I vividly remember my first week at university. The week was a blur of new faces, new places, inductions and lots of late night cheesy chip stops. But what would Freshers be without the parties and the nights out? Our first night out had the good old ‘Back to School’ theme. I remember exactly what I wore. A white school top buttoned down to show as much cleavage as possible, a tiny skirt and thigh length stockings. I put on a pair of heels and plenty of makeup and put my hair in bunches. I’m a very different person now to the person I was a year ago and, thinking about it, I’d like to scream at my former self. Or at least just give her a good talking to.
That night, I received a few comments from fellow male students claiming I looked ‘hot’ and spent most of the night being groped by drunk strangers. To me, this wasn’t unusual and almost sort of a compliment. Even though it felt degrading, it just meant you looked good. After all, I’m a girl! It’s my job to dress up this way! I wasn’t forced to dress like this, but I certainly felt pressured to.
I came to university to study and learn. I also came to grow up and mature, to find out who I am and what I want to do with my life. I certainly didn’t come to revert back to my fifteen year old self; vulnerable, immature and desperately insecure. Taking a school uniform that reminds you of your childhood and dosing it with as much sex appeal as you can manage is, let’s face it, pretty perverse. Simultaneously, the outfit makes a girl childlike and a sex object. Surely that isn’t right. But sadly, this is what thousands of girls find themselves pressured to do when they start university. The fact that I thought it was completely normal to be groped by twenty year old men while wearing my old school skirt speaks volumes.
To me, most of the fancy dress themed nights put on in Freshers (and, sadly, throughout university) are designed to get men in fairly ordinary clothes and get women in as few clothes as possible. Of course, there are the odd gender neutral nights like the ‘UV Rave’ theme. But even then, I felt pressured to buy the tiny crop tops and get out the skimpy holiday shorts that so many of my friends wore. ‘Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes’ was a particular low point – boys get to look sportsmanlike, powerful and professional, while there is no room to celebrate the fact that a female might be a good sportswoman; the achievement is looking good and showing off plenty of skin. The success of the costume is in the sex appeal. For all our intelligence and our passion for our subjects, I felt that girls were degraded as soon as they arrived through themed nights such as these. Groped, instead of talked to, wolf-whistled while wearing a school skirt? I certainly didn’t sign up for that. Plus, girls that lack self-confidence in the way they look are often put off going to these nights if they might want to. Plenty of girls who do bite the bullet and go out dressed as a ‘Tennis Hoe’ might be likely to encounter insulting comments telling them that they don’t belong, they’re not sexy enough. Perhaps, as is popular on websites like The Lad Bible, they’ll get rated a low score out of ten.
Girls are so much more than a piece of meat to be looked at and sized up. Whatever we wear, women deserve to be treated with respect, but I don’t believe that girls should feel pressured to show off plenty of skin at such events, especially while the same cannot be said for the men around them. It’s instant degradation. How about some fun themes that aren’t so sexist? Off the top of my head, I can think of plenty. I hope that freshers of the future of both genders won’t continue to buy in to this culture. How is it that two people, a boy and a girl, who both do the same course and are both intelligent can go to the same night club in which one is a ‘pro’ and the other must be a ‘hoe’?