For many young adults, college marks the beginning of one’s journey of self-discovery. While primary and secondary schools are free to impose whatever restrictions they want upon students, universities are for the most part, secular, and signify a safe haven for young adults to express the individuality that may have been repressed by school officials throughout their adolescence. Uniforms become a thing of the past, as well as dress codes and silly hair and makeup restrictions.
But for a couple of students at the University of Zambia, the attire of their fellow pupils was ‘distracting’. In fact, it disturbed them so profoundly that last week, a student posted this notice in the school’s library:
#Discuss! This notice has been put up at the #UniversityOfZambia library requesting #female students to dress #modestly so as not to disturb #male students. Hmmm thoughts? This notice has made it onto #BBC too.. Is the university right to police student's attire? If you're a student at #UNZA how disturbed are you by all of this? #Zambia
The response from students was largely divided. There were many students who condemned the flyer for being sexist and misogynistic, and went to Twitter to express there outrage.
So I put to you here in the most simple terms- where is the notice from university of Zambia telling male students to focus on their damn books and not leer after women? To look down, to look away.
Where is that?
— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) May 7, 2018
ON BEHALF OF ALL UNIVERSITY OF ZAMBIA MALE STUDENT, WE WOULD LIKE TO DISTANCE OUR-SELF FROM THAT PURPORTED POST, AS WE DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT OUR MOMA'S DRESSING.
INFACT THEY SHOULD CONTINUE DRESSING THE WAY THEY WANT WE ARE OK WITH IT.😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂.
— Simon Mutale (@Spjmutale) May 8, 2018
and instead of taking this as an opportunity to educate our men that women are not sex objects they instead blame women.the double https://t.co/pTZ7k5UN5u sad
— Smaa (@chalwesma) May 8, 2018
There were, however, others who agreed with it. Killion Phiri, a male student at the University, had told BBC News, “How can you concentrate on studying when someone walks in a tight mini-skirt or a tight dress?”
…how about we teach our men not to rape women and sexually harass them on the basis of what they’re wearing? If you sincerely find a women’s legs distracting to the point where you can’t concentrate on your studies, then maybe you need to re-evaluate why exactly you’re so preoccupied with the way somebody dresses instead of your studies.
This mindset is so blatantly toxic and a sad reminder of the extent to which patriarchy continues to dominate our society. As women, we are constantly taught that we are to blame for the actions of men. When we get catcalled, we’re simply told that ‘boys will be boys’. Sorry, that’s not how the world works. Boys cannot just be boys, and studies have proven that the myth of men’s sex drives being stronger and more insatiable than women’s is just that- a myth. So yes, men CAN indeed control their predatory responses to seeing a woman’s body, despite what society has conditioned them to believe.
This ‘notice’ is just another way of perpetuating the myth that men somehow cannot be held accountable for their actions. And wrapping it up with ‘modest is the way to go’…really? Can we stop imposing outdated restrictions on the way that women choose to dress? I’m not sure if the person who wrote this flyer is aware but…yes, women can choose THEMSELVES however the hell they want to dress.
The University of Zambia has since denounced the notice and apologized for the incident. On Monday, the school’s librarian issued this statement:
“The said poster does not reflect who we are; we are a space that promotes access to all our library materials to people from all walks of life. We urge all our female University of Zambia Library users to feel comfortable when using their library.”
“The University of Zambia has no dress code. Tolerance and diversity is the bedrock of our institution; the University of Zambia Libraries will not tolerate old discredited misogynist views in our space.”