“Halifax get your trackies, Burberry and caps ready and James crack out your top hats, canes and monacles for a night of HALIFAX V JAMES rivalry!”
Thus kicked off last night’s ‘Chavs v Toffs’ social – which went largely unnoticed until the last moment. It was an event which seems to be just the latest in a worrying trend at York – that of holding socials designed to laugh at other people’s expense, to parody the poor, and to reinforce stereotypes. The obvious points about why it was daft don’t need to be raised in detail. The Jonesian ‘demonization of the working-class’ is a pretty well-known feature in modern society now.
I won’t feign offence. Frankly, I would be surprised if many people were actively insulted by last night’s idiotic get-together . After all there were no complaints until campus media picked it up. Checking my privilege for a second, I’m from a council flat background, so would technically fit into the ‘offendee’ category. But that’s not the point. It is the fact that no one complained that makes it all the more disturbing.
Because it means one thing. We’ve gotten used to York being a hot-bed of embarrassment. Events which make us look, to the outside world, just damn stupid.
I’m not just talking about ‘Chavs v Toffs’, either – after all, the same event apparently passed unnoticed last year. I’m talking about ‘blacking up’ as Jamaicans too. This story made front pages across the world, including in Jamaica.
This is what the rest of the world now thinks when they see York – kids running amok perpetuating racist and classist ‘traditions’ for fun.
Remember the Tory ‘Fox v Hounds’ social? The one where women were told to dress as foxes, to be chased by the male society members around York on something of an unconventional hunt. Yet the event seemed to draw more attention from the on-campus animal welfare lobby than from feminists. Feminism appears to be a dirty word at this university.
So in the space of a few months we’ve had potentially racist caricatures, almost sexist Tory gatherings and now ‘Chavs v Toffs’.
Of course, it’s wrong to oppose these merely on the grounds that it creates a PR problem for York. They’re also pretty pathetic and insulting. But we must recognise that when we hit headlines in the Mirror, Daily Mail and other nationals for something that isn’t positive we’ve got a problem.
That we’ve gotten used to this is the saddest fact of all. Fix up, York.