A 20-year-old student was expelled from Brazil's Bandeirante University (Uniban) Sunday after hundreds of her classmates rioted over the length of her skirt.
According to Edison Bernardo DeSouza of Brazzil Magazine, on October 22, tourism student Geisy Arruda showed up to class at Uniban, near Sao Paulo, wearing a pink minidress and "heavy makeup," which apparently prompted her fellow students to go completely insane. Two hundred of them gathered outside her classroom to gawk at her, and when she left to go to the bathroom, men followed, physically fighting with her and trying to take cell phone pictures between her legs. A professor then tried to hide her in another classroom, but 700 students massed outside, shouting, "Let her out Professor, we want to rape her." As she finally left, escorted by police, some students took videos, including the one above, where you can hear chants of "puta" or "whore."
Uniban chose to respond to the situation by expelling Arruda. And rather than doing so by contacting her directly, the university decided to take out an ad in Sao Paulo newspapers Sunday titled "Educational Responsibility - Education Is Made With Attitude Not Complacency," explaining that it was kicking out Arruda because her dress and actions provoked "a collective reaction in defense of the school environment." Uniban's lawyer Josias de Souza helpfully added that Arruda was responsible for her harassment, explaining, "she always liked to provoke boys, the problem was not with her clothes, but the way she acts, talks, crosses her legs, and walks."
Arruda says she was initially told she'd be allowed to return to class with a security escort, and she's rightly outraged at how Uniban has handled the attacks on her. "I was the victim," she says. "How can I be expelled? It's absurd." From the outside, the whole situation does seem absurd, and not in any sort of amusing way. Reuters quotes an online commenter who says the hysteria over a mere miniskirt was "pure hypocrisy ... Once February and the Carnival comes round everyone will be naked and no one will find it abnormal." The Toronto Star points out that "although Brazil is known for its skimpy attire, especially in beach cities, most college students dress more modestly on campus – commonly in jeans and T-shirts." Indeed, most of the students in the video above appear to be dressed in jeans, but that doesn't give them the right to attack Arruda or threaten her with rape. And psychologist Ana Fraiman, interviewed on a Brazilian television show, doubts whether moral outrage over Arruda's skimpy attire was even the real issue. She says,
What we saw here was a case of mass hysteria, a false moralism. This situation simply dragged the students into it because this fact was probably more interesting than the classes they were taking.
Since Uniban is apparently one of the worst universities in Brazil, this last statement sounds pretty apt. A clearer dress code, as recommended by Minister Nilcéa Freire of Brazil's Special Secretariat of Policies for Women, might make future incidents less likely, but even that is debatable — Arruda didn't cause her harassment and assault with her short dress any more than rape victims provoke their rapists with sexy clothes. Rather, she appears to have been at the center of a deeply sexist mass hysteria, one that Uniban is only feeding by blaming her. The university should be trying to root out the prejudices and pent-up rage that caused hundreds of students to turn on their classmate — instead, they're sending the message that women who wear short skirts deserve to be called "whores." Perhaps now that the international press is paying attention, Uniban will change its tune, but it's going to take a lot more than a dress code or security escort to make the campus truly safe for Arruda, or for any woman.
Miniskirt In Brazil School Results In Riot, Expulsion And Federal Action [Brazzil Magazine]
Brazil Student Expelled After Row Over Short Dress [Reuters]
Brazil Student Expelled After Wearing Mini-Dress [AP, via MSNBC]