That Post Where I Rant About Balls
Okay, I know it’s not really my turn to post. It’s just that I’ve been having the nearly overwhelming urge to rant about something recently, and in you, internet reader, I have a captive audience! And what are blogs for if not for unplanned and ill-warranted rants?
So, if you’ve read any of my posts before you might have noticed that I go to graduate school in England—at the University of Oxford, to be exact. My university is famous for many things: its great scholarship, old libraries, harry-potter-look-alike gowns, burning Protestants in the streets, etc. It also has balls.
All of my friends here like balls. I mean, who doesn’t love the chance to dress up, eat good food, and dance the night away—especially with good-looking men spruced up in their best attire. And you too, reader, might be thinking things like: ‘Hey, Merskank- what you doing bashing on balls? They sound pretty fun.’ Or even, ‘I’ve never been to a ball but I would sure would like to—will Prince Charming be there?’ And I understand, a ball sounds fun.
But let me explain why I take issue with balls at Oxford (I can’t really speak of the balls that happen anywhere else- wait? do balls exist anywhere else?!). Yet in my experience, balls at Oxford are a statement of excess. The tickets, to the big balls at least, can be upwards of 200 pounds. So we are talking over 350 dollars for one night. Now I take issue with this for several reasons:
1) tickets to these sorts of balls always grant access to their holder to an open bar. Now, I am not in theory opposed to open bars (although now that I am thinking about it maybe I should be), but when students pay such exorbitant prices for a ticket the tendency is to drink more than one should (perhaps even more than one wants) to ‘get your money’s worth.’ This fosters an atmosphere of drunkenness and excess that is, at it’s best, not fun and at its worst rather vile.
2) balls are exclusive. The poorer (or even middle class) contingent of the student body could never afford a ticket to this sort of ball. For undergraduates especially this must seem incredibly divisive. All of a sudden, it becomes readily apparent which students have hundreds of pounds of disposable income to waste on something as ephemeral as a ball ticket and which do not. It seems elitist to the extreme for a college to officially sanction an event that is only really an option for the richer half of the student body.
3) balls are excessive. Have we really come to the point where we need to spend thousands, tens of thousands, of pounds upon events for them to be fun? Colleges compete with one another to have the most lavish ball, the most extravagant entertainment. Maybe I am just a wet blanket, but I really just have to wonder: isn’t there something better we could be putting that money towards? Perhaps hiring new faculty or funding more scholarships should rank as at least slightly more important than having a twenty minute fireworks show?
So, yes. This is my opinion about balls. It is an opinion that has slowly been forming over the last year and half. I think they are irresponsible- dare I say it, immoral- in their excess. And I refuse to go to one.
It is generally unpopular amongst my friends when I express this opinion—not that I have ever tried to convince them not to go; it’s not really any of my business. Yet they often attempt to convince me to go. The argument tends to be: ‘yes it is elitist- it is excessive- but that is Oxford. That is how it has always been. You should go: it’s part of the experience. ‘ And in a way they are right: it is how it has always been. But, as much as love tradition, I don’t think we should cleave to it when it is wrong or damaging. Less than a hundred years ago women were not allowed at Oxford. This too was very much in-line with the Oxonian tradition of the proceeding centuries—but people stood against it and it changed. I think it is time for the balls at Oxford to change too.
Cinderella would never have made it into an Oxford ball. She wouldn’t have had the cash.