What The Hell, Warwick?

(glad I didn’t apply there *sniffs haughtily*)

Recently, footage has emerged online claiming to be an initiation ceremony for an unspecified sports club at the University of Warwick and, for those who don’t like clicking on underlined blocks of text, essentially consists of some young men dressed in mankinis and maid fetish outfits, crawling face-down in the middle of a square in the evening, while a group of masked men shout unusually aggressive instructions at them and make them eat stuff from a bag probably not inconsequentially the same colour as a bio-hazard warning.

And while I don’t want to step on the toes of a university sports club, who probably know more about effective recruitment and operation of a university sports club than I do, I do wonder as I watch this video ‘What the Hell, Warwick?’, expect with more obscenities, because my internal monologue includes the word f*ck-nugget alarmingly frequently.

Traditionally, such ceremonies are associated with football and rugby clubs which, without wanting to diss the manliness of the needlework society, are usually the sorts of places silly young men go to prove their capacity for violence and toughness, either by hacking people with studded boots or spear-tackling them, and so this grovelling, overtly sexualised and feminised practice doesn’t seem to fit that: is the idea to get all the weakness and submissiveness out of these guys before three gruelling years of chasing a ball of a nondescript shape around a field; or the more logical explanation, that these practices exist as dick-measuring competitions for the initiators, rather than the initiated?

The ‘manliness’ of the actives of these societies appears to be demanded in an extreme way by the initiators; there’s lots of shouting, ordering, and hierarchies in which bellends are arbitrarily placed on top like season two of Game of Thrones, so really this is for the benefit of those in the masks wielding the bio-hazard bags.

Which makes me ask what the point of these societies are in general: is the purpose to encourage new members and players to engage with an interest they have, or are keen to have, and meet people outside of their halls and course, both of which are based on age? Because I’m meeting people at the plethora of clubs I’m involved in who are doing courses as varied as Guitar Assembly (no, seriously), some of which are a mind-blowing 20 years old. 20! That’s like two decades, man!

It seems that the purpose of these clubs, therefore, is to pander to the desires of the few who are running the damn things, so if they want a sense of meaningless superiority by peer-pressuring some curious young people, who have probably moved halfway around the country for a degree they’ve been told will be a bitch to get a 2.1 out of and are self-sacrificingly eager to find new friends and a sense of self-worth, into lying in the dust, they bloody well can.

We saw this a few weeks ago with the then-LSE Men’s Rugby club giving out a sexist and homophobic leaflet to attract new players; would any sane person find this club attractive based on this, I wonder. Considering the answer is probably a resounding ‘no’, we can only imagine that the organisers of this club – who then bravely refused to take the blame, leading to the whole society being disbanded in a sort of extreme ‘if no-one owns up I’ll give you all a detention’ scenario – used this leaflet as an excuse to have a laugh, offend some people, and generally feel good about having their opinions heard by other people, regardless of whether the leaflets actually achieved their goal of helping the club.

And I don’t want to get all Marxist on your arse, but this whole select-and-powerful-minority-putting-their-own-interests-ahead-of-a-large-group-of-others thing reeks of Animal Farm, and not just that stupid pigs are involved. I’ve not noticed any of that at UCL (although I didn’t get into football, nor try out for rugby, so I’m missing out on perhaps the most relevant examples), which is a rather good thing, and I suppose shows that this sort of thing isn’t necessary, at least in such a public manner (I’ve not seen any blokes in mankinis anywhere at UCL).

As with any problem, there isn’t a simple solution: greater regulation of societies by a central Students’ Union or university itself undermines the individual importance and freedom of those societies, and the fact that I’ve only been enraged by this in literally the last week means that it’s not being reported on more widely, and so perhaps isn’t such a traumatic experience that I, as a left-wing, pacifist and borderline feminist person, am making it out to be. These ceremonies are likely to be ‘traditions’, for better or for worse, and are perhaps more indicative of a world that I personally don’t understand, or don’t care to understand, rather than a world that’s intrinsically bad and must be snuffed out and eliminated like smallpox.

I do think there is a line that we need to not cross – looking at you, LSE Men’s Rugby club – but society comprises the ideas and values of millions of people, and it’s probably not right to brand some of those people and clubs as ‘bad’ or in need of fixing just because they attach importance to crawling around with your arse hanging out. I suppose that as long as it’s voluntary, and doesn’t cause long-term mental or physical harm, I guess there’s no issue.

This is why this post’s title is a question, rather than the statement ‘Warwick’s Vague Sports Clubs Are Full Of Bastards’, because I’m thinking about something I know little about, and applying my own (probably flawed) logic to it: I think they’re bastards, they probably think they’re brothers, and neither of us are completely right.

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