Change in the name of gender neutrality has come to one of the nation’s oldest universities.
Since 1766, fathers and (presumably) mothers have been sending their kids to New Brunswick, N.J., to attend Rutgers University. Since 1873, students and faculty have heard or sung “On the Banks of the Old Raritan,” the school’s alma mater:
As you can hear in the video above, the song starts with the lyric:
My father sent me to old Rutgers
And resolved that I should be a man.
After what choral director Patrick Gardner told The Home News Tribune
was “20 years of intense wave of people upset with the old lyrics,” the school now plans to change the lyric to be gender neutral. The new lyric:
From far and near we came to Rutgers
And resolved to learn all that we can.
Of course, this is just the latest development in what seems to be a public push toward gender neutrality, with brands and marketers at a crossroads.
There was a huge initiative around Christmas last year for the introduction of a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven
. More recently, Lego has been hounded to put female heads on its male-intended bodies, labeling them “Badass Lego Girls
.” Some parents have gone as far as even to pressure Toys ‘R’ Us
to do away with gender-specific marketing altogether.
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On one hand, it makes sense to change the lyrics to a school song that excludes half the student body. On the other, the song was written in 1873, when only men were allowed to attend the school. Was it the finest choice Rutgers ever made? Probably not, but it was a sign of the times and part of the school’s history. It’s a reflection of the life those glee club members that wrote it were living at the time.
When does gender neutrality go too far, and when is it necessary? These are questions that Rutgers had to weigh, and questions that many marketers face daily.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.