Brazilian student expelled for short skirt

Credit: Alex Moser/Art Staff Credit: Alex Moser/Art Staff
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We’ve all heard the widely propagated stereotypes about women in Latin America — namely, the way they dress. I know the pictures that are popping to the front of your minds right now — nude beaches, or barely-there bikinis, women provocatively swinging their hips while they sashay down the street. While this article isn’t meant to either further or diminish those stereotypes, it actually describes a situation that clearly goes against anything even remotely associated with them.

Last month, Geisy Arruda, a 20-year-old student at the privately owned Bandeirante University in Sao Bernardo de Campo, outside of Sao Paulo, wore a short, hot pink miniskirt to classes, which incited major ridicule and taunting from her fellow students and eventually led to her expulsion and then reinstatement. The university took further action by taking out advertisements in local newspapers that publicly decried her immorality, according to an article from the Associated Press. Videos of the humiliation that Arruda endured as she was escorted from campus by the police, covered up with a professor’s white lab coat, can be seen on YouTube and were played on many major Brazilian television stations. Arruda has been told she will be allowed back to the university, but she has not yet stated whether or not she will do so, citing safety concerns, according to the same AP article.

I know that as Carnegie Mellon students, we’ve seen our fair share of, let’s say, differently dressed students. I will never forget walking into Wean Hall my first year and seeing someone dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle — costume, mask, and all — with a piece of cake shoved around the mouth-hole of the mask, just laying, sprawled out, in the middle of the floor right inside the main doors. After doing a double take to make sure my already sleep-deprived mind wasn’t hallucinating (which it wasn’t), I looked around to see how other people were reacting, and was greeted with complete and total indifference. While I know that a TMNT costume isn’t exactly the same thing as a hot pink miniskirt, I still cannot believe that the students in Brazil reacted the way that they did.

Both the university’s and the students’ actions were inappropriate. Students of any age, no matter what country they go to school in, should know that taunting their classmates because of what they are wearing is wrong. While a few jokes or whistles could be expected — these are boys in college, after all — harassing someone, yelling “*puta*” (whore) at them, and taunting them so much that they need a police escort to leave the building is completely unacceptable. Even if the skirt violated the school’s dress code, that’s an issue for the university’s administration to deal with, not a matter that the students need to take into their own hands. I just cannot imagine why a student wearing a miniskirt, no matter how short, would result in such mass chaos as Arruda’s did.

The university did not take the correct course of action, either. As Arruda asserts in the AP article, she is the victim in the situation, not the perpetrator. She is the student that was attacked by her fellow classmates. And yet, she is also the one that was punished. Not only did the university decide to expel her, but they also decided not to inform her directly; instead, Arruda learned of her expulsion from the advertisements taken out in newspapers — advertisements that claimed she was wearing “inadequate clothing” and that her attitude was too provocative for the school environment. Whether or not this is true (I doubt that it is — it’s hard for me to imagine that Arruda’s skirt was so short and her actions so provocative that students felt that they couldn’t learn), the university’s first priority is still the safety of its students. It seems that Bandeirante’s administration forgot this somewhere along the way; probably at about the same time they purchased advertisements in newspapers to humiliate her further. Instead of helping to calm the situation and protect Arruda from any further danger, the university helped to make the situation bigger, an action that was unnecessary and childish.

I hope that the university sees the error of their ways, and helps to make Arruda feel safe enough to come back to school, because nothing should get in the way of obtaining an education, not even a little, pink piece of cloth.