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This university org exhibited how not to promote women empowerment

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.

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.

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

 

 

 

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