A prestigious Chinese fine arts university said a handbook for women students was misread and misunderstood after critics accused it of blaming victims for sexual assaults.
In screenshots of the Chinese Academy of Art’s safety handbook for first-year students posted online on Thursday, the college listed a number of “factors within women” as “causes of sexual assault”.
The factors include a “focus on looks and material enjoyment”, “a beautiful appearance and frivolous lifestyle”, “cowardliness and an inability to defend oneself” and “a weak mind and inability to resist temptations”.
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It said sexual assaults could occur at night and in summer, and in classrooms, laboratories and dormitories.
Under “prevention of sexual assault”, the academy in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou said “women’s dormitories pose a safety issue” and it recommended that women students not stay in the rooms on their own.
Women students should also “take major roads at night, not talk to strangers, and not wear clothes that expose too much”.
Commenters accused the academy of perpetrating a victim-blaming culture in the handbook.
“The only reason for sexual harassment is that there are sexual harassers,” one commenter said one commenter said on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform.
“The only way to deter potential criminals is to try those who harass others,” another wrote.
The academy‘s campus security department, which was in charge of writing the handbook, said the guide was distributed among students and the posts “only showed a small part, which was out of context”, the Xiaoxiang Morning Post reported on Thursday.
The academy did not respond to interview requests from the South China Morning Post.
Similar passages were also found in a Wuhan university handbook, as well as a “college student safety manual” produced by the Zhejiang Province Association for Higher Education.
Shanghai-based news site The Paper reported on Friday that the association would aim to change some passages next year.
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Feminist blogger “Shaoxi” said the public always focused on the victims in cases of sexual assault and harassment, “putting them in the spotlight, identifying the causes in them, instead of asking why the perpetrators are harming others”.
“The entire culture is shaping a ‘victims’ gaze’ behaviour,” she said.
She said such outdated values were still prevalent in universities, and not just in villages or smaller cities.
“If you go around telling people this kind of thinking is wrong, you’ll become the minority and get attacked,” she said. “If they dare print it on a student manual, that means in reality such thinking is so common, that they don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. That’s the real problem.”
But each time such a controversy erupted was a chance to change minds.
“Every argument is the fight for the right to speak, on social media, on news,” Shaoxi said.
Feminist activist Xiao Meili said that in recent years people were becoming more aware about not blaming the victim.
“I’m happy to see so many recognised the victim-blaming behaviour and were willing to criticise it,” she said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Chinese single women learning to love the solo lifestyle, independence, and focusing on their self-worth
- Outrage after Chinese university tells female students not to wear ‘overly revealing’ clothes
- Chinese university reviews controversial decision to allow rapist to stay on campus ‘under observation’
This article Chinese art college handbook accused of blaming sexual assaults on women’s behaviour first appeared on South China Morning Post