If you have been on campus, you might have seen the first of many upcoming appearances of UP’s new mascot: a striking bateleur eagle named MVP. Not only are eagles known to have tenacious spirits, but the bateleur specifically is known to be adaptive to various conditions. According to TuksSport, “Masey (now MVP) is tenacious in their pursuit of their ideals of being a true Tukkie”.
What is most striking about our new mascot is that MVP is gender neutral. Regarding this, Angelica van Dou, the marketing and communications manager for TuksSport, said: “in line with the efforts of the university in creating an inclusive/non-conforming gender landscape, we felt that introducing a gender-neutral mascot is what was called for”. TuksSport sees MVP as a means to physically represent some of their values that cannot be adequately expressed through words.
PDBY interviewed Kherina Narotam, the chairperson of UP&OUT, to establish the society’s view on the gender neutral eagle. Narotam indicated that neither she nor UP&OUT was involved in the creation or institution of this mascot. She expressed that the transformation that TuksSport is trying to achieve by introducing
When asked, Narotam affirmed that she views this as a constructive first step in creating the change that TuksSport referred to above. In addition, she stated, “I’m more curious to find out how [UP] will handle one of those situations in the future because it is inevitable that there will be a trans student participating in sports at some point in the future. And that will be the true testament to whether UP is transformed or not; a mascot is just one step.”
Mascots can be a great way to build connections and affinity amongst people, especially within a vibrant student community like that of UP. It can establish a sense of belonging in everyone, from faculty members to students and alumni in aspects of student life that transcend sport. So, introducing a gender-neutral mascot with the specific aim of inclusivity is a laudable step in the right direction. However, the first step does not conclude the journey.
Illustration: Sechaba Ntshehi