'An Expression of Personal Power'

A gender scholar defends the right of Chinese women to choose what they want to wear.

2012.06.29
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sina-clothing-305.jpg Shanghai Metro calls on women to dress more conservatively in a post on Sina Weibo.
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A recent post by Shanghai Metro via the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo called on women to dress more conservatively when riding subway trains, so as to avoid sexual harassment. The post sparked a fierce, online debate, with 80 percent of respondents to an online poll saying they had been sexually harassed or assaulted on subway trains. Ai Xiaoming, literature professor and gender theorist at Guangzhou's Zhongshan University, adds her view to the debate, saying that women should have the right to wear what they like, without fear of assault:

I think this sort of rubbish is very self-disparaging. Surely to say such things is to turn all men into sexual perverts. Does this mean that if you can see that someone is carrying a purse, that you can steal it, or that you can go and snatch a large amount of money from someone taking it out of a bank? It's no sort of argument, is it? You would be a thief, and someone with no self-respect.

The expression of their own beauty or sexuality springs from the right of women to sovereignty over their own psychological life. It is also an expression of their personal power. It doesn't matter what she wears. Even if she stripped off naked, you still wouldn't be allowed to violate her because that would be her own choice. If you violated her, you would be the one with the problem. All human beings have the right to freedom of self-expression. The body is one mode of expression. Ai Weiwei's work "Caonima" was a naked work. The naked body has all sorts of meanings. And the meaning of revealing the body is the business of the person who is doing the revealing. It can't be interpreted by others.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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