OUSU Council passed a motion on Wednesday which noted that gender based themes, such as “vicars and tarts, fox hunts and pimps and hoes” can be upsetting to students who do not identify with traditional gender roles.
The motion highlighted such gender related themes as a “welfare issue” on the grounds that they “stereotype men and women in highly objectified and/or sexualised roles”.
Katherine Terrell, OUSU Women’s Officer, proposed the motion. She said, “This came out of listening closely to students, many of whom care greatly about inclusivity and sensitivity but wanted guidance on how to deliver successful events, while taking welfare into account.”
St Anne’s college held a cross-gender themed bop to celebrate thirty years of being made a co-educational college.
Beth McKernan, a second year at St Anne’s, said, “The bop was done with the right intentions: we were celebrating sexual inclusivity in the context of mixed sex education, which is the exact opposite of excluding anyone.”
St Peter’s has an annual cross-gender themed bop. Hubert MacGreevy, a finalist at St Peter’s, said “I can’t see what people would find offensive about cross-dressing. I have dressed up as a girl before; If you can’t do wacky things when you are an undergraduate when can you?
“The guys who run OUSU aren’t stupid – I don’t know what they base all these politically correct motions on.”
However, others are more sympathetic to OUSU’s stance. A first year LGBT rep said, “I can understand why someone would find that kind of thing offensive. There is a difference between a bop that is themed to be particularly offensive to a minority and a generically themed bop which people can interpret how they want.”
This is not the first time Oxford’s bop and party themes have come under fire. In the past, Cherwell has reported on students ‘blacking up’ to Univ’s Safari Bop and the University Rugby Club’s ‘Bring a Fit Jew’ night.
One first year English student who recently attended a Bible Bop dressed as the ‘Spear of Destiny’, wearing a bejazzled t-shirt which read, “I’ve penetrated Jesus and he’s a very naughty boy”, said, “I suppose the whole point of a bop and costumes is that its supposed to be slightly tongue in cheek rather than purposefully controversial”.
MacGreevy, who is a former president of the Newman Society, an Oxford University Catholic Society, said, “It is right and important to be sensitive about costumes and themes which mock gender, religion and race. I may find some costumes distasteful, but I would not want to infringe students’ liberties.’
The motion gives OUSU’s recommendations on the matter of cross gender bops, but is not binding to JCRs. Terrell said, “OUSU can give guidance…especially to give voice to minority groups, such as trans students, who may not have a big say in common room environments.”