Lesson From Oxford Student Newspaper Controversy: ‘Never Joke About Rich Girls’

A supposedly satirical article in an Oxford University student newspaper recently caused a mini-ruckus in Britain amid perceptions it was “misogynistic, and in a frighteningly casual way.”

The piece, a six-point guide to dating “posh girls,” has been removed from the website of The Cherwell, replaced with an editor’s note.  I do find it slightly amusing that its competitor, The Oxford Student, grabbed the article prior to its deletion and is running it in full on its own site.

The column includes advice for male students “on meeting a woman’s wealthy parents, how to discuss politics, and how to handle foreign travel and ‘getting dumped.’”  I’ll be honest: Parts of it are so British I don’t entirely understand it on spec.  But it’s clear the most controversial segment is a brief mention of the sex histories and habits of so-called posh girls.

A snippet: “Sex.  She’ll have had a lot of it, way more than you.  Do not believe any assertions to the contrary, she is massaging your fragile ego.  Posh Girls lose their virginity at 15, often to the same floppy-haired bloke. . . . She duly worked her way through the Eton rugby team before re-eloping with the same floppy-haired wanker on her gap year in Phuket.”

The guide’s writer, also a section editor at the paper: “The piece was written to be phenomenally, obviously, and rigorously ridiculous– not genuine advice.”

An Oxford University women’s campaign officer: “Treating women like objects that lack any autonomy in who they date or sleep with is outdated and boring.  If this article is trying to be funny, the author needs to realize his audience won’t be impressed with such irrelevant stereotypes.”

A portion of the editor’s letter now running in place of the piece, British spelling left unchanged: “We have decided to remove the article that previously occupied this page. However, this is not a response to the accusations of plagiarism [alluding to a separate charge circulating online that the piece ripped off a professional magazine feature] or misogyny. In our view this piece was attempting to satirise the misogynistic (and, indeed, misandrist) ‘how to…’ dating guides that pervade the mainstream media. However, this tone was perhaps not conveyed as well as it should have been, and if it caused any offence then we are very sorry. As a student newspaper, the views of our readers matter to us enormously and this is a contributing factor in the removal of this article.”

The bottom line lesson from the scandal, according to The National Post: “Never joke about rich girls.

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