When I read recently that the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) had banned students from wearing shorts, miniskirts and from dressing indecently, I looked out for one thing. And that was the usual condemnation from the pro-nudity and anti-decency campaigners parading as feminists or human rights activists. It did not take long for one to surface.
This week, an eye-catching headline caught my attention. The article in question was titled “GIJ students need more grammar lessons than clothes ban.” The headline made a lot of sense to me, but the content was disappointing. It turned out to be one of the most illogical and structurally handicapped pieces of writing I have read. Ironically, the writer talked about grammar and logical reasoning when she took on GIJ’s products.
The writer, I am reliably informed, is a female journalist with Citi FM. For reasons best known to her and, perhaps, the ageless old man above, she writes under the pseudonym Nyamewaa. To be fair to her, the article on GIJ does not seem like a true reflection of her potential. I have read a number of better-written and well-argued articles on her blog, and even though I do not agree with her on some of the issues, appreciate her views. Her latest article, in my view, appeared so poorly written because she had put on her feminist armour and went to war when there was no disagreement.
For instance, the ban did not affect only female students in GIJ but she assumed that the ban was targeted at the female students and that stopping the males from wearing shorts was just brought in to make the ban seem general. She then had the opportunity to go on to argue that the ban would make it difficult for women who are harassed sexually to report to authorities of GIJ. She described the ban as “arbitrary” and “daft”. And there was this sentence I did not really understand:
“The problem with this ban isn’t that it is sexist, and very, very stupid but that instead of concerning itself with what is needed to train journalists who tell compelling stories and speak truth to power, the GIJ management is focused on the clothes of students.”
If the writer means what I think she wanted to communicate, then she thinks the ban is “very, very stupid.” She also described GIJ as joining “a long list of Ghanaian institutions using Victorian ideas of propriety to control women’s bodies for men.”
Nana K. Gyasi, an alumnus of GIJ, was the first to point out the grammatically handicapped and illogical constructions of the writer on Facebook. This was, perhaps, because the writer descended heavily on construction deficiency and logical reasoning of the GIJ Women’s Commissioner who defended the ban.
I will, however, not worry myself about the grammar and other structural deficiencies of the writer, who missed no opportunity to point out how terrible some products of GIJ are in terms of their grammar. I want to focus on the substance of the article.
For the sake of those who have not followed the GIJ story, let us begin from the beginning. At the matriculation ceremony of GIJ recently, the Rector of the Institute, Dr. Wilberforce Sefakor Dzisah, announced to the students that the Institute was not going to accept any form of indecent dressing. He was reported to have said:
“Management has raised concerns about an increase in indecent dressing by students. Management has therefore decided on the following and this should not only go to fresh men and women but for the continuing students as well. No shorts or miniskirts are to be worn for lectures. Clothes which expose your vital parts shall not be entertained.”
This was what triggered Nyamewaa’s article. I must say the writer is entitled to her views. She has every right to express them. I must also admit that GIJ, the school I attended from 2006 to 2010, has a lot to do in order to improve the quality of professionals it churns out. That’s why I said the headline made a lot of sense to me.
I, however, believe that the knowledge students acquire in GIJ is as important as the character with which leave the school. And how a person dresses speaks much about their personality even before they open their mouths. If students complete GIJ and apply for any job, one of the factors to be considered at their job interview would be their dress code. Even people who apply to be night watchmen mind their dress code when they are attending an interview.
Recently, a female intern at Multimedia was asked to go back home and dress decently. I got to know this from a senior female employee who was not happy with the lifestyle of the young ones these days. In 2010, while I was the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, the issue of dress code came up. A judge had embarrassed a student of GIJ and walked her out of the court. She was a first-year diploma student who had gone to court to do her Court Reporting assignment. The judge said she had dressed indecently and walked her out. GIJ, of course, shared the embarrassment.
Is it, therefore, out of place for the school to take steps to encourage decent dressing?
Whenever any school takes steps to encourage decency among its students, that school often attracts attacks from so-called feminists and human rights activists. Nyamewaa, for instance, said GIJ’s ban “sexualizes women students and strips them of their right to self-expression through their clothes.”
