Firstly an apology for a rather long absence, as a Masters student I am currently looking anxiously forward to an approaching decision: to academia or not to academia? Having resolved my own identity crisis and decided to academia I have been spending the last month frantically drafting a research proposal for PhD funding.
Anyway, have you seen this article by Laura Bates, for The Independent?
Surprising right… well aspects of it. I mean we’ve all seen advertisements for themed nights on campus so… NO! Stop right there because this should be very, very, very surprising. Even appalling. That’s pretty clear, neither men nor women should be happy with this state of affairs. Now this article is from October 2012 however Glamour magazine has recently raised the issue of on campus “misogyny” once again based upon findings from their own surveys. In any case this topic will never truly be out of date since there will be another bundle of first year students waiting in line, rearing to go through their own Freshers’ experience in September/October this year, and the next, ad infinitum…
But the inclusion of dressing-up into this scenario I find particularly interesting, and worthy of consideration. The examples used (“Rappers and Slappers”, “Slag and Drag”, “CEOs and Corporate Hoes” and “Pimps and Hoes”) seem like harmless fun however looked at from another perspective these are dangerous in the worst possible way; they require complicity. Students attending these parties are adopting certain personas (communicated in the way that they dress), in other words by fulfilling the requirements of the events they seem to be implicitly stating not only that they are adopting these roles but that they are doing so willingly; and that this ought to, for some reason, be fun.
Students really ought to question any group or University society that encourages them to dress up in a way that might be viewed as derogatory. I’m not judging any particular group it just seems to me that, since “Slag” is rarely used to convey one’s respect for the women in question, it may be healthier for female and male students to exercise greater caution when deciding whether or not to dress to suit certain labels. I’m not entirely sure how respectful being termed a “Pimp” can ever be towards a man, and in any case we can probably be sure that the point of these events is that partygoers seek to create the most shocking, and probably worst, stereotype they can call to mind. My point is this, what we have not lined up here is an event where guests are likely to be respectful to one another.
I suspect that the anonymity permitted by a fresh start at university and the transient identity afforded by dressing up causes both parties to act out of character, and the inclusion of alcohol probably doesn’t hurt either… I’m sure in many instances this can lead to a fun night where nobody takes themselves to seriously; after all its very reminiscent of the old tradition of Carnival, where the world turns itself upside down for the day and individuals are free to experiment with unexplored dimensions of their personality. Dressing up sexily could be part of that; but there’s a difference between choosing to do so on a normal night out and electing to do so at an event where you are explicitly playing the part of a “Slapper”. Furthermore there’s nothing wrong with dressing how you like but it might be worth bearing in mind that, in an age of Facebook and other social media, any resulting pictures might be out there for potential employers (or worse, your mum) to see.
Students, whether male or female, and in whatever year. In fact scratch that, everyone everywhere really needs to think hard about whether these are the kind of events that should continue, given the behaviors and attitudes they seem to propagate. I’m sure (I certainly hope) that the extreme cases described in Laura Bates’ article are exceptions to a general rule of mutual respect and consent however it seems more pertinent than ever that students pay particular attention to how they conduct themselves on nights out, and that they stay safe. Being selective about what events you attend is also important but, more than anything, our attitudes need to change because no one should have to endure a situation in which they feel devalued or objectified; and that rule applies to men and women.