A motion to stop gender-segregated curry evenings at Trinity College has failed to pass, although the JCR did decide to condemn the song ‘Chicago’ that is traditionally sung at men’s curry nights. 

Trinity undergraduates have a college tradition of separate male and female curry nights twice a term, starting from Freshers’ Week.

Controversy arose over the curry evenings due to the nature of their segregation and arguments claiming that there are sexist aspects to the song ‘Chicago’.  

The first motion stated that the JCR “would condemn the song ‘Chicago’ at any JCR-affiliated curry”, and passed with 63 votes for, 30 against and 11 abstentions. 

The Presidents of the Trinity Feminist Society jointly condemned the song to Cherwell as “a very clear manifestation of the toxic ‘lad culture’ that continues to disrespect and devalue women”.

They added, “‘Chicago’ may be ‘just a bit of fun’, but to some of the women who are hearing these songs chanted as they attempt quietly to eat a meal it can be a triggering reminder of an event they haveworked so hard to forget.”

In particular, some of the lyrics that have caused offence are variations of the refrain, such as “banged she got”, “screwed she got” or “shagged she got”.

One welfare rep told Cherwell, “I don’t see anything wrong with a bit of light banter, it’s just a joke, can’t these whiny feminists see that?”

The motion urging de-segregation, which stated, “this JCR would endorse only mixed-gender curries,” failed to pass with 32 votes in favour and 61 against. there were 11 abstentions.  

The debate over the motion focused on the concept of gender-split events and whether JCR events should be as inclusive as possible or whether JCR members preferred the atmosphere specific to the gender-divided curries.

The issue of the split was also questioned due to the problems or damage it could cause to someone of a non-binary gender. In the JCR meeting, Crawford Jamieson pointed out that he felt it was wrong to send the message to new students in Freshers’ Week that they must choose a gender in deciding which event to go to.

A member of Trinity FemSoc told Cherwell, “I think the concept of male/female curries is incredibly damaging. It reinforces the structural gender divide that hinders the progression of gender equality, and creates an ‘us vs them’ attitude that fuels sexist, cultish behaviour.

JCR President Eleanor Roberts commented, “The curries have long been a tradition at Trinity aimed at welcoming new students into a close-knit community, and providing an opportunity for people of different years and subjects to socialise together. They have been organised by the JCR in order to be as socially inclusive as possible.

“However, as the curry motions attest, recently there have been concern on two fronts, that the content and the structure of the curries may be exclusive and failing to provide the open social platform intended.

“The singing of the song ‘Chicago’ was a part of this issue. In light of these discussions, the curry motions were brought before the JCR to get a representation of the student opinion on the subject. As I have said, I can’t comment on the outcome of the motions, only that they are the result of this debate.”

Second year English student Thea Murray-Jones commented, “Whilst the existence of gendered curries may not be toxic in and of itself, it points to the existence of a culture of heteronormativity within College. I am therefore disappointed with the results of the JCR meeting last Sunday, because it led to the JCR continuing to lend its name to an event which embodies outdated and cisgendered notions about gender.”

Aliya Yule, OUSU Women’s Officer, commented, “WomCam stands in solidarity with Trinity’s feminism society’s president, and the proposers of the motions. That a welfare rep – who is in a position to care about the well-being of all Trinity students – would dismiss students’ concerns because ‘it’s just a bit of light banter’ is false, offensive, unacceptable, and jeopardizes the wellbeing of all women students at Trinity.

“Dismissing those who voice their disgust at a misogynistic song as ‘whiny feminists’ shows their disregard for the welfare of women students at the college. Moreover, gender segregated events are at serious risk of alienating trans students and reinforcing a damaging gender binary, yet alone encouraging a toxic masculinity of men students who sing the song ‘Chicago’.”