UDDERLY DISGRACEFUL: Insensitive fancy dress event sparks outrage

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Derwent students have sparked fury after wearing costumes branded “culturally insensitive” at a college event.

The fancy dress disco took place on Saturday January 10 and hoped to celebrate the “cultural diversity within the college and university.”

However, the event has been accused of mocking religious symbols after one student came dressed as a cow, a sacred Hindu animal highly revered in India, and was pictured with two other students bowing towards him.

The student who wore the cow ‘onesie’, defended the outfit saying: “Before going to the event I asked several people if they thought the outfit was offensive and nobody told me it was, I also asked people at the event and they also told me the outfit wasn’t offensive, I’m not a racist person, I have Indian friends who would tell anyone that asked I’m not a racist person.”

The student, who hails from Manchester, also apologised for any offence it may have caused and said: “In no way did I mean to cause any offence to anyone of any faith or race and had anyone told me the outfit was offensive I would have not worn the outfit.”

Organisers originally warned people planning on donning outfits “considered inappropriate or of bad taste” to stay away. It is not known if anyone was turned away from the event because of their costume.

The JCRC originally promised “the most vibrant, colourful and unique Club D yet.” But students were left disappointed after the event was called off over an hour early after a speaker broke.

Photographs of the event are publicly available on the ‘Derwent Col’ Facebook page, which, in addition to student with drawn-on bindis and in traditional Hindu dress, features two students wearing makeshift purple students simulating a sex act on each other.

Depraved... Students wearing makeshift turbans simulate sex act
Depraved… Students wearing makeshift turbans simulate sex act

YUSU BME (Black, Minority Ethnic) Officer Tamaki Laycock slammed the party-goers’ attire, saying: “The appropriation photographed is unacceptable, and highlights an ignorance and disrespect towards other cultures. The open use of costumes that aren’t connected to Bollywood in any shape or form, including a dashiki, kimono, and belly dance costumes, is further proof of that.

“Furthermore, the insults towards religious aspects of South Asian cultures were appalling. Dressing as a cow, a known religious symbol, is a fundamental mockery and disregard towards important parts of peoples lives.

“We hope Derwent College can use this experience and move forwards in their understandings and compassion towards others.”

However, in a shock twist of events, the President of the BritAsian Society admitted in a statement to letting the student in the cow costume into the event, despite admitting the cow was “a sacred animal”.

Shailen Mistry defended the student’s garb: “Had this person demonstrated racism and deliberate offense wearing this costume I would have had him removed”.

He said: “He wasn’t causing deliberate damage and outrage by posing in a provocative manner, yet accepted the culture.”

Mistry also defended the Derwent Chair, Alex Urquhart, claiming he demonstrated “extreme caution” when allowing people to enter and was determined for no one to be insulted.

The Derwent International Representatives, Julia Rosell Jackson and Jessica Jackson, originally raised issues with the event, and worked with organisers in a hope to avoid offense.

They said: “We are sorry that offense was caused and hope that in the future, events focusing on cultural diversity will be more respectful.”

Derwent events are no stranger to controversy. Last year the chair of the Student Socialist Society angrily demanded YUSU “shut down” Chav D. Another Derwent fresher described the event as “the epitome of middle class ignorance.”

In October the college was again forced on the defensive after student complaints over Cabaret D, at which freshers were encouraged to cross-dress. The party was formerly known as ‘Slag and Drag’.

We have attempted to contact all the people pictured to get their side of the story. If you are in one of these photos, email vision@yusu.org, to share your side of the story.


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THE PROBLEM WITH THE COW COSTUME – Roberto Avelar, International Students Association Co-President

The University of York is a world-renowned university with over 4000 international students.

With this in mind it is important to be able to share, respect, and learn from each other’s cultures. This is what the Derwent JCRC aimed to do with the Bollywood D event on Saturday, with members of the JCRC contacting both myself and the BME officers regarding the event.

I personally gave them the go ahead as the event was portrayed to be about appreciation and celebration of Indian culture, with the reassurance on the event page that there would be a zero tolerance policy towards racism.

