Anger over ‘sexist’ clothing rules for girls at Swiss high school

Girls at a high school in the Swiss canton of Bern have reacted angrily to an email suggesting they dress in a less provocative manner.

Anger over 'sexist' clothing rules for girls at Swiss high school
This is the sort of look the school wants girls to avoid. File photo: Depositphotos

In the message, the principal of the Gymnasium Oberaargau, Barbara Kunz, said it had come to the school’s attention that “in the warmer weather, views were being granted that would best be avoided.”

The principal recommended the girls cover up more, for their “own protection and out of respect for others”.

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A graphic accompanying the email suggested girls avoid strapless tops, and “permanently visible” underwear.

“Remember that you are not going out or to the pool,” Kunz said in her emailed message.

But girls at the school have reacted angrily to the recommendations which makes no mention of boys clothing.

The graphic used by the Oberaargau school in its email was copied from that used by a German high school. But the original image also included guidelines for male students, which the Swiss school had edited out.

The original email from the school to students.

“We are being treated as objects. This is clearly sexist,” one 17-year-old female student told Swiss news portal 20 Minuten.

“If school directors are going to make recommendations, they should do it for boys and girls,” 18-year-old student Michelle Stauffer told the news site.

Meanwhile, students have put up English-language signs in school bathrooms reading: “Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects.”

“Our thighs, legs, shoulders, bra straps or stomachs are not distracting. They are simply a body part,” the A4 signs also state.

Students also told 20 minutes that some of their classmates were now dressing provocatively for the first time to spite the principal.

But Kunz on Monday defended the clothing recommendations telling regional daily Berner Zeitung that the intention had been to draw girls’ attention to the impression they might give.

She said the clothing issue regularly came up in warmer weather and that her message did not mention either controls or punishment.

The school principal also noted the image included with her email was sprinkled with humour while her deputy Robert Zemp said school uniforms were not the goal and that the idea was to help boys and girls to deal with the freedom they enjoyed.

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Scientist angers CERN with ‘offensive’ address on women and science

Europe's physics lab CERN on Monday disavowed a lecture by an invited scientist who claimed physics was "built by men", and accused women of demanding specialist jobs without suitable qualifications.

Scientist angers CERN with 'offensive' address on women and science
the Globe of Science and Innovation at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin, near Geneva. Photo: AFP

The presentation by Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University was delivered Friday at the Geneva lab during a workshop on the relationship between high energy theory and gender. 

The presentation — which includes various slides, charts and graphs — appears to suggest that men face discrimination in the field of physics. 

One pictorial series suggests that women line up to take gender studies and then later protest over a lack of jobs in stem fields, an umbrella term that covers areas like chemistry and engineering. 

“Physics invented and built by men, it's not by invitation,” one slide says. 

“CERN considers the presentation delivered by an invited scientist during a workshop on High Energy Theory and Gender as highly offensive,” the lab said in a statement.  

“It has therefore decided to remove the slides from the online repository, in line with a Code of Conduct that does not tolerate personal attacks and insults.”  

CERN, the French acronym for the European Centre for Nuclear Research, is for the first time being led by a female director general: Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian expert in experimental particle physics, took charge in 2016. 

The lab has said that despite efforts to close its own gender gap females still account for less than 20 percent of staff.

The lab notes that it has backed initiatives aimed at boosting female participation in the sciences. 

“Diversity is a strong reality at CERN, and is also one of the core values underpinning our Code of Conduct,” the statement said. 

“The Organisation is fully committed to promoting diversity and equality at all levels.”

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