If there is any school where the freedom and rights of students should be highly upheld naturally, then that is the Ghana School of Law (GSL). When we feel our rights or freedoms are threatened, we go to court. The Ghana School of Law is taught by renowned judges and lawyers. Interestingly, this school does not tolerate indecent dressing. It actually prescribes uniforms for the students. The GSL students for the 2016/2017 academic year started school this week. Below is what is contained in the admission letters of the students:
“The Ghana School of Law enforces strict rules on the mode of dressing for all students during classes and other formal occasions. Accordingly, all students will be admitted to classes and other formal occasions dressed in the manner set out below:
- White shirts, black trousers and tie
- Black suit
- Black pair of shoes and dark pair of socks. Slippers and sandals are not allowed.
- White shirts/blouse with black skirt or black pair of trousers with black pair of shoes
- Black suit with black pair of shoes. Sandals and slippers are not allowed.
You are to purchase the school jacket, which will be worn on special occasions.
You are also required to purchase the school cloth:
-Male – 3 yards
-Female – 6 yards
So how will the writer describe these directives by authorities of the Ghana School of Law? Are they daft and stupid like GIJ? Or why do we think it is proper to have uniforms for law students and outrageous to appeal to journalism students to dress decently? Don’t we journalists care about branding or our image? And are we surprised that lawyers have branded themselves so well that even if someone is an idiot, he still commands respect if he is a lawyer? Why do we think journalists don’t deserve same? And if we think this way should we journalists have problems when we are disrespected? Have our elders not taught us that if you call your calabash worthless, you should not be offended if your neighbours use it to fetch rubbish?
The Ghana Institute of Journalism, like the Ghana School of Law, is a professional institution. Lawyers are expected to dress in a certain way. There is no strict dress code for journalists and other communication professionals who are trained by GIJ. Common sense should, however, tell us that a journalist or public relations officer should not dress like a truck pusher or a commercial sex worker.
Dr. Dzisah and his team of management at GIJ should be concerned about how to shape the character of their students. Dr. Dzisah, in my opinion, is progressive minded considering the level of development GIJ has witnessed under his watch. But his role goes beyond infrastructure and improving learning. The character of the students should also be shaped. And how they dress is one of them.
And Nyamewaa and her feminist colleagues should think deeply before calling me a chauvinist. I am not against feminism. Feminism is a noble cause. It is a cause that should be championed by men as well. The energy of feminism should, however, be directed towards worthy enterprises. The current trend of projecting waywardness as feminism is a disincentive to those who want to join the fight to liberate women from discrimination and oppression.
Did I hear someone who determines what is waywardness and what is a worthy feminine cause? Common sense does. Here’s an example.
When Julia Roberts made her first ever appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, she defiantly walked the red carpet barefoot. The reason was that organisers of the programme had said the previous year that women must wear high heels to the ceremony.
Before Kim Kardashian left the stage after receiving an award at the Webbys in May this year, she said, ‘Nude selfies until I die!’
The two women said they were making feminists statements.
And let me state, for the umpteenth time for whoever cares to listen, that the promotion of female nudity is a way of degrading women. That is not women empowerment. And our so-called feminists should get it. Women are not sex objects. The reason commercial sex workers dress the way they do is that they want whoever sees them to think about sex. They dress to advertise their product – sex. Women are as intelligent and capable as their male counterparts. They should not be walking about advertising sex. They should be encouraged to flaunt their brains, not boobs. The so-called feminists should speak up against the practice where male artistes dress decently and feature practically naked women in music videos.
When the Black Queens returned from a tournament with a gold trophy and were refused their bonuses, we did not hear from the feminists. Ghana’s female Under 17 national team faced a lot of mistreatment in the just ended world tournament in Jordan. I am yet to hear the feminists fight for them. Each day, thousands of women and girls who have been reduced to beasts of burdens, carry loads in the markets and lorry stations and are abused. The feminists do not seem to care about their plight. They have not mobilized themselves into a force that compels government to take serious steps to help the unfortunate ones.
The only time you hear feminists shout louder than thunder is when a woman’s nudity is criticised or somebody prominent makes a statement they consider demeaning to women. It is good to condemn stereotypical comments but that is not where feminism ends. Sometimes, their strongest defense is that morality, character and decency are subjective and should not be cited in any intellectual discourse.
I will like to end by reminding such people about what Tiger Woods said when the sex scandal that sank his career broke. At a press conference where the guilt-stricken super successful and super rich sportsman apologised to the world, Tiger Woods said:
“I once heard, and I believe it’s true, it’s not what you achieve in life that matters; it’s what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really counts.”
If you want to know how true this statement is, note this: Tiger Woods was ranked the World’s Number One golfer. In May this year, he was ranked 508th.
Character and decency are what really counts!
The writer is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7FM. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org