No short skirt on campus? Chinese internet users are waging war on a university’s sexist dress code | Society News | SupChina
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No short skirt on campus? Chinese internet users are waging war on a university’s sexist dress code

A college in Jilin has enforced a dress code (in Chinese) that bans students from wearing skirts above the knees and sleeveless tops on campus. The rules sparked a heated debate online about whether the school went too far in regulating students’ attire and whether the ban unfairly targets female students.

According to many anonymous internet users who contacted the media to complain about the policies, the dress code was introduced by the School of International Business at Jilin International Studies University. In addition to the ban on miniskirts and sleeveless tops, the school barred students from dying and coloring their hair, wearing nail polish, putting on accessories like earrings, and being dressed in ripped jeans.

“How could such policies exist?” one person wrote in a private message sent to btime.com, a Beijing-based online news outlet. “Should we female students start binding our feet?”

The tip prompted the news publication to get in touch with a school official, who admitted to the implementation of the restrictive dress code in a phone interview, saying that the university campus is a “civilized place of culture,” where attire rules are needed to make sure “its students look like students.”

The person from the school’s student management office also noted that she’s aware of the negative reactions to the policies, but the objections only came from “a very small group of students” and the school had been trying to “educate them and give them proper guidance.” The person didn’t elaborate on why she believed that wearing outfits like short skirts would undermine the school’s goal to “cultivate excellent professionals.”

The dress code has ignited a raging controversy on Chinese social media, with many critics arguing that the policies are gendered and discriminatory because most of the banned items are usually worn by female students. “There is no such thing as an revealing outfit. It all depends on how you think of it,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

Last year, a university in central China introduced a similar ban on short skirts in its library, citing complaints from male students who said such outfits constituted a “distraction” for them. The school later reversed the ban and apologized to female students after critics called out its sexist policies, which demanded that young women dress modestly rather than teaching male students to respect and value their female peers’ outfit choices.

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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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