Vincent’s Club, whose membership is all-male and overwhelmingly made up of Oxford Blues, has recently voted against the admission of their female Blue counterparts as full members.
The club, informally known in the sporting community as ‘Vinnie’s’, has recently released a statement covering the details of this consultation. The consultation was launched after the establishment of the V150 project, which was established in 2013 as a review of several aspects of the club and its administration. The project coincided with the club’s 150th anniversary. It was decided that there should be a consultation of members and alumni on whether the word “male” should be removed from the club’s constitution, thus allowing women to become Vincent’s members.
Currently, to access the club, any non-member must be invited as the guest of a Vincent’s member; however, members of Atalanta’s Club, a similar society for female Blues, have full access to the King Edward Street clubhouse.
The decision was made by both alumni of Vincent’s Club, consisting of around 5000 members, and residential members, of whom there are about 150. The statement regarding the vote, which was jointly issued by the committees of both Vincent’s and Atalanta’s, includes a breakdown of the vote.
According to the statement, “695 alumni members gave their opinion: 12% abstained, most saying it is up to the resident members to decide. 25.5% were against deleting the word “male” from the Constitution, and 62.5% alumni members were of the opinion that change should occur.” With regard to the residential members, a majority of resident members voted to remove the word “male”. However, in both cases, the barrier to female membership could not be removed because there was not the two-thirds majority support which is required for a constitutional change.
The statement continues, “In addition, Vincent’s Club consulted Atalanta’s as part of this process. Atalanta’s members expressed the view that they would rather Atalanta’s remained as the sole club representing women’s sport in Oxford. Vincent’s and Atalanta’s will continue to maintain their close relationship and women will continue to be welcome to enjoy the Vincent’s clubhouse.”
However the vote has met with a mixed response among the Oxford sporting community. The Oxford University Netball club told Cherwell,”As the only female-only sports club in Oxford, OU Netball Club believe that Vincent’s membership should not discriminate on the basis of gender and that women should be able to be members of Vincent’s club, should they meet the ‘social, sporting and intellectual’ criteria for membership. Having our options restricted because we are women is NOT gender-equality. As frequent users of Vincent’s Club space, OU Netball Club were deeply shocked and disappointed to hear that the vote did not pass. We honestly believed that there was no tolerance in modern-day institutions for gender-based assumptions, exclusions and segregation.
“Many of the men who voted against removing the stipulation of ‘male’ from Vincent’s membership requirements appear to have done so based primarily on the belief that it was not wanted by Atalanta’s Club, representative of the views of sportswomen of Oxford. OU Netball Club wish to make clear that the Atalanta’s position on the admission of women to Vincent’s Club is not an adequate nor accurate representation of the views of sportswomen in Oxford. Atalanta’s represents only 7.8% of sportswomen in Oxford and there are women’s Full Blue sports who have no Atalanta’s members at all.
“The outcome of the Vincent’s Club vote has reaffirmed the institutionalised sentiment within Vincent’s Club that women (or anyone who identifies as anything other than ‘male’) are not welcome, wanted, or worthy of Vincent’s Club membership. It is deeply disturbing that one of the strongest opponents of Vincent’s Club membership becoming open to women was from Atalanta’s, a club set up to strive for the equality of women’s sport in Oxford University. The extent to which this influenced the outcome of the vote remains unclear.
“OU Netball Club are, and will remain, committed to promoting gender-equality and decry the upholding of institutionalised sexism at Oxford University.”
Rosie Barker, Women’s Lacrosse Blue and a student at St Catherine’s College, also commented on the decision, remarking,Â “I think people aren’t really giving their opinions [on women’s membership of Vincent’s] because we are all quite divided on what should happen. I think we could just concentrate on making Atalanta’s a stronger club and have some integration with Vinnie’s. Equally, there should be equality between the sexes in sport and therefore I do think it is bad that the men’s club have voted essentially against this principle.”