Man enough to change?

When I first came to Queen’s, I was intrigued by the tradition and romance of it all—hearing bag pipes at random times around campus, the Band in their kilts, and especially the use of Gaelic.

Living in a residence called Ban Righ seemed something like living in a Scottish castle—until I went inside, that is. During Frosh Week and at Homecoming games, I enthusiastically donned my coveralls and sang the Oil Thigh.

It wasn’t until last year, while walking home, I noticed a sign advertising a variety show called “The Sport of Kings.” Having that one line singled out startled me—the answer to the question, “What’s the sport of Kings?” is of course, “Queen’s, Queen’s, Queen’s.” I was horrified by the implications of such a simple line—such a gendered imbalance of sexual power.

What struck me most was how ill-fitting this type of oppression seemed at this University. While Gaels are being trained to be sensitive in the matters of sexuality and gender issues, they’re singing and teaching frosh the patriarchal lyrics to our school song.

Although this might seem like just another incidence of something fun being “ruined” by political correctness, the Oil Thigh isn’t just offensive—it’s a bad reflection of the truth of this University’s heritage.

The Queen’s identity is deeply embedded in tradition, and though some traditions have lasted, others have been required to adapt and change to more fully represent the nature of this university.

In 1869, Queen’s became the first university in Canada to allow female students to enroll. The first two women in Ontario to get graduate degrees did so at Queen’s. Until 1942, women weren’t allowed to take applied science. In 1949, Nancy Scarth was the first female to graduate with an applied science degree because tradition wasn’t a good enough reason to deny her.

Other traditions have changed with the times as well—in the late 19th century, it was the “tradition” during Orientation week for female students to participate in sedate, ladylike activities like a candle-lighting ceremony. Today we have women participating in the pandemonium of Frosh Olympics and the Grease Pole, because we’ve done away with tradition that says that women are essentially different from men.

Even the Oil Thigh itself has changed. Originally written in 1898 by Alfred Lavell, the original line “So boys, go in and win” was changed in 1985 to “So Gaels, go in and win,” because women were such an important part of Queen’s athletics.

In an 1876 editorial in the Journal, a writer said, “We are confident that among people who appreciate the delicate grace and beauty of a woman’s character too much to expose it to the rude influences, the bitterness and strife of the world, few will be found to advocate her admission to universities.” Things can, and do, change.

Beyond school fight songs and Boohoo the Bear, this school has made a tradition out of being progressive in the area of liberating women from patriarchal oppression. That’s a tradition worth holding on to.

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