I was saddened to hear that this was not the case, with reports of both cultural appropriation and racism, with a student even allegedly dressing up as a cow. The cow is an important religious symbol in the Hindu faith, likely stemming from when the Indus Valley Civilization used cattle for dairy products and field tilling.

It is a shame to see such a rich culture being turned into cheap costumes, and this is not the kind of behaviour one would expect from some of the – allegedly – brightest minds in the country.

I have no doubt that the Derwent JCRC had the best intentions for an exciting and educational event, and I hope this does not act as a disincentive for other students wanting to do cultural events, but there clearly needs to be more stringent regulations and consequences regarding racism in the University.

I hope that the offending students are penalized accordingly, and that the relevant parties issue a public apology.

22 thoughts on “UDDERLY DISGRACEFUL: Insensitive fancy dress event sparks outrage

  1. “It is a shame to see such a rich culture being turned into cheap costumes”… I’m sorry, but that is basically how fancy dress works. Should one be offended if someone turns up as the Queen or some other prominent figure or icon in British history? Well obviously not, we do it all the time.

    Honestly, this just feels like a bunch of politically correct, middle class, white people arguing, rather than someone who genuinely feels like they have been offended or their culture slandered.

  2. Has anyone who is actually from one of these cultures complained, or is this another case of people being offended for others? Looking through the list of names quoted, I doubt any of them have even seen a Bollywood film.

  3. I particularly want to discuss the cow costume. The big deal is because a religious symbol have been trivialised right ? Then what did Charlie Hebdo teach you ? Apparently nothing.

  4. The guy who wore the cow onesie should not be apologising. It’s clearly just a bit of fun. The people who are so outrageously offended have really gone out of their way to play the victim this time.

  5. If it’s religiously offensive to dress up as a cow, then presumably it’s vastly worse to eat them.

    Can we expect an apology from YUSU for allowing their bars to sell beef burgers?

  6. It is good that this was caught and highlighted as problematic – but also the person in question doesn’t deserve a witchhunt as they checked beforehand and apologised immediately after. Far better to question the JCRC which suggested the event in the first place, why is it always derwent which gets off on trying to push the limits on their terrible events?

  7. I find this quote particularly problematic….

    “I’m not a racist person, I have Indian friends who would tell anyone that asked I’m not a racist person.”

    Do you want an award because you’re friends with POC? You might attend one of the best Universities in the country and be ‘friends’ with people from various ethnic backgrounds but what you are is completely turning the situation to benefit yourself, a bit typical. Maybe learn a bit more about the culture, read a book or two then dress up as a cow ‘fully understanding the situation’ rather than asking other ‘several people’ who are most likely as ignorant as you are too?

  8. Are we shocked? Of course not. We’re barely even surprised. From the College that brought you “slag ‘n’ drag” (or whatever its been re-branded as) and the blacking-up “Eton Mess” saga, comes the latest attempt to be as offensive as they can manage.

    If you think its just a bit of a laugh, and that anyone who complains is a sour-faced miserable politically correct whinger, consider for just a second that you might not understand all the issues, and that there just might be some people who have a more relevant life experience than you.

  9. It seems that once again the desperation of York Vision to publish some controversy has led to slander.
    He said before you published he meant no offence, and admitted his ignorance. You really dont need to create a subtext of racism within the student body. You need to reevaluate who you represent.

  10. I was told about this article by a friend and i couldn’t help but come and intentionally irritate myself over the stupidity and temerity of it. Firstly grow the fu**k up york vision intentionally trying to be scandalous in an attempt to drive views from pathetic neo-progressivists and generally just re****s doesn’t make you a good newspaper it makes you a left-wing sun. Being offended on other peoples behalf doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) resonate well with an academic community. Im willing to bet good money that you searched far and wide for someone who was offended and actually was part of the culture that you are saying was mocked but evidently miserably failed as the best you could do was get a report off of a BME officer who basically has the job of being offended by just about everything in existence. Change your title from “fancy dress event sparks outrage” to middle class white people get pi**y about something which has no bearing or effect on their lives and scummy pathetic newspaper laps it up so its members can proudly declare on their CVS that they care about minorities. What a fu****g joke.

