Before I arrived at university, I had a fairly stereotypical view of what a ‘lad’ was: a man who tends to sit around watching nothing but the football all weekend with a can of beer in his hand, and only gets up to go off and play a round of golf every now and then (now I think about it, I have basically just described my dad). They’d do a few things worthy of a sigh (or a roll of my mum’s eyes) and occasionally get in trouble, but that’s about it.
But since starting at university, the word ‘lad’ seems to have taken on a whole new meaning. I’m not sure whether that’s down to the university I attend, the area I’m in or the age of people I’m surrounded by, but the new ‘lad culture’ has suddenly become a lot more dangerous than boys getting themselves into trouble every now and then.
Yes, self-proclaimed ‘lads’ still walk around with a can of beer stuck to their hands and only talk about/watch/care about sport and football, but the latest development in the works is the inclusion of so-called “banter”. I can officially say I am sick of the word ‘banter’; it appears to be the word many men use to pass-off an offensive insult. Criticise the way a girl looks? It’s just banter. Write judgmental tweets about girls? It’s just banter. Eye up every girl who walks into the club, but only if her breasts are big enough? Yes, that’s banter too.
The word ‘banter’ has apparently also changed in meaning. After doing a quick Google search I found that the official definition for ‘banter’ is “the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks”, i.e. it is only ‘banter’ if the other person considers it to be. So when a rude and downright misogynistic comment is called ‘banter’, it really isn’t. Sexist jokes, such as this I read online the other week, take it too far. These sorts of comments are extremely dangerous too; they are not quite sexist enough to be taken off the market, and women can easily pass it off as a “joke”.
The problem with misogynistic remarks, particularly as women grow up through university, is that if they pass unnoticed or unchallenged, they become more commonplace and accepted. Women will genuinely look at page three models and think that is the only acceptable way to look, and doubt things about themselves if they are criticised for being too fat, too skinny, breasts too small, bum too large. I only have to take one example from one night when I went out clubbing a couple of months ago to show how bad ‘lad culture’ has is at the moment – I was dancing with my friends and a man came along and grabbed my bum. I pushed him away and looked outraged, causing another guy to come over and ask me what was wrong. I told him what had happened and he looked at my bum and replied: “Well, I don’t blame him… It’s all just banter, ain’t it?”
Before you all start calling me an extreme feminist and saying that I’m making too much of a big deal, see this report the NUS conducted in March. Far too many more women than I am comfortable with seem to agree with me. Also, to those who say that it isn’t only women who are victimised, don’t worry, I agree, men are victimised too. No wonder they feel threatened to become part of this ‘lad culture’; they are judged enough by other men depending on the score of their football team, their score with women, and how good their own ‘banter’ is. And as for me being a feminist: yes, I am a feminist, and I am proud to say so. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be a feminist – it isn’t about women rising above men or having more power than men, it’s simply about the achievement of equality, which however much anyone argues definitely has not been reached yet. I think that one of my friends (and former co-news editor of the Boar with me), Jack Shardlow, describes the misunderstanding over feminism very well in this article.
But anyway, here’s the situation, girls – unfortunately, lad culture has now gone too far for us to ignore, or just hope will go away, so we’re going to have to deal with it. The first thing we need to do is redefine the ‘lad’ for what he really is: remember the so-called ‘lads’ are actually not ‘lads’ at all. They are extremely insecure individuals who feel the need to impress others to boost their own ego. They want to get with as many girls as possible to increase their ‘lad’ status and make themselves look attractive. But in fact, it’s the total opposite – why is every ‘lad’ single? Because lad culture really isn’t funny, or attractive. It’s disgusting and repulsive. They are sad and pathetic people.
Secondly, and most importantly, make sure you stand up for yourself and be proud of being a feminist. If you’re being spoken to in a way you don’t like, or see a man acting towards another women in a way you don’t like, then just say it. Lad culture won’t go away unless we show men that they won’t get anywhere with it, and that it’s not okay. Only be treated how you feel like you should be. Be proud of who you are.