Controversial “drag” bop at Robinson College: Offensive or political correctness gone mad?

#boycottbop2016 anyone?

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At Robinson, we take our bops very seriously. But has the Ents team taken it too far this time? Last Friday, the Ents officers made the controversial decision to put on a ‘drag’ themed bop, which divided opinion within the college.

While most colleges limit the number of bops to one or two a term, Robinson students are privileged enough to enjoy a weekly bop night. Every week the Ents team gets everyone buzzing with the promise of cheap alcohol and an excruciatingly cheesy theme. These themes are usually irrelevant. On Hawaiian night there is the occasional straw hat floating around somewhere and some sweaty topless students, obviously revelling in the opportunity to bear all.

Last week saw a storm in our Grange Road paradise. The Robinson Ents officers Will Scott and Ben Morris decided to follow the tradition of previous years and have a “drag” themed bop.  Both the president of Robinson College Student Association and the LGBT+ officer questioned the “appropriateness” of the theme and an email was then sent round, encouraging Robinsonians to reflect on “the context and history of drag”.

The email went on to point out that while people should obviously be able to explore their gender identity or sexuality, “most people going to the bop are in a privileged position to be able to play with gendered clothing.”

Opinions were divided. Words like “transphobic” and “ignorant” were bandied around, but some members of college questioned how offensive the theme actually was. Perhaps it was a celebration of drag? Was the negative response just another example of Cambridge political correctness gone mad?

I went along to canvass some opinion. One fresher said, “I feel like the controversy surrounding this bop conflated being transgender with ‘dragging up’ and forgot that gender identity and cross-dressing are two entirely different things that can interact with and exist apart from each other freely.”

“Drag” bop back in 2015

But many students worried about the potentially damaging impact it could have on Robinson’s community. One student said, “Drag is not just something you should just turn up as- that would be dishonesty”.

One second-year student suggested that “While drag has become a part of LGBT+ culture as a means of self-expression and gender exploration, the majority of people in the college are cisgender. We should be aware that as drag has become more popular many people, if not the majority of people in the trans community, have spoken out against drag saying that they find it offensive and dangerous, so we have no real right to tell them otherwise.”

The consensus from most students was that if someone from a minority group found the theme offensive, the bop shouldn’t go ahead. “A lot of people will say that’s political correctness and that our generation is afraid of really challenging anything in case someone gets offended, but I think here it’s the exact opposite”, Laura Prince, history fresher, said.

She went on to point out that “There’s a prejudice surrounding the trans queer community right now where cis people only accept people willing to ‘pass’ as the gender they identify with, so we need to have conversations like this in order to challenge ideas like that.”

The more politically apathetic amongst the students shrugged their shoulders, and one joked, “as long as it’s not breaking the RCSA constitution”, it’s all good.

Go hard or go home?

However, the dissenting views echoing around the red brick walls were quelled this week by the Rainbow Robinson Bop. The fantastically cheesy music and general rainbow cheer meant this bop had the highest attendance in recent history. There was an actual queue snaking out of the bop room, almost reminiscent of Wednesday Cindies. Students from other colleges eagerly presented their IDs and five-pound notes as they approached the door, desperate for entry into this highly coveted event.

LGBT+ officer, Matt Kite, seemed to suggest there was no animosity or division between him and the Ents officers, saying, “the Ents Officers and I were thrilled at the response to the annual Rainbow Robinson Bop. The event aims to celebrate the diversity of the Robinson College community, which is a source of pride to me and many other members of the college.”

Matt went on to say, “I would attribute the success of the bop to its positive and inclusive aim which proved attractive to a large number of people.” The contrast between the two bops couldn’t have been clearer. The first seemed to be divisive while the second brought the student community together. So the question is, should the “drag” bop theme tradition be carried on next year?

As everyone was leaving on Friday evening, one guy in a trendy rainbow coloured shirt turned to me in a state of euphoria (perhaps due to his partial inebriation) and declared, “every bop is fucking awesome”. I’m not sure everyone would agree, but there is no doubt that the past two weeks have definitely increased the buzz around the usually mundane Robbo bops.

We can’t wait to see what the theme is next week.