  11. OK, I can see the offence in wearing the wrong attire for an event – wearing a Kimono to Bollywood D is a little thick – two entirely different cultures. Having said that, there obviously wasn’t intent to be offensive. The author is obviously trying to fulfil his confirmation bias that the white middle-class are savagely racist, deserving of hell. What disappoints me is that he hasn’t asked other indian people what they thought of it. I am yet to speak of one who has said they found it offensive. Yes a cow is considered a sacred animal but are we going to call for a ban on cow onsies because of the context of which it might apply? Are we going to ignore the halal tradition that it is acceptable to slit the throat of a live cow until it bleeds out or say it isn’t offensive or cruel? The context is the most important factor of this event. In this context, it is to be a fun event where students get merry without upsetting others. It isn’t to offend another culture. It is a celebration and appreciation of another culture. Why take offence when the intent is the polar opposite?

  12. Wow. So many white people in the comment section that aren’t offended – how brave they are! Clearly being a privileged majority has taught you much more about what is and isn’t discrimination than minorities could ever hope to understand.

  13. Once again the YUSU “Liberation” Sect, who claim to represent everyone but in fact do precisely the opposite. I know for a fact that this lot are not actually members of the group supposedly offended by this. Frankly then – butt out and shut up. If you are actually Hindu and offended by this, please speak up and tell us — because Vision clearly couldn’t find you.

    I am sick of this politically correct vocal minority ruining harmless activities for students. If you are offended by something, fine, by all means put across your point of view. But this ridiculous idea that we have a “right not to be offended” is RUBBISH. Free speech and expression are more important than these whimsical attempts to shut down debate except for the totalitarian blob whose only wish is to trundle through life nodding politely at everything everyone else says. Debate is healthy and necessary — so deal with it.

  14. This is not racism! Please, stop throwing the word around because you’re diluting its meaning. Dressing as a cow is not racist, dummy. I’m sure if the man had traditional Hindi dress then he would have attended in that. As it stands, he doesn’t own one and just wanted to attend the event in something quasi relevant. Which, if you’ve been to India, you would know was very relevant because cows are everywhere, its ridiculous. If anything, he added to the authenticity of the party! The title should really be “York Vision angry that students can’t afford to buy new outfits for every fancy dress event”

  15. If the guy dressed as a cow was black or Asian would there have been such a controversy? Of course not. It is only because this person is white that people wish to play the race card.

  16. Oh my days everybody needs to chill out. Stop Derwent College hating, some of these ‘culturally inappropriate’ costumes were worn by lack of awareness as opposed to genuine racism or disrespect for the culture. In fact, if students went out of their way to buy said costumes perhaps they were attempting to celebrate the culture.

    You can see by pictures of previous events that students often wear ridiculous outfits to these events. Clearly york vision was looking for its next headline. Also BME – Bollywood is a film genre, and belly dancers often feature.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/top-lists/Top-10-belly-dances-in-Bollywood/videols/19525196.cms

    Stop stereotyping and shit stirring there are more pressing issues to deal with.

  17. This is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, the whole event itself is intrinsically an ignorant proposition. A club night to celebrate culture with a fancy dress element? FANCY DRESS IS A KNOWN INDUSTRY TO APPROPRIATE SO MANY CULTURES? What were you thinking? We all know that Club D is notorious for outrageous binge drinking and clubbing, an offence to most Eastern/Western religious, secular and tribal cultures? If people want to binge themselves to oblivion partying like it’s the end of Willow for goodness sake do not centre it around celebrating religion and culture. The lad culture of The University of York isn’t ready to embrace an event like this. Those with such outfits should have been turned away. “You can wear a turban, but don’t you dare black up.” A b*stardisation of an important and sacred piece of clothing IS CULTURALLY INAPPROPRIATE. It’s disrespectful, because it’s not fun it’s being made fun of. There shouldn’t have been pictures taken and then posted?
    Uni of York FFS get it right and actually start listening to the people who are offended by this. Check your privilege. Celebrate culture, have a huge event with food and drink and dancing and speakers and shows. Don’t ruin it by mixing it with people who require a deep explanation of why cultural appropriation is so important.

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