What you might not understand about ‘chav-themed’ nights

Let me break it down for you

Earlier this year there was uproar when students from Scotland’s Rural College’s Edinburgh campus went on a ‘neds and nerds’ themed pub crawl. They were clad in track suits, caps, fake chains and of course, the statement chav piece, gold hoops.

A few weeks ago the Bristol Cheerleading Society had to change the theme of their ‘chav themed social’ after students and the SU argued that they were appropriating working class culture.

And, tonight, Why Not is hosting their “legendary” chav-themed night, offering people the chance to win £100 for the ‘best dressed chav’.

Nights such as these, like last years ‘bloods v crips’ night at Liquid Rooms, aren’t always condemned. Some people see them as harmless fun, and their participation isn’t always malicious.

However, this is usually because they aren’t fully aware of what the terms mean, or that below the surface their common use has solid implications for whole swathes of society.

While the word ‘chav’ may conjure up images of Vicky Pollard, teen pregnancy, and gold chains, and the word ‘ned’ images of wee teens who wear hoodies and drink buckfast, they actually have much more insidious meanings and uses.

First off, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘chav’ as “a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes”. It’s also been used as an acronym for ‘council housed and violent.’

Similarly, in Scotland, ‘ned’ is short for ‘non-educated delinquent’.

These terms have been banded about for years and they have been used, especially by the media, to stereotype and dehumanise the working class, making them out to be an ‘underclass’ who are housed in council estates and ‘live off benefits’.

And, if the meaning and use of the words is not enough to convince you of their offence, maybe the context that they are currently being said in will.

At Edinburgh University, not only do these words maintain a stereotype of the working class more suited to the Victorian era, but they’re also being used in an environment where thirty per cent of the student body have been privately educated.

Therefore in 2016, at a university that has one of the biggest percentages of middle and upper class students, tonight there will be people dressed up as ‘the lower class’ just for fun.

In 2014, we wrote about how Why Not’s chav-themed night wasn’t a good thing, and it’s apparent that other students feel the same.

Third year, Rhianne said: “Capitalising on a ‘chav’ night is definitely in bad taste, but I don’t think the intent behind it is malicious. I just don’t think people get how it’s construed and pretty demeaning to people from lesser privileged backgrounds.”

Helena, a second year, said: “I think it’s insulting and is just living up to the ugly stereotype of Edinburgh being full of the rich elite who look down on anyone who didn’t go to private school. It’s so unfortunate to see as I, as someone who went to not a very well off state school in the north of England, have actually found Edinburgh to be really welcoming and inclusive.”

Therefore, maybe think twice before putting the time, effort and money into dressing up as someone less fortunate, less privileged and less well off than you.
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