Trinity College students have raised concerns over the “rowdiness” of gendered JCR curry events in a recent open debate, with “offensive” songs labeled a particularly pressing issue.
The open debate was proposed by Trinity JCR President Eleanor Roberts following discussion on the JCR committee. Members resolved to vote on four motions at the next meeting. These include whether the JCR should endorse the events, whether they can be separated by gender, and whether the song ‘Chicago’ – a college song based on double entendre – should be banned.
At present, the Trinity JCR endorses BYOB curry events which are separated by gender, and occur twice each term. The men’s curries typically attract about 40-60 students, while women’s events are generally smaller.
The primary issues raised at the debate concerned the rowdy and offensive behaviour which students reported as taking place, as well as the harm in dividing such events by gender.
Questions were raised over the song “Chicago” being sung at the men’s events, with critics saying that it created an “offending and uncomfortable atmosphere”. It was also said that sconcing at the women’s events often got out of hand and that this discouraged freshers from attending.
Patrick Mulholland, a first year Theologian, commented: “There is a certain ambiance or ‘curry culture’, if you will, that verges on laddish behaviour. It’s an opportunity to let loose, to suspend some of the niceties of day-to-day conduct and be a bit rowdy.
The mood of the event, in effect, becomes something of caricature, and yes, I can see how that alienates or excludes people – particularly if you’re not a cis-gendered heterosexual male.”
The question of the impact of the gender divide proved to be more controversial, with some members appealing for the events to become gender-inclusive, whilst others argued that this would not change fundamental attitudes. A brief straw poll suggested a marginal preference against the gender divide, which was said to make an uncomfortable atmosphere for LGBTQ students.
A system with one mixed and one gender-specific curry each term in lieu of two separated ones was suggested.
Amanda Green, a second year student and entertainment rep for the JCR, condemned this gendered system as “projecting heteronormativity.”
Green continued: “The split gender system has manifested two very different looking curries which I think promotes the idea that men and women are culturally different… A mixed environment should not compromise on the fun Trinity undergraduates have.”
Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, told The OxStu that while ‘Chicago’ and some of the rowdiness could go, the current system had benefits: “I have been to and enjoyed the men’s only curries and do think there is something to be said for the all male environment, although it’s very difficult to articulate delicately what this is.”
“There are a lot of boys in Trinity, including some very good friends of mine, who really appreciate the chance for an inclusive all male environment that cuts across years and friendship groups and would feel a bit put out if it was taken away,” he continued. “While I can see arguments for why the jcr shouldn’t be endorsing such a divide, I find attacking people who feel like this as rampant sexists to be really quite unfair.”
Worries were also raised that mixed events might prove impossible due to the large numbers and limited space in restaurants.
Leander Cascorbi, Trinity’s JCR Entertainment Rep, said: “I and many other people in Trinity oppose the way curries are run at the moment, I really hope the JCR will decide to change it.”
Votes will be held in an upcoming JCR meeting. If the JCR continues to endorse curries, a ban on ‘Chicago’ is highly likely, with the future of the gender split unknown.