Braving the Ringtop: The Cambridge Circus

We are People, not Attractions.

You can’t have failed to notice the huge amount of media coverage The Tab has received recently. Massive outrage just because Cambridge students have decided to do something a little less pretentious, a little less stereotypical than the rest of the world would have us be. In any other university (well, except Oxford) having a tabloid edge to a student newspaper wouldn’t cause anywhere near this much controversy.

The Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Sun, all national newspapers: all felt that ‘Tab Totty’ was shocking enough to justify nationwide media coverage. Were those photos of a legal, consenting and over-age student in a bikini really so scandalous as to justify that? Hardly. I’ve seen worse on my Facebook news feed. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that its because it was a Cambridge student in the bikini.

We’re just students. Normal, almost socially acceptable teenagers doing all the things that 19 year olds like to do on a daily basis. Yes we’re at a really good university, but why do the public assume we have to be a little bit weird, or a little lacking in social skills/ human contact to be here? Walk down Kings Parade and on any given day there’s hundreds of tourists crowding the streets, desperate to catch a glimpse of the elusive ‘Cambridge Student’, often seen cycling with textbooks in the basket, hurrying back to it’s normal habitat of the library. Now Cambridge is a nice place, and obviously they’re there because they want to see all the pretty buildings too but being gawked at by tourists because you accidentally wore college stash on your “can’t be bothered to dress up jeans and hoody day” is bad for the soul, while getting photos taken of you when you’re just out running errands is surely an invasion of some privacy right.

Tourists-sure, come visit, Cambridge the town loves that; we off those red tourist buses and everything- but don’t make the students feel like circus freaks. It’s bad enough having random members of the public wandering around the colleges which, though to them are just a novelty of the university, are our homes during term time. If you actually think about it, it’s really quite bizarre to have trip groups having a nosy round where we eat, sleep and shower.

But those who make the pilgrimage down here aren’t the only ones to subscribe to the Cambridge phenomena. Google ‘Cambridge myths’ and there’s 4,130,000 results. The University’s Wikipedia page even has a separate section devoted to them. Google ‘interview myths’ and you’ll find even more. Anyone not here builds up this mythological idea to such an extent that ‘Cambridge’ stops seeming like a real place. There’s an assumption that either we’re all posh twats who join secret societies to mock anyone without a country house in Warwickshire or we’re socially incompetent nerds who though able to cite Pi to the 75th decimal can’t hold a conversation with anyone that doesn’t occur through an internet chatroom, preferably on a Dungeons and Dragons fan site. That’s all very well, but the reality is we’re a bunch of kids studying at university just like goodness knows how many other 19-21 year olds in the UK.

The stories I hear from my friends at other ‘good’ universities are usually much more shocking than Tab headlines, but just because a group of Cambridge students end up going out, getting drunk and doing something stupid one night suddenly it’s worthy of the national press. The ITV show ‘Trinity’, set at a fake Oxbridge college, is a prime example of the ridiculous fascination people have with Cambridge, and while the myths are fun, and while there are a few slightly bizarre traditions (week starting on Thursday anyone?) it’s still a normal place. And there is no legitimate reason why we should receive backlash for acting in the same way as every other university student in the UK, just because we achieved getting a place at this one. We’re not particularly special, we’re not circus freaks; we’re just people trying to live in this ever so slightly bizarre bubble of a university. So leave us be, yeah?