Surprise? Lad culture goes too far
This week, a bright young woman at University College took a motion to the JCR to inaugurate University College Feminists, and it was ratified. About time, you might think. Feminist thinking has formed a significant movement in our society for gone a hundred years now. Not a mind amongst the Durham alumni will be a stranger to the issues that feminists seek to address: there is raw data and debate at all levels which supports the assertion that these ideas are not fanciful, but real injustices in our society.
As you would expect from a prolific institution, there are many individuals in Durham eager to tackle the issues that will affect generations to come. As you would not expect, the motion to ratify University College Feminists was a hair’s breadth from failure. Worse still, when the motion did succeed it triggered a number of emails that made heard the ever-clanging bells of misogyny.
This rejection of social progress can be seen in some manifestations of the increasingly unbridled ‘lad’ culture. Is ‘lad’ culture producing, in a readily digestible format, new wave misogyny for dispersion into modern society?
Depending what definition you take, and how seriously you take yourself, there is nothing particularly offensive about being a ‘lad’, leaving aside the cringe-inducing crassness of the cliché. The idea that a group of guys go on a night out, have a few drinks, meet a few girls, try and stuff eighty eight chips in their mouth and shout banter at the same time without inducing asphyxiation, is a palatable suggestion to some men, and I dare say some women too. And, depending on where you get your chips, I don’t think anyone is generally much inclined to complain.
Sadly, it doesn’t always stop there. This week, website UniLad was taken down after an abhorrent article and ensuing twitter ‘banter’ penned by Jamie Street overstepped the mark. The contention of Sexual Mathematics was that with 85% of rapes going unreported, if the girl a UniLad reader has taken out for a drink ‘won’t spread for your head’ you have fairly good odds of getting away with it. Street failed to argue that the content was a joke. Ask a woman who has been on the receiving end how funny it was when the joviality they thought was harmless turned aggressive after a few pints of wife-beater and they ended up being assaulted. I doubt either party shouted ‘surprise’ when the act was over.
The NUS, editorial teams at The Huffington Post, the BBC and The Week and thousands of participants in the twitter backlash have not all had a sense of humour failure. This incident isn’t the only one of its kind. ‘Lad’ culture stops being funny when it is being used to inculcate chauvinistic attitudes in otherwise educated young men, particularly when what was a response to second-wave feminism has now taken on a misogynistic life of its own.
Occasionally, women buy into it too. But women’s behaviour is fodder for a separate piece. Abusive behaviour encouraged by a stereotype is not tolerable in either gender. It is dangerous. We were supposed to have grown out of the ‘but she did it too’ mentality when we left school. Temptation to eschew responsibility ought to be resisted.
Think about it: It’s not about hairy-armpit loving, muff-diving, power-dressing banshees yelling “vagina” into the night sky. Even a cretin will acknowledge how empty that stereotype is, a true modern myth. The fact is that one hundred years ago, the feminist movement gained pace and recognition owing to its integrity. Since then our society has become brighter and more diverse.
Given the violations that continue to take place, the movement cannot be allowed to grind to a halt. The pressing need to address the idiosyncrasies that persist must be met with a considered response. Participants of both genders are keen to work toward this aim, and we should at least let them, even if some of us don’t care to help.
The pertinent issue is this: at the third best university in a country home to some of the best higher education institutions in the world, we should be nurturing a change in attitude. When our student body infiltrates government institutions and leading corporate entities, their attitudes will filter into society from the top. Do we want them to see rape as a joke?