Comment writer Hannah Lay argues that the recent hateful comments regarding Theresa May are inexcusableWritten by Hannah Lay on 15th November 2018
Social Sterotyping Must Stop
Comment Writer Abby Spreadborough argues that the perpetuation of stereotypes during sport and society socials must stop if we are to prevent social class division in education
‘Chav’ is a commonly used abbreviation meaning ‘Council Housed and Violent’. It forms part of our everyday vocabulary as an insult directed towards those wearing tracksuits and living in deprived areas with apparently limited prospects. This stereotype has become the theme for student socials across the UK. Most recently it was the Hull University riding club which adopted the theme, but in the past Birmingham has also been guilty of the same offence.
“This stereotype has become the theme for student socials across the UK
Whilst on the surface it may appear that such events are merely harmless fun, they are in fact troubling. When comically playing dress up as a ‘chav’ those who attend these socials are actively perpetuating harsh stereotypes. Thousands of people live in social housing in the UK and are able to live varied and fulfilled lives. To assume that these groups are condemned to commit crime is not only unfair but despicable. As in all social groups a small minority may act disagreeably, but the minority must not come to define the image of the majority. In fact, these groups exhibit great resilience given that they are so frequently demonised and that social welfare continues to be cut back. It would seem that the term ‘chav’ itself should be done away with as it is inaccurate and unrepresentative of living on a council estate. It only serves to deepen the divide within communities at a time when the country is already fractured as a result of political differences.
Currently, Birmingham ranks 116th out of 133 universities for social inclusion. If the university hopes to improve their standing on this issue, more needs to be done to encourage low-income students to apply. They may begin by condemning these socials which could deter students from applying. The fact that university is a predominantly middle-class environment can be potentially daunting for these prospective students as they grapple with financial issues, and then to have to overcome unfounded prejudices is yet another stress for these students.
“If the university hopes to improve their standing on this issue, more needs to be done to encourage low-income students to apply
The issue of ‘chav’ themed socials bears many similarities with the issue of cultural appropriation. This is the debate of whether or not it is acceptable for a person to adopt a style from a culture separate from their own. It would appear that an individual’s intention and awareness of a culture lie at the core of this debate. For example, if an item of cultural significance is worn out of appreciation and awareness then it may be regarded as acceptable. Yet if it is worn to mock a culture or with little awareness, it degrades that culture. Similarly, to dress as a ‘chav’ degrades and trivialises the lives and experiences of those living in social housing.
By no means does this article promote the policing of what people can and can’t wear, as we should be free to express ourselves through fashion. This article simply promotes having respect for other social groups. It is the responsibility of all students to make university a welcoming environment for all regardless of their background. Through adjusting our perception of social groups on such a local level as student socials, we may be able to create a greater change in attitudes.