The tribal theme is not an open invitation to dress insensitively, says Tab editor Matt McDonald

Along with extra layers, dodgy moustaches and crazed Devonian brutes charging through the streets with flaming tar barrels, what really defines November for us here at Exeter is hype. Hype around the event we all wait for more than Christmas, birthdays and Halloween rolled into one: the Safer Sex Ball.

Following the 10 November announcement of the tribal theme, various points of view have been bandied about the Internet, threatening the very composition of the ball that is one of FHM’s “top things to do before you die”. The comments section of the Tab alone reveals punters who feel the theme is “another opportunity to black up” or “probably the most racist thing I have ever seen put on by a University sanctioned institution.” A campaign group formed against the “racist safer sex ball theme” emerged on Facebook on Thursday.

Are the Safer Sex Ball Committee and the Students’ Guild racist for allowing this to be signed off as the theme? Of course not. While the word “tribal” is anthropologically problematic, it does not in and of itself have overwhelming racial connotations.

As someone with Irish parentage, I am a descendant of a Celtic tribe. As a McDonald, I am a member of a Scottish clan. Were I to assume the dress of either of these anthropological groups, would I be making a racially derogatory statement? No. I’d be staying true to my heritage.

Admittedly, we are an overwhelmingly white university, and therefore some of us may struggle to be as tolerant of other cultures as those in a more diverse part of the country. But as we know from their press release back in February, the Guild do not condone blacking up. I don’t believe for one second that the words “tribal” and “blackface” are interchangeable. Daisy Buchanan’s range at this year’s New York Fashion week were “tribal-themed”, and I didn’t see a single minstrel on the catwalk.

This is clearly not an open invitation from Rag for a minority of students to dress in a culturally insensitive fashion. We’re an intellectual, free-thinking academic body who hopefully knows for itself what is and isn’t socially acceptable. If anything, I feel that we need a stronger anti-racist stance from the SSB Committee.

Keep the theme, for all it matters: in my experience, not many people choose to adhere to it sartorially anyway. But why not clear up this mess with a single statement: if you are dressed in a way that is culturally insensitive, be it blackface or otherwise, you will not be getting through the door. That way, we can all have the safe, sexy and inoffensive night that we all know and love.

  • Tom Cooke

    Sensible article. I'd be willing to bet that over 50% of the people that have joined that group on facebook are white and just looking for the next excuse to be outraged at something that not even the people who are supposed to care care about. Get a grip.

  • anon

    You're so right! One of the posts on the wall got more likes than the actual page itself!! Just a ridiculous bid for attention if you ask me.

  • Anonymoose

    There's a Tribe Ibiza, there is Tribal in pop videos, there's tribal in fashion…it's everywhere! Someone really must have no faith in people to think that they would actively put a "racist" theme out there…it was clearly not intended that way, it's blatantly to do with fashion. and people need to stop looking into things so much, it's bad for your health.

  • Leila

    Why is this girl trying to ruin a charity event over something that isn't even worth talking about?? And I stress the charity part. People are just reading into it too much…stop it it's stupid.

  • Rob

    This article: a white person explaining what is and isn't racist.

  • Anon

    the journalism on here is fucking shocking

  • Anon

    Such shit journalism.
    “Slammed for serving up an unlabelled spirit.”
    “We all thought the Welly vodka was a bit iffy … now the courts have confirmed it.”

    Completely unrelated.

    • Jack

      how is it unrelated? That’s literally what happened.

  • beth

    Clearly has nothing to do with the amount of it people drink…

  • ruth

    What percentage is it?

  • Ottilie Duffy

    Hahaha no one cares… nobody that’s fun is like, “I really hope this vodka has a low percentage! I would hate to get really drunk” What a barrel of laughs!

  • Mike

    Welly haven’t even been fined. Good fact hunting.

  • Guest

    Guessing the person who wrote this didn’t watch Uni of Leicester’s varsity promo video…. bellend.

  • Guest

    and make sure your links work as none of them do … bellend.

  • Dr. D M Who

    Poly scum

  • janson

    Our video’s are just as cringeworthy, get over yourself you public schoolboy fuck.

  • Guest

    I think their Rugby video is actually really good?

  • Guest

    what about the american football “varsity” video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li580QkO-ts

    or did you forget about it because the Longhorns ran scared?
    apparently it’s necessary to remind people that it’s a tongue-in-cheek response to UofL’s “we’re ready, are you?” challenge, due to the amount of Longhorns got themselves all upset when this was released.

  • Disappointed

    This could have been a really good and constructive article, however, I am disappointed that you haven’t interviewed the Presidents themselves about what achievements that have made over the past year. Really poor journalism.

  • Thomas

    Emma Carlen has really let herself go this year! Must have started to feel too comfy in Butchart. Just read her manifesto and look what she’s done – what a shame!

  • Worried

    It would be nice to actually know what’s going on around campus! With returning sabbs having so little done on there manifesto, what does that say for next year?

  • A bit of advice

    Even though this article hasn’t used a good measure of how much work sabbatical officers do, it’s shown us what the student population SEE sabbatical officers to b doing. And as a student group that seeks to work for students, the work they do is only important if it makes an impact and that’s if students know it’s happening.

  • Woeful Prose

    I hope the author of this dribble doesn’t study English. Dreadful construction.

    “As yet, there have been no suggested preventative methods as to how women can stop the spread of infection.”

    • Same bro

      It is literally, 2nd set GCSE standard.

      • Jack Kerouac

        Christ almighty…

        “Considering the Sports Village and Aquatics Centre are of huge interest
        to many potential students, and the focus the university has put on it
        as a unique selling point, there are concerns over the inevitable
        reaction from its student population.”

  • Judge McNipples LLB LLM LLOL

    Lol it’s a surchage dumbass. Not everybody gets it harhar.