This is part of a series in response to a report on Lad Culture in British Universities. Previous posts in this series include “All Up In Their Space” by V.J.D. Smith; “The Joke’s Wearing Thin” by Nikki Rivers and “That’s What She Said” by Jem Bloomfield. Elizabeth Rogers is working on a PhD at the University of Dundee, working on Shakespeare’s History Plays. She has recently become increasingly engaged with feminism and gender issues.
The NUS report That’s what she said highlights issues female students face with everyday sexism on campus. ‘Lad culture’, as we call it, often demeans and insults women, and when women complain, to add further insult to injury, they are accused of not having a sense of humour. Apparently sexist jokes are now banter, and if you aren’t laughing, it certainly won’t be because the joke simply isn’t funny.
Facebook is perhaps the most guilty of portraying this behaviour as acceptable. Groups such as ‘Uni Lad’ and ‘The Lad Bible’ frequently create jokes at the expense of women, referring to them as ‘wenches’ and telling them to ‘get back in the kitchen’. ‘The Lass Bible’, in response to ‘The Lad Bible’ tends to have more comments from men than women, all deriding its attempts at humour. More worryingly, young girls are now seen responding to these insults by offering to make these ‘men’ sandwiches. This supports their behaviour, when it really needs to be challenged. The problem is, if you ever challenge someone for making a sexist comment, you tend to be told to ‘calm down’ or to ‘get a sense of humour’. If both parties are not amused, it is more likely that the ‘joke’ was just not very good to begin with.
This then extends to student unions. With nights out entitled ‘Golf pros and tennis hoes’ and ‘CEO’s and corporate hoes’ it is no wonder that female students often feel let down by their universities. But it is not just the names of these events that are problematic. The term ‘hoe’ calls for skimpy clothing, and yet, when women do dress in this way, they are called ‘sluts’ and are accused of ‘asking for attention’. So much so, that when women complain to the bouncers about being groped by fellow students, they told that if you dress like that and come to an event of this nature, it is your own fault. In other words, if you follow an events ‘dress code’ you are a slut, and if you don’t, you are boring. I was once called ‘frigid’ for putting my jumper on because I was cold. Additionally, when I questioned a boy for grabbing my backside, I was told to ‘lighten up and have fun’. I hadn’t realised that sexual harassment was now supposed to be fun for me as well. To me, this is not banter, it is bullying. It is frustrating that if you state your opinion on derogatory behaviour that people then assume you are ‘angry’ or ