Calling ‘in’ lad culture: a panel discussion

By Heather Pearson

On the 20th February, I organised a panel discussion on Lad Culture as part of Collingwood College Feminism Society. Nearly 50 people turned up to hear various representatives around Collingwood discuss Lad Culture’s existence, manifestations, and repercussions on the University experience.

With so much interest in the event, it’s clear that the issues of Lad Culture are pertinent and are a huge concern to students. Whilst the panel was great to exchange ideas and discuss its causes and issues, in tackling Lad Culture and making the University environment a better place in general, there needs to be action.

After reflecting on the points brought up at the panel, an important action to tackle ‘laddish’ behaviour was brought up: do not be complacent, be an active bystander. If someone retreats to sexism, racism, homophobia as a punchline, don’t laugh along or worse, play it off as ‘banter.’ Once harmful generalisations of people start becoming a joke, these attitudes are normalised, and that’s when we fall into problematic behaviour – we only need to look to the defamatory actions of two college sports’ teams last term to know that prejudices and harmful attitudes can manifest into serious situations.

Do not be complacent, be an active bystander

Instead of being complacent in the eyes of problematic behaviour, calling ‘in’ someone on their actions helps to change attitudes. Public announcements of someone’s problematic behaviour, which is ‘calling out,’ is a valid way of holding people accountable for their actions – but if this is only going to incite anger from the guilty party, it is easy to get defensive and may even worsen their attitudes. However, to call ‘in’ strikes a balance – taking that person aside and letting them know what they did was wrong, creating a conversation on the subject and extending compassion and understanding. This allows them to analyse their mistakes and hold them accountable for future actions.

The idea of taking a rugby lad aside in 24s to tell him his comment was sexist does seem pretty ridiculous. However, it is time that we start recognising that Lad Culture is not just pints and pulling on a Wednesday night sports social. In everyday life, Lad Culture is present in toxic masculinity, microaggressions, lack of respect, elitist mindsets, and so on – and these can show itself anywhere from the lecture hall to the nightclub.

Calling ‘in’ is not perfect, however. Sometimes it is important to get angry and not hide that for the sake of someone else, sometimes social pressures can stop you from speaking up, out of wanting to fit in or fear of your safety through intimidation. In this case, do not put yourself under any stress or risk. However, if you are in the position where you can just take a friend aside to let them know that what they said was not okay, then please do so.

Cheap alcohol, a huge importance placed on sports, collegiate competitiveness and the ‘Bubble’ can make Durham seem like a playground for Lad Culture to manifest

If you’re worried about being ‘that person’ or being ‘too serious,’ then it is because you don’t think the situation is serious enough. And the repercussions can be severe: if unchallenged they may never know it was an issue, heightening their entitlement, which can lead to more serious incidents down the line.

At the end of the day, a comment from a close friend will always resonate more with someone than from a stranger, because you have developed that trust and respect for each other. Aiding each other’s self-development is a key part of friendship, so allow them to learn from their mistakes.

In Durham we have a nuanced experience of Lad Culture – cheap alcohol, a huge importance placed on sports, collegiate competitiveness and the ‘Bubble’ can make Durham seem like a playground for Lad Culture to manifest. Considering this in the aftermath of serious incidents coming from ‘Lads’ last term, the act of calling ‘in’ may seem small and insignificant. However, actions stem from attitudes and behaviours, so tackling it at its source will alleviate its occurrences, and is an action that is not to be overlooked.

Photograph: James Savage via Flickr

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