”.
While the campaign addresses what has become a recurrent problem on Shanghai’s public transportation systems – women being sexually harassed in subway trains – it does so by reprimanding the victims rather than the perpetrators of such acts.
Unsurprisingly, the subway company’s brilliant communication strategy failed to impress many, and triggered a deluge of angry comments online.
“You are supposed ensure the safety of passengers, you’re not supposed to stand in the way of them assuming their personal responsibility, let alone give criminals an excuse for their behaviour!” posted one Weibo user.
Female commuters also launched their own counter-campaign, dressing in veils to ride the subway while holding signs with slogans like, “We want fresh air, not perverts”, and “We can be ‘a tease’ but that doesn’t give you the right to harass us”.