Don’t scream about the theme


The tribal theme is not an open invitation to dress insensitively, says Tab editor Matt McDonald

Along with extra layers, dodgy moustaches and crazed Devonian brutes charging through the streets with flaming tar barrels, what really defines November for us here at Exeter is hype. Hype around the event we all wait for more than Christmas, birthdays and Halloween rolled into one: the Safer Sex Ball.

Following the 10 November announcement of the tribal theme, various points of view have been bandied about the Internet, threatening the very composition of the ball that is one of FHM’s “top things to do before you die”. The comments section of the Tab alone reveals punters who feel the theme is “another opportunity to black up” or “probably the most racist thing I have ever seen put on by a University sanctioned institution.” A campaign group formed against the “racist safer sex ball theme” emerged on Facebook on Thursday.

Are the Safer Sex Ball Committee and the Students’ Guild racist for allowing this to be signed off as the theme? Of course not. While the word “tribal” is anthropologically problematic, it does not in and of itself have overwhelming racial connotations.

As someone with Irish parentage, I am a descendant of a Celtic tribe. As a McDonald, I am a member of a Scottish clan. Were I to assume the dress of either of these anthropological groups, would I be making a racially derogatory statement? No. I’d be staying true to my heritage.

Admittedly, we are an overwhelmingly white university, and therefore some of us may struggle to be as tolerant of other cultures as those in a more diverse part of the country. But as we know from their press release back in February, the Guild do not condone blacking up. I don’t believe for one second that the words “tribal” and “blackface” are interchangeable. Daisy Buchanan’s range at this year’s New York Fashion week were “tribal-themed”, and I didn’t see a single minstrel on the catwalk.

This is clearly not an open invitation from Rag for a minority of students to dress in a culturally insensitive fashion. We’re an intellectual, free-thinking academic body who hopefully knows for itself what is and isn’t socially acceptable. If anything, I feel that we need a stronger anti-racist stance from the SSB Committee.

Keep the theme, for all it matters: in my experience, not many people choose to adhere to it sartorially anyway. But why not clear up this mess with a single statement: if you are dressed in a way that is culturally insensitive, be it blackface or otherwise, you will not be getting through the door. That way, we can all have the safe, sexy and inoffensive night that we all know and love.

@mattjpfmcdonald
  • Leila

    Why is this girl trying to ruin a charity event over something that isn't even worth talking about?? And I stress the charity part. People are just reading into it too much…stop it it's stupid.

Get the best of The Tab on our app.

Exeter University student jailed after sexual assault

He used his phone to watch clips with titles such as ‘He made this cute girl cry’

, Exeter Editor of The Tab

Clubbers of the Week

Was it a messy one then, hun?

Everything that happened at Hijacked 2016

Does anyone have spare gum?

, Assistant Editor

Music festivals on terror alert

Nightclubs and festivals are both at risk of Isis suicide attacks

, Features Editor

Everything Mizz magazine taught us about life in our twenties

Mum thought Sugar and Bliss were too sexy

Review: The best supermarket gin and tonic tins

Because there’s more to life than Gordon’s

and

NUS disaffiliation: The story so far

Three SUs have voted to disaffiliate and three have to remain

The best cheap supermarket prosecco, according to a wine expert

‘This one tastes like it’s been left in the fridge for a week’

, TabTv producer, The Tab Trent

How to be single

There’s an art to it