Avoid ‘seduction mode,’ UQO profs told in ‘condescending’ style video

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Teachers at a western Quebec university say a video advising them on how to dress on campus is condescending and sexist.

The four-minute instructional video was posted to the YouTube channel of the University of Quebec in the Outaouais (UQO), but was removed Friday morning.

We were shocked. We are not used to having dress codes.– Marie-Josée Bourget, union president

The video features Marie-Claude Pichette, a fashion stylist from Gatineau who tells university employees how to choose clothing that’s appropriate for a work environment where the “clientele” are students.

In the video, which features slow-motion shots of Pichette demonstrating how to dress, she wears a short skirt, patterned tights and high-heeled booties.

Her advice for “winning styles” includes avoiding worn-out clothing and cheap accessories. Don’t dress like you would for the weekend or while on vacation, she says, and “do not be in seduction mode,” including wearing spaghetti straps, plunging necklines, low-rise pants and miniskirts.

Profs denounce video

Several UQO professors, who received the video by email last Friday, immediately denounced it.

“We were shocked. We are not used to having dress codes,” Marie-Josée Bourget, president of the union representing part-time teachers at UQO, said in a French-language interview.

“Always, we blame the woman, her appearance, [for sending] sexual messages. That’s something that bothers us a lot.”

In a statement to Radio-Canada, the university said the video was developed after employees expressed an interest in the “sartorial question.” 

The video was meant to be informative and provide “inspiration for employees,” UQO said. “Of course, people are free to wear what they want.”

Still, Stéphanie Demers, president of the union representing full-time professors at the university, said: “It’s a very condescending, paternalistic way to address adult professionals.”

She calls the video sexist and says women should feel comfortable with how they dress, even if it means having bare shoulders and a mini skirt.

“The very idea that we can tell women how to dress, based on the idea that we seek to dress seductively, that showing our shoulders or wearing a mini skirt or showing part of our chest, would be dressing for seduction … I was really rather taken aback.”

The four-minute how-to video sent to UQO professors features Marie-Claude Pichette, a fashion stylist from Gatineau, Que. (YouTube)

Union wasn’t consulted

The video was developed as part of the Outstanding Student Experience (E3) program, an internal information site for UQO employees.

Demers said the union wasn’t consulted before the video was released.

“Members of the university community dress very well,” Demers said. “They dress professionally. They dress quite properly. I have never seen a problem with the clothing in the [university].”

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