Varsity EmBEDded In PCC Storm

Cambridge’s Feminist Society were outraged by Varsity’s ‘How to … Bed a Bedder’ article, and plan on writing to the Press Complaints Commission.

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A Varsity article about bedding bedders has provoked fury for being “misogynistic”, “exceptionally patronising”, and “completely inappropriate”, with FemSoc threatening to report the paper to the PCC.

Clare Mohan, President of Cambridge’s Feminist Society, told The Tab: “The woman who notified me of the complaint to the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) … is not a member of the Feminist Society, though there are others within my membership who are considering writing to the PCC.”

Last Friday saw a very thin issue of Varsity attempt satire by including an article titled ‘How to … Bed a Bedder’, which included handy hints such as:

– “Put up some cool posters…if you’re worried she won’t see them, chuck ’em in the bin.”

– “Lure her upstairs with a trail of pillowcases and bins.”

– Give her “a gift of flowers/ mops to take home to her inevitably distraught family.”

The article prompted Mohan to send an email to all FemSoc members asking them to take action: “It’s just not funny, thus meaning that if it’s supposed to be satirical it just fails.”

FemSoc went on to issue a complaint to Varsity, which prompted them to remove the article from their website on Tuesday morning. They later reposted the article, alongside a note from the editor:

“It has come to our attention that some people were offended by this article which is regrettable. For the avoidance of doubt, this article is one man’s attempt at satire, no bedders were bedded in the making of this feature.”

The article was removed from the website again on Tuesday evening.

Cambridge City Councillor George Owers told The Tab: “Treating bedders as mere sexual objects strikes me as not only disrespectful but also highly arrogant.”

The individual who contacted the PCC felt that the article breached Section 12 of the PCC’s Editor’s Code of Conduct: “The press must avoid prejudice of pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.”

The article in question

Alice Hancock and Lara Prendergast, Varsity‘s editors, commented: “The article ‘How to bed a bedder’ was sent to print as part of a new set of weekly satirical ‘How to’ guides. It was planned as a piece of satire and its author wrote under a pen name.

“As with all published media, everyone who reads it is entitled to their own views. Whilst we understand that satire is not a cloak to hide behind, this was not a piece intended to be taken literally. We did not mean for the article to cause any offence when it was published.

“It seems it has however, and as a result, we decided to remove it from the website to show our understanding of this and in respect of those who have found it insensitive.

“As it is not about an individual it is not in breach of PCC policy.”

Mohan explained: “We, as a society, have not yet approached the PCC – if we feel that Varsity’s response to our letter of complaint is inadequate, we will consider further action.”

Mohan listed her objections to the article:

– “it perpetuates misogynistic and unpleasant attitudes about women in general”

– it encourages “an attitude of male superiority in the whole area of sex and sexuality”

– “the whole premise of the article is one of arrogance and superiority on a class basis

– it “indicates an intense lack of respect for the people who do an incredibly valuable job”

– it “perpetuates stereotypes of male students as filthy, unpleasant, sex-crazed creatures

But, FemSoc members aren’t the only people who the article has offended. One bedder, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Tab: “I think it’s truly disgusting and exceptionally patronising.”

Sarah Peters-Harrison, CUSU’s women’s rep, declined to comment, but Cambridge Univeristy Labour Club (CULC)’s Women’s Officer, Nicola Bartlett agreed: “I was utterly bemused by Varsity‘s article which seemed misogynistic, snobbish and completely inappropriate – a stereotype of Cambridge students I had hoped was inaccurate.

“If this was an attempt at satire I have to say it failed.”

Ashley Walsh, CULC’s chair, agreed: “Funny though the farcical romantic fumblings of the Cambridge student are, the Varsity article amounts to little more than poor taste.

“While the article seems to condone arrogant displays of wealth and privilege, not to mention its outmoded sexism, it completely ignores the fact that millions of people nationwide are suffering during these difficult economic times.

“The author’s attempt to be funny and satirical has simply resulted in a sadly caricatured image of the  privileged Cambridge student.

Varsity has been entirely right to apologise for the article and to remove it from the website. I expect the author to publish a full, written apology.

City Councillor George Owers shared Walsh’s sentiments, saying: “There is clearly a class aspect to this.

“Privileged males at this university think that they are above the rest of us and have some God-given social, and apparently sexual, superiority.”

Varsity printed no apology today though, and so could face further backlash from students.