Several women in Shanghai protested a statement from the municipal subway authority that "scantily clad women attract molesters" by holding posters reading: "I can be coquettish, but you can't harass me".
"It was a fight against the company's statement on its micro blog. We believe women have the freedom to choose what to wear, and how people dress should never be an excuse for sexual harassment," said a woman who joined the protest and only wanted to be identified as Xiangqi.
They covered their heads and faces with black cloth, leaving only their eyes visible, and walked into metro compartments and on platforms on Sunday. She said many passengers nodded and smiled at them.
The No 2 subway operating company in Shanghai updated its micro blog on June 20 with a picture of a woman wearing a semi-transparent dress standing on the metro platform.
"It would be a miracle if you dress like this in the subway without being harassed. Girls, please be self-dignified to avoid perverts," it wrote on the micro blog along with the picture.
Many people said it is rare to see women dressing so scantily in public, and women should not be blamed in this situation.
"Can it be reasonable that I'm doomed to be robbed if I drive a BMW car? That's the same," said Zhu Xueqin, a professional psychological counselor, who also works on gender studies.
The words seem to be a reminder for women, she said, but they are actually gender discrimination.
"With this attitude, how could the metro operator cope with a sexual harassment case in which a woman wore a miniskirt?" asked Zhu.
Some supporters of the metro company said the statement is a reminder of goodwill.
"But the tone is far from being courteous," said Xiong Jing, a senior officer from Media Monitor for Women Network, a Beijing-based non-governmental organization committed to properly reflecting women's needs and concerns.
"It's improper for the company, as a manager and maintainer of order in the subway, to criticize its women passengers, who are actually victims, on its official micro blog. We hope it can offer an explanation."
More women said molesters wouldn't be eliminated even if they put on heavy clothes.
"I was once sexually harassed on a bus in winter when I was in high school and I was wearing a school uniform. It has nothing to do with what a woman wears, which I think most people will agree with," said Tian Wei, a 26-year-old white-collar worker in Shanghai.
Some women said sexual harassment should include all the behaviors that make someone uncomfortable, rather than only those with substantive actions.
"I feel very sick when some men look me up and down when I take the subway. I don't wear any improper clothes, and it's fairly rude and makes me angry," said a Shanghai resident surnamed Wang.
"Women are taught to be self-respectful since childhood, but some men show bad manners in respecting women and themselves," she said.
However, some men said they also feel perplexed by the way some women dress on the subway.
"It's embarrassing if a scantily clad young woman happens to stand in front of me. Sometimes I can only bend my head or take out my mobile phone to surf on the Internet," said 25-year-old Shao Yuru, a civil servant in Shanghai.