A controversial choice of Freshers’ Week bop theme has raised some eyebrows at Keble and around the University.
“Gypsy Bop”, which the Keble Entz Officers called “a celebration of cultural diversity”, was viewed by some as overstepping the line of what is acceptable.
“It’s not the most sensitive choice of theme, is it?” remarked one second-year Historian. “It can easily lead to gypsy and traveller culture being taken as something of a joke.”
Keble’s JCR has defended its decision to hold a gypsy-themed bop, releasing a statement saying that the “theme, decorations and publication of the party were taken with positivity and creativity.”
The bop was advertised with a passage that read, “We are the last generation, a sacred tribe, where university life is still cheap and bountiful. We must make hay while the sun of this Indian Summer shines! Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands… Come with us! Cast off your materialism! Dance, make merry, eat by the fire of our youth and revel.”
It appears that Gypsy Bop was widely referred to as the “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” Bop, taking cue from the Channel 4 documentary which looked at the lives of gypsies and travellers in Britain today.
One Keble student, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Cherwell, “My first reaction to the theme was how does one dress like a gypsy?”
The source claimed that most Keble students reacted sensibly to the theme, saying, “Most people managed to undertake the theme in vaguely good taste, for instance dressing as Esmerelda, essentially ignoring the “Big Fat” part of the theme, so your average Keblite isn’t at fault.”
However, he criticised the insensitivity of the organisers, saying, “What is shocking is that no one involved in choosing the theme even asked whether this might be considered offensive. After all, gypsies are a distinct cultural and even ethnic group. Perhaps an analogy would be to have a ‘dress-like-a-Jew bop’, something people hopefully would have realised was offensive.
He also claimed that some students did not behave appropriately in response to the theme, claiming that “the fact that some people took the instruction ‘dress like a gypsy’ to mean turn up in wifebeaters with beer stains on them perhaps shows the level of insensitivity”.
This is not the first time Oxford bop or party themes that have been accused of being politically incorrect. Cherwell has previously reported on a “Cross-Gender bop” at St Anne’s, students ‘blacking up’ for Univ’s “Safari bop,” and the University Rugby Club’s “Bring a Fit Jew” night.
The Keble bop has reignited the debate over how much organizers of such events should sacrifice creative freedom for purposes of cultural sensitivity.
“As long as it’s not done in a derogatory way, I don’t see the problem with it,” said a History and Politics second year.
Hubert McGreevy, former president of the Newman Society, Oxford’s oldest Roman Catholic organisation, has been previously quoted as saying, “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.”
Cherwell’s source at Keble explained the choice of theme as being “probably all due to the fact that unlike most other ethnic groups, there are no gypsies and Keble, and indeed no one at Keble is likely to have interacted with gypsies at all, hence why nobody even really stopped to think that the theme could be offensive.
“Inevitably people will hide behind the ‘it was a joke’ defence, but I wonder if people would believe them as much if they had targeted a different ethnic group, that people were more used to defending.”
The Keble Entz Officers maintain that the purpose of the bop was not to laugh at Gypsies, but rather to embrace the positive aspects of their culture. They told students, “Tar us not with the brush of discrimination, but strip off your clothes steeped in materialism, throw them to the floor and dance with us, naked and euphoric. Peace and love, Keble Entz.”
In other bop-related news, rumours have been flying around Univ following its Freshers’ Week fancy dress party at which two freshers were taken to hospital for alcohol-related reasons.
Professor Michael Collins, Dean of University College, told Cherwell that “no student was detained in hospital,” in response to a report that the freshers in question had been admitted.
There has been much speculation as to what the college’s response to this incident will be.
“I do not feel it appropriate to comment further on matters that are still under consideration; the College always take incidents such as those that occurred last weekend with the utmost seriousness,” said Professor Collins.