Cambridge Rear of the Year? It's still sexist

It’s little use sprinkling in male buttocks, as a kind of hairy-arsed figleaf

Tom Mendelsohn
Wednesday 13 November 2013 12:59
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They’ve done it again. That happy band of funsters at The Cambridge Tab have skilfully courted exciting new controversy by announcing the shortlist to their Rear of the Year contest, showcasing the best buttocks our most brilliant students have to offer – in 2013!

Both men and women are baring all this year, in what’s just a totally unsexist sexy ‘bit of fun’, right?

“Gwendoline” from “Sidney Sussex” is reading “Arabic” and wearing “hot pink briefs”, while “Shelley” from “Newnham” is studying “Chinese”, apparently without “any underpants at all”. Somewhat lower down the page, below all the sexy bums, are some men, who are clenching a bit more, and are furrier, by and large.

What is there to be said, really, for a collection of the finest formative minds in the country, who still seem to believe that pictures of agreeable women’s rear ends is something that is okay to be published in 2013? It’s little use sprinkling in a collection of men, as a kind of hairy-arsed figleaf. It doesn’t make anything equal just because men are involved; we’re still witness to a glaring symptom of the systemic sexual inequities of patriarchy. And as you’re reading this piece in the first place, you’ll know all the arguments, and you’ll either agree that a dusting of male nudity does not make everything okay, or you’ll be a loathsome basement-dweller in gilly, just-human form.

Having men in the piece actually makes it more troubling, not less. The half-cocked inclusion of ten masculine buttocks does nothing to stifle the sexism; objectifying men as well as well as women doesn’t mean that these women are being any less objectified – and it gives the objectifiers the cover they need to keep firing.

The fact is that apparent misogyny like this – and, admittedly, worse – is still unutterably rife on almost every university campus in Britain, in, should this tableau of glistening backsides have helped you forget, 2013.

For instance, Oxford was outraged recently, when its own culture of endemic sexism came to light via a charming wee email, in which a rugby club social secretary invited his team to spike women’s drinks. The sheer weight of similar stories of educated lads behaving absolutely monstrously that have since been relayed to me in private has curdled my blood, and now my circulation has stopped, and I’ve gone completely blue.

Meanwhile, in Durham, another rugby club dipped its toes into warmish water with a boisterous game of “It’s not rape if…” in a student bar.

Aberystwyth’s cricket club was banned when one of its members wore a T-shirt on a night out, with the words “casual” and “rape” emblazoned on it, in that order.

Most upsetting of all, police in Lancaster are appealing for witnesses to a rape in the toilets of a student-union owned club in October. They have a photofit of the man, and no suspects. This is just the tip of a horrible iceberg.

It goes on and on. As student editor, I seem to be dealing with daily reminders of rape culture in all its forms, from the casual objectification of thinking females, to actual assaults. And these are the educated ones, who’ll go into good jobs and hopefully end up running society.

Is it not time that we actually attempted a proper examination of the kind of society that gives rise to this sort of thing, over and over again? Can we not ask ourselves serious questions why young male adults are so happy to make rape jokes and publicly slaver over their female peers? Can we not find a way to show them it’s not okay before they even start thinking that way? Each time one woman is reduced to a bottom, women are reduced.

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