This week, the Vincent’s Club, a drinking club for male Oxford Blues, held a vote on whether to remove the word ‘male’ from its constitution, the premise being that this would then allow female members to join. This motion did not obtain the necessary two-thirds majority, and therefore it remains that only men may be Vinnie’s members, seemingly a step in the wrong direction for equality in sport. This is not the case.
To accept women into Vinnie’s would only increase any potential inequality in Oxford sport. Some of those who have supported a potential move to include women in Vinnie’s have argued that to have a drinking society in Oxford that is only open to male members is sexist and antiquated. However, this completely ignores the existence of Atalanta’s, Vinnies’ female equivalent. Atalanta’s is only open to women, and therefore both women and men have equal opportunities to join sports-related drinking societies. This motion to allow women to join Vinnie’s would have far more depth had Atalanta’s not existed.
One of the primary arguments against the motion is that it would have rendered Atalanta’s obsolete. The fear espoused by many, was that women would flock to Vinnie’s, and there would be therefore no customers for Atalanta’s. A competition for members between the two clubs would arise where none had existed before. As the purpose of both clubs is very similar, there would almost certainly be a competition, not only for members, but also perhaps for existence. Vinnie’s could replace Atalanta’s as the centre of female sporting life, as the default place for lunches, nights out and celebrations.
The reason that the current relationship between Vinnie’s and Atalanta’s works is that both clubs occupy their own unique niches, with minimal competition between them. If Vinnie’s had voted to admit women, it would have the immediate upper hand over Atalanta’s as it would allow men and women. This is especially true for their relationships with sports teams or clubs in Oxford that have both male and female members, such as hockey or now rugby. The position in Oxford life occupied by Atalanta’s would have been absorbed by Vinnie’s, had Vinnie’s admitted women.
Worse than that, there would be a female drinking society that men were barred from joining, with no equivalent, thereby discriminating against male Blues. The beauty of the current situation is that both male and female Blues have the opportunity to join their own society, societies that have considerable links between each other, and the passing of this motion would have destroyed this balance. If the matter were about increasing equality in sport, and in Oxford in general, surely Atalantas should admit male members as well?
The current situation of sporting drinking clubs promotes far more equality in sport than a Vinnies open to all would, and it should remain this way.