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Thursday 27th November 2014, 02:34 GMT | Cambridge,UK

“Harmless fun”: Oxford drinking society condemned for misogyny

Members of an Oxford University drinking society were branded “repugnant and sexist” for organising a pub crawl in which girls dressed as foxes had to “evade mauling”.

Michael Coleman St Hugh's College, Oxford

An Oxford University drinking society, The Black Cygnets, at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, has caused controversy with a planned a ‘Fox Hunt’ event. The event was planned to involve male students, or ‘Huntsmen’, dressed in red jackets chasing the women ‘Foxes’ dressed in short skirts and fox ears. Invitations were only sent to the female first year students the society deemed attractive.

This spoof hunt event was due to start from the back gate of the college on November 15th at 7.30pm for, according to the invitation, ‘the Huntsmen to pick up the scent’. The ‘chosen vixens’ have to avoid certain obstacles in order to avoid ‘mauling’. Nine pubs were listed as stops along the hunt trail with a selection of drinks for the huntsman and foxes to down, including gin and tonic, wine, Smirnoff Ice and sambuca, before arriving at a tenth and final bar called Wahoo, referred to in the printed invitations as ‘Wahoo Foxhole’.

 Last year the society’s members were warned that strong action would be taken against them if they repeated the event outside the college and it resulted in a complaint from the public or the police.

The college’s principal, Dame Elish Angiolini, said on Friday: “This college was founded to secure equality for women.”

“We are utterly appalled that any member of our community would consider belonging to, or participating in, this repugnant, sexist and secretive group.”

An emergency meeting of St Hugh's JCR student body condemned the hunt by The Black Cygnets –  who are banned from college premises – after a motion was proposed by Carenza Harvey, a first year student invited to be a ‘Fox’.

Miss Harvey said: “The girls who are invited to attend the 'fox hunt' are picked purely on their looks, which creates a very destructive and dangerous atmosphere”.

"While it can be troubling and potentially upsetting for someone to receive an invitation like this, it is also incredibly disheartening and personally distressing for a young woman to know that she has not been picked because of her appearance."

"‘The dress code unavoidably and unashamedly generated a sexist and demeaning predatory feel to the evening. It also, disturbingly, creates the impression that women are only animals, to be objectified, while the men hold the upper hand as humans.”

Oxford University Students’ Union spokesman Sarah Pine added: "Misogyny and rape culture exist in many forms around Oxford.

"Whilst this kind of behaviour isn't unusual, it is still oppressive. I applaud the actions of St Hugh's JCR. They have affirmed their commitment to the welfare of their women members by making it more difficult for the society to operate."

However, not all agreed with this condemnation. Lauren Magilton, President of the Lucy Lashes, the Lucy Cavendish drinking society, added: “This kind of thing doesn't happen with our drinking societies here in Cambridge, but at the end of the day, the girls who have signed up for the event made the decision to be involved. They have the right to do what they want to, and if they want to do that then who are we to say anything against that."

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