‘We’re all going home with a Bristol slut’ – UWE Men’s Rugby apologise for misogynist chants

TW: Sexually aggressive and explicit language, rape, sexual assault, classist language

‘They should rise above the misogyny that has so often defined university sports’. Maddie Burton, Bristol Uni Intersectional Feminist Society president, responds to the UWE Rugby Society’s chants and subsequent apology. 

Last Thursday, the infamous UWE vs. Bristol varsity rugby match saw the circulation of a ‘chant sheet’ being handed out amongst UWE supporters. This wouldn’t be the first time that varsity sports saw a plethora of insulting classist and misogynistic chants from both sides; “you’re shit, you’re poor, your mother is a whore” originated in Bristol. But we have never seen  this level of orchestrated misogyny all on one sheet.

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A photo of the chant sheet  was posted to the Bristol University Intersectional Feminist Society Facebook group on Friday. Along with many other students at UoB and UWE alike, we condemned the disgustingly derogatory chants

The chants portrayed Bristol girls as though they were objects to be attained without their own agency. Never mind just the term ‘slut’ itself being a double-standard insult levelled at women, the lines ‘we’re all going home with a Bristol slut’ and ‘shag your women and drink your beer’ sound like girls can be owned and used as the ‘spoils of war’. Sport is not a Viking pillage.

Likewise, the chants regularly identified male strength with sexual dominance: ‘UWE boys are big, and strong, and long and fucking haaaard’. That anyone would find these chants acceptable and entertaining goes to show the prevalence of toxic masculinity and lad culture in sport and university generally. If some students genuinely still see women as objects to be conquered, and the ideal man as sexually conquering, it’s no wonder that 1/3 of girls are sexually assaulted at university.

UWE Men’s Rugby Society have since apologised for the chants, demonstrating exactly how to respond when you’ve been called out – just apologise and change. Perhaps I’ve become cynical, but I didn’t expect such a positive outcome and it’s refreshing to see them respond to criticism so constructively.

UWE Men’s Rugby Society wrote that ‘the intention of the chants was not to upset or offend anyone, but rather entertain and humour’. Of course, this was exactly the problem – that they found those sexist and dehumanising chants funny. When people behave in an offensive manner it is usually by accident, but this does not make it excusable. They did, however, apologise sincerely for the ill-considered chants which they described as ‘derogatory, uncouth and offensive’ and stated that ‘we are actively trying to reduce ‘lad’ culture’ and that ‘UWE Men’s Rugby Society have to learn and grow to avoid something similar happening like this again’.

I end on a positive note, which is that I hope the attention given to this incident will improve the nature of varsity rugby in the future. Both UWE and Uni of Bristol Rugby must fully understand the issues and implications of their actions. They should rise above the misogyny that has so often defined university sports and strive for a more inclusive society.

Collage by Elle May

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