Tackling rugby club sexism

Submitted by AWL on 14 October, 2014 - 4:58 Author: Beth Redmond

The men’s rugby club at the London School of Economics has been disbanded, after circulating a sexist, classist and homophobic leaflet at this year’s freshers fair.

The text of the leaflet mocks students at “poly” universities, describes women as “mingers” and “trollops” and says that the club will not tolerate “outright homosexual debauchery”. But this is not the first time the team has ran into trouble with the students’ union over offensive behaviour.

As statement from the LSE student union shows the club have previously been known to dress as Guantanamo Bay detainees and imitate praying as Muslim students were leaving Friday prayers, and initiate Nazi themed drinking games. One session led to a Jewish student’s nose being broken.

The SU has said that the money that would have been spent on the club for the following year will instead be spent on rehabilitation, and more specifically classes for the club on diversity and liberation. The club will be removed from any playing leagues and will not be able to play for the entirety of the academic year.

The production of the leaflet comes at a time when misogyny on campuses across the UK is rife and getting a lot of attention from the National Union of Students and the national media. A study into sexual assault and harassment on campus by the NUS revealed that a shockingly high number of women students are raped and assaulted.

A recent article in The Guardian by Laura Bates, the author of Everyday Sexism, examines the different types of misogynistic “banter” that freshers face, from sexism in academia to assault on a night out. Another rugby club at Durham University has been called out for playing a drinking game called “it’s only rape if...”.

It is clear that the attitudes expressed in the LSE leaflet, the NUS study and in Laura Bates’ article perpetuate a culture which leads to actual damage, physical and emotional, and so I applaud the LSE Student Union for condemning the club in such a loud way.

It is however, important that we recognise that the culture of banning societies can be dangerous and can set a precedent for people to think that banning someone who says something you disagree with is the correct course of action.

But when the behaviour of such a club is so threatening and its effects so obvious, disbanding the society, providing “rehabilitation” for the members and sparking a national debate with which to change the attitudes of such people seems like the reasonable thing to do.

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