University's sexual harassment concert backfires by forcing female attendees to adhere to a strict dress code

Halters, tube tops, and spaghetti straps were all banned at a concert at De La Salle University in Manila, the Philippines. (Photo: Benjamin Egerland/EyeEm/Getty)
Halters, tube tops, and spaghetti straps were all banned at a concert at De La Salle University in Manila, the Philippines. (Photo: Benjamin Egerland/EyeEm/Getty)

A university’s efforts to take a stand against sexual harassment backfired when it announced plans to host an “empowering” concert with a rather ironic catch: Female attendees would be forced to adhere to a strict dress code.

Tube tops, halters, spaghetti straps, low-cut shirts and dresses, racer-backs, short hemlines, crop tops, see-through garments, and certain forms of open-toed footwear were all banned under the dress code for the “Break the Silence: Speak Up Against Sexual Harassment” event scheduled to take place March 23 at De La Salle University in the Philippines’ capital city of Manila.

The dress code, which was set out in promotional materials for the concert, provoked a backlash from students, who called it hypocritical, particularly given that the event was to be held in honor of Women’s Month.

The University Student Government (USG) issued a clarification on the dress code, noting that its “partner organizations” had requested that it be removed. Attendees were nevertheless advised to dress in a suitable manner.

“Our guests may enter the campus dressed according to their individual taste; however, due to university rules and regulations, they are urged to wear attires that would consider the educational character of the University, and the sensibility of the other members of the academic community,” a statement posted to Facebook reads.

In other words, the dress code more or less stands. Some commenters said the student government was being blamed for rules that are in fact being imposed by De La Salle (DLSU). Others argued that, out of respect for the tone of the event, another location with a less rigid dress code should have been chosen.

“You completely missed the whole point when you decided to adhere to the university’s dress code,” one woman argued. “The moment you decided to hold the event in DLSU without actively pursuing that NO dress code should be observed (because it defeats the purpose of your so-called ‘advocacy’).

“You could have given more effort to fight for the advocacy you say that you are supporting. Instead you punch the people in the face with a message that clearly does not support your advocacy because apparently with your previous post and your post now you’re telling the people that if we don’t abide [by] that dress code then I WOULD NOT be of a RESPECTABLE educational character under this institution. Sickening and infuriating.”

“Did anyone pause and think that the DLSU dress code is always in place and that the USG was just doing its job to remind outsiders that, despite holding a women empowerment event, the dress code will still be implemented?” a male student shot back, offering a defense of the university. “I mean, I have four dress code offenses and I have every reason to despise the dress code but even I understand that it’s in place because DLSU is an educational institution and dress codes exist in other environments outside of it and me breaking it was my choice. An empowered woman isn’t someone who is above rules and regulations that everyone is also subject to and a dress code does not negate what the event stands for.”

Subsequent commentators objected that the dress code had singled out women only, and was therefore “sexist” and “degrading.”

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