Last Wednesday, the De La Salle University Student Government announced their event in celebration of Women’s Month. In the post, both students and outsiders were invited to “speak up against sexual harassment.” All was well and dandy until they followed it up with an extremely thorough dress code, primarily targeted at women.
The poster, which has since been deleted, detailed the prohibition of “cropped tops,” “halter tops with jackets,” “shirts with hemline above the one inch allowance from the student’s longest finger in a standing upright position,” and so. much. more.
With that, they ignited a public firestorm online, as criticism started pouring in by the dozens. Others speculated that it may just be a publicity stunt to get people talking — I mean, surely nobody with a college education could be that daft to preach women empowerment and age-old sexist traditions in the same breath, right? Some, on the other hand, went on to lambast the USG for their ignorance and irresponsibility in attempting to promote the cause.
But hey, if “breaking the silence” was their goal, then they certainly got more than they bargained for. Born out of the org’s measly attempt at marketing, students became inspired and started their own hashtag: #StripTheDressCodeDLSU.
if you really had the best interests of your female students in mind, then you would have considered that the most basic thing you could have done was to erase this backward notion that their skin is evil.#stripthedresscodedlsu
— tsuma 🍧 (@luginageorge) March 22, 2018
#StriptheDressCodeDLSU because we shouldn’t be tied down to traditional structures and oppressive systems if we want to genuinely support the fight for women’s rights, gender equality, and feminism.
— Ira Mendez (@iraamendez) March 22, 2018
#StriptheDressCodeDLSU you can’t tell me it’s not sexist when most of the dress code’s rules are aimed towards female-oriented clothing. IF A WOMAN’S SKIN DISTRACTS OTHER PEOPLE FROM WHATEVER THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO DO THEN THE PROBLEM LIES WITH THEM, NOT HER.
— ✰ 🆑aire ✰ (@_caspaghetti) March 22, 2018
Thankfully, the DLSU USG didn’t pull a Cosmpolitan PH in the event of a PR fiasco and sweep the issue under a metaphorical rug like nothing happened. As of yesterday, the org has released a statement in response to all the backlash, but only to more disappointment from the LaSallian community. The apology, as it seems, proved to be just as counterproductive.
To be fair, the USG was in a little bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Any way you put it, a female-targeted dress code meant to uphold “propriety” and “decency” will always be sexist in nature. But since the student handbook’s word is bond, it was also the org’s obligation to inform event attendees about the existing guidelines.
However, there are 1001 ways they could have executed it better.
“The org bragged about being staunch advocates for women empowerment and the abolishment of rape culture, but only when it was convenient. “
Let’s start with this: how about don’t hide behind archaic academic rules and at least try to put up a fight? Absolutely no attempt at defiance was shown towards the false dichotomy of dress codes and sexual harassment. The org bragged about being staunch advocates for women empowerment and the abolishment of rape culture, but only when it was convenient. If anything, the blunder revealed the USG’s lack of awareness on the issue.
What they could have done to engage audiences is ask how they think the school can improve on the ways they treat its female demographic. The #StripTheDressCodeDLSU hashtag brought to light many students’ personal experiences of discrimination in the name of “modesty.” As THE student government, they could have used their position of influence to take those insights into consideration.
#StriptheDressCodeDLSU I once had a prof who told our whole class about girls asking to be disrespected by dressing “inappropriately”. “Tapos kayo pa ang may ganang magalit pag nabastos kayo?” was one of his disgusting statements. PROF NA YUN AH 🙃🙃🙃
— Angela Mitzi 🖤 (@mizzinazareno) March 22, 2018
#StriptheDressCodeDLSU I was almost late for class bc I wore shorts that was closely hitting the 1 inch above the knee rule. had to scout the whole UMall for 30 min to find a new pair of pants that fit me bc mind u i have a huge waist. cost me P1500 to just get in DLSU.
— ThesisToni (@miller_izo) March 22, 2018
I’ve actually got sent to the SDFO once and I was given this talk on how the dress code is there to prepare us for the professional world……. Bc idk my knees and/or shoulders being seen must be unprofessional. #StriptheDressCodeDLSU
— Abigail Batan (@probABBYlity) March 22, 2018
Let this be a lesson for everyone looking to start a healthy discourse to be responsible in the messages you want to send. Don’t just ask for noise lest the public charges at you with pitchforks. And to the De La Salle University Student Government: don’t be afraid to give them teeth.
Text by Isabella Argosino
Header art by Isabel Drilon