LOL: How to Protect Yourself from Peeping Toms
Posted by Katie Ostoich on July 9, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Thanks China! Just in time for the heat wave, the Zhejiang police force released this drawing detailing how to prevent creeping Toms from catching a glimpse of one's, uh, ladyzones. As you can see, this is a very handy geometric diagram every self-respecting, public-transport-riding woman should keep stowed in her purse.
According to MSNBC’s Behind the Wall blog, the whole thing started when someone posted a picture of a woman in a ‘revealing dress’ on the official Weibo account of Shanghai Metro’s Number 2 line (Weibo’s the Chinese version of Twitter). It wouldn’t have been a great idea to post the picture in the first place, but the poster decided to go all out with this caption rant: “If that’s what you wear on the subway, then no wonder you will be sexually harassed! There are perverts riding the subway every day and we can’t catch them all. Girls, you’ve got to respect yourself!”
We’re back to using that argument again? Ugh!
Luckily, the entire issue and its cultural implications was resolved by the release of a series of diagrammed instructions for women detailing how they should sit so as to best preserve their modesty. Included with the guide, originally posted on the Zhejiang police microblog, is a geometric formula that, according to China Daily, calculates ‘the posture, angle, and distance at which a man could look up a woman’s skirt when riding up an escalator or […] other similar situations that provide opportunities for peeping.’
The diagrams have received their fair share of attention on the Chinese interweb, perhaps more because people have absolutely no idea what the formulas mean than because ladies heading up an escalator are finding it practical to calculate at what angle they should stand as they ascend. One 28-year-old Shanghai office worker, who was wearing a short skirt when the reporter interviewed her, says she can’t understand the formulas at all but offers her own tips for those of the short hems:
"I had this kind of trouble with harassment as well, but my tip is to keep a cactus with you so that when a stranger touches you, you can hit them back. Another thing to remember is to keep your hip very close to the handrail of the escalator."
I mean, casually carrying a cactus in my bag is a great idea and all (try grabbing that instead of the Chapstick you were looking for), but it is the 21st century. Harassment is unquestionably a problem for women--and, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, not just in China. But there's something that rubs me the wrong way about suggesting the problem be resolved by either a) having women run through an equation anytime they sit or go up some stairs, or b) telling us to cover up--and assuming that that alone will solve the problem.
Our verdict: LOL. Really? We need a formula to figure out if our skirts are too short? I have no idea, but it’s definitely possible that there is a high degree of cultural variation with the issue and that harassment genuinely isn't as big of a problem here as it seems to be in China--I'm sure many of us have gotten a whistle or a drunken pinch in a crowded bar, but I don't think twice about going up a staircase in a dress that hits above my knees, and I'm certainly not going to break out a calculator to do it. At the same time, our clothing would have to be absolutely shapeless to avoid any unwanted attention. Is it ethnocentric (or naive) to think that, in the future and in cultures where this is considered an epidemic problem, the way men are taught how to act toward women would include not, you know, harassing them?
Oh, and can we please stop the whole “she was asking for it” argument? Thanks.
What do you think? Are you a fan of the cactus idea?