Why fancy dress is ruining York’s reputation

In response to Gary Holland’s argument that these fancy dress events won’t cause real friction within our University, Josiah comments that it is in fact our lack of interest in their impact which is ruining York’s reputation

“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.


  1. Which York Tories Chairman are you attributing that quote to?

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  2. I’m pretty sure the blacking up story didn’t make ‘front pages’ across the world. I think you mean national media – which it did, though as far as I know chiefly online news agencies.

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  3. The issue seems to be that some people at York care too much (or are too easily offended to put it bluntly). There are three students newspapers (including The Yorker in that lose term) that compete with each other for “stories” – point in case being that nobody gave a rat’s arse about the Chavs v Toffs event until it was picked up, and I doubt many people actually cared after they found out.

    You say it’s “the fact that no one complained that makes it all the more disturbing” – does it really? A group of people having some light hearted fun, as happens at universities up and down the country, and not causing direct offence to anyone.

    I’ve seen no real evidence that York’s reputation is being badly damaged as you suggest (please show me otherwise), and our lack of interest in their impact stems from the fact that there shouldn’t really be an impact. If it wasn’t for student media jumping on it then: a) not many people would know about it in the first place, and b) nobody would have to feign offence to get a byline.

    I’m no fan of the York Tories but I’m not surprised they announced the event was cancelled to get people off their backs before running it anyway, and with – shock horror – no real-world implications caused by it.

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  4. With exception to the Cool Runnings incident, these fancy dress socials have only offended a small minority who have been vocal enough to make it seem like a lot more people are offended. One of those offended by chavs v toffs hasn’t even been a student at York for 18 months and has no right to lobby YUSU like she did.

    I think it is best described as a storm in a teacup.

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  5. In relation to one comment in the article, I’m pleased to say that there is a significant overlap between the university’s feminist and animal liberation students.

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  6. Could Josiah please clarify which Tory Chairman this is attributed to?

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  7. When did Nouse turn into Vision?

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  8. Hi Josiah,
    The quote you attribute to a York Tories Chairman is, in fact, from me during my first year at York when we spammed campus with satirical posters in order to annoy lefties. These posters had nothing to do with the stereotyping you decry in your article. They did, however, annoy lefties so I guess it was a job well done.
    I wasn’t even Chairman then, Vision failed to get it right too:

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  9. 21 Jan ’14 at 4:44 pm

    Would the real York Tories Chairman, please stand up.

    It appears the author has absolutely no idea who he has been attributing quotes too.

    I would argue, in the alternative, that such shoddy journalism is ruining York’s reputation.

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  10. Wow. This is shocking journalism and Nouse should be ashamed of themselves. Using a quote from 2011 to comment on an event in 2013 in 2014 is utter madness. The anonymous tipster stating the Foxhunting event went ahead as planned is totally untrue. How about some honesty Josiah? Admit you lied to make this shambles of a piece seem even vaguely passable.

    A shameful piece from a wannabe journalist who wouldn’t even get a job at the old News of the World.

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  11. I wouldn’t be surprised if York Tories sued Josiah over this, he used a very old quote out of context and he lied about their fox hunting social going ahead. He should at least apologise.

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  12. My mistake on the York Tory chair quote, and my complete apologies to Phil! Wrote the article quickly, and in the process stupidly took the quote from an article I thought was related but in fact wasn’t. Can only apologise again.

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  13. Josiah – What about claiming the social went ahead? Or can you not apologise for that because it means admitting you lied in the article? You apologise to Phil for the quote and not the people whose reputation you’ve damaged?

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  14. 22 Jan ’14 at 12:26 am

    Vision flunky

    I’m sure Nouse leadership will be happy to hear their hacks are copy-and-pasting indiscriminately from Vision articles…

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  15. Hi Emma,

    I’ve completely apologised to Phil both here and directly to him, but re. the social allegedly going ahead – the (now deleted) line was ‘sources I’ve spoken to tell me the social continued as planned’. I did speak to people who claimed they saw the social going ahead, although I can’t of course verify whether they were telling me the truth or not.

    Either way I’m happy that both lines have been deleted now to clear up the matter, particularly if the people I spoke to were indeed lying to me or misinformed. Hope this clears it up!


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  16. As noted in Anwen Baker’s article on the cancellation of the Fox vs Hounds social, feminists were most definitely involved! The quote cited by the Tory Chair was a joke made on the article when it was shared to the page. (As it was taken out of context and misused, however, it has since led to the Feminists’ page becoming a closed group.)

    The issue was noticed and taken up by the Women’s Reps because, well, representing women as prey is not cool in any situation. There’s really no need for costumed events to involve stereotyping at all, when there are unlimited alternatives.

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