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Sexism Masquerades Behind a Mini Skirt

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On October 22nd Brazilian college student, Geisy Arruda, attracted more attention than she bargained for when she made a trip to the restroom, and a spontaneous student protest erupted. How did the 20-year-old, who studies tourism at Bandeirante University in Sao Bernardo do Campo, incite her fellow classmates into a vile demonstration? Arruda was escorted off campus by police and subsequently expelled from the university for wearing a mini skirt!

The offending attire is actually a short, hot pink dress, with long sleeves and a high neckline. I will leave the debate over the appropriateness of Miss Arruda's outfit to the moral and fashion police of Brazil. It is the discriminatory reaction of the university that is relevant to women throughout the world.

The horrific treatment that Arruda experienced at the hands of her classmates was shocking. Flanked by police, she was escorted out of the building as the visibly hostile crowd chanted "whore." Two weeks later the university responded to this act of aggression by notifying Miss Arruda of her expulsion by way of an advertisement, which appeared in several local papers on Sunday. The public outcry and government scrutiny in reaction to the university's decision to publicly rebuke and expel Arruda was so intense that the school decided to reverse its decision within twenty-four hours of publishing the offending ads.

So why did the school paint Miss Arruda as the aggressor in this case and not the victim? Instead of protecting Arruda from a senseless and demoralizing attack, the university subjected her to additional public humiliation. Bandeirante University concluded that despite what is apparent in video of the incident, which has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube, Arruda's conduct provoked the situation, "which resulted in a collective reaction in defense of the school environment." According to the university's attorney, "She always liked to provoke boys, the problem was not with her clothes, but the way she acts, talks, crosses her legs, and walks."

In other words, she asked for it. By expelling Miss Arruda from their private institution, the school deprived her of an opportunity for higher education. But it is the double dose of humiliation that the school achieved through its public notice of her expulsion that reeks of disrespect and discrimination. The school supposedly suspended other students for their role in the incident, but those names and punishments were kept confidential. Only Arruda was permanently dismissed from the school, only she was forced to bear the scarlet letter.

Who would have thought that a short dress would cause a young woman to be treated so disgustingly by her peers in a country where the bikinis are so tiny that they necessitated the invention of the "Brazilian" bikini wax? Before finding out that Arruda had been expelled because of the incident, I assumed that this was just another YouTube generation publicity stunt. It seemed obvious that this was a staged ploy for attention, an audition to become Brazil's next break out reality star. If the footage was legitimate it seemed symptomatic of the universal principles of jealousy and insecurity. Many of the taunts aimed at Arruda were launched by other women. According to reports,a group of female students accused Arruda of attracting "too much attention" and attempted to force her into a pair of pants. This type of petty behavior amongst women is not limited to college campuses. This "threatened," "kill or be killed" mentality is visible in a multitude of social and professional settings. Believe it or not, there is not a finite amount of attention in this world. There is more than enough to go around, even for those who choose not to wear short pink dresses.

To her detractors' disappointment, Arruda's expulsion and speedy reinstatement has only garnered more attention for the young woman. The Brazilian government asked Bandeirante University to provide an explanation of its actions. Citing intolerance and discrimination, Nilcea Freire, Brazil's Minister of Policies for Women announced an investigation into the circumstances of Arruda's expulsion.

The Education Ministry gave the university 10 days to clarify its reasons for expelling the coed. Government, and civil society organizations immediately took notice, and held the university's feet to the fire. Combined with the negative media attention that the institution received it did not take long for a mea culpa to be announced. This incident appears to have reached an appropriate resolution. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that this will be the last time that a woman will be verbally assaulted and humiliated as a result of personal choice that is of little consequence to those around her.