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Kent student union bans cowboy costumes and sombreros in fancy dress guidelines

By KentOnline reporter

A students' union has warned against "offensive" fancy dress costumes it says may affect its members' right to a "safe space".

Kent Union, which serves students at the University of Kent, has banned the wearing of cowboy outfits or 'chav' clothing for fancy dress because they may offend others.

The costumes are among many it says could threaten other students with the "right to a safe space at our university".

Kent Union says cowboy outfits could offend (4732426)
Kent Union says cowboy outfits could offend (4732426)

New guidelines drawn up for those attending fancy dress parties state that "dressing up as a particular race, culture or stereotype is offensive and Kent Union will not tolerate behaviours which seek to."

Among the dozens of outfits it deems "offensive" are cowboys and Native Americans, priests and nuns, and the wearing of a Mexican sombrero.

The union says: "We empower students to be creative, whilst also ensuring all students feel welcome and safe.

"Students groups are free to engage in fancy dress whilst ensuring they abide by the Fancy Dress Guidelines which include being offensive, discriminatory and prejudice to an individual’s race, gender, disability or sexual orientation or based on stereotypes."

Kent Union has warned against wearing sombreros (4732344)
Kent Union has warned against wearing sombreros (4732344)

Costumes of celebrities known for their sexual misconduct or abuse of power have also been banned, including the disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile and movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and students have also been warned against dressing up as a gender or sexuality they do not identify with "if the purpose is to belittle".

Attire warned against because of historical or religious themes include "the Crusades, Nazi uniform, priests and nuns, cowboys and Native Americans, ISIS bomber, Israeli soldier and The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)".

Dressing as a 'chav' is also discouraged, as is choosing an outfit based on a political group stereotype - such as Harry Enfield's Tory Boy character.

The union says: "Fancy Dress themes should also not be centred around political group stereotypes or the stereotypes of different levels of perceived class in the means to diminish their worth or validity.

"This again would promote an unsafe and exclusive campus to which we do not tolerate."

However, the union does list cave people, aliens, Ancient Greeks and Romans, and doctors and nurses as acceptable attire choices.

The Union was recently criticised for accusing the Tokyo Tea Rooms in Canterbury of cultural appropriation after the bar used white women dressed as geisha girls to promote its opening night.

Omolade Adedapo, who is vice-president (welfare) for Kent Union at the University of Kent, said at the time: "We need to discuss how fetishization and mockery of Asian culture has become so commonplace to the extent that some established a whole business based on cultural appropriation and mocking another culture for profit."

Kent Union have been contacted for comment.

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