The Oxford Student Union’s Inclusive Policy for Events has received media attention for banning offensive Bop themes, such as ‘Vicars and Tarts’ or ‘Cowboys and Indians’.
The policy states that: “highly sexualised themes can have distressing impacts on marginalised communities” and highlights the problematic nature of gendered bop themes which can leave nonbinary students feeling alienated, as well putting both male and female students in “a highly objectified and/or sexualised role”.
Bop themes which involve drag are also addressed by the policy. Regarding college bops, the SU states that: “attendees shouldn’t seek to dress as another gender for the purposes of ridicule or to make light of the experiences of people of that gender.”
However, the policy does not seek to ban all events which involve drag themes; the policy also notes that: “students should not be restricted from dressing in drag in a way which expresses themselves or to demonstrate admiration for individuals. If handled sensitively, themes that involve drag have the potential to be friendly and positive for all students.”
The SU also warn against cultural appropriation in bops, stating that events with themes such as ‘Cowboys and Indians’ or ‘Arabian Nights’ often leave BAME or international students feeling excluded and mocked.
‘Fox hunts’ and ‘pimps and hoes’ were also labelled as potentially offensive themes.
The policy was brought in through motion at student council in Trinity term of 2011, and was updated and renewed in 2014 and 2017. However, papers like The Sun and The Telegraph have been reporting on the policy more recently. This has sparked controversy from the public, with one individual commenting “lefties, sucking the joy out of everyday life”, and another “leisure is being destroyed by these snowflakes who thinks everything offends people” on The Sun’s post.
However, the policy page is headed by the statement that: “This advice does not seek to repress student self-expression through the clothing they choose to wear but is here to help everyone feel able to have a good time”.
Róisín McCallion, Vice President of Welfare and Equal Opportunities at the SU told Cherwell that the council had shown “ongoing support” for the policy and added: “whilst I have been in role, we have never received any backlash [for the policy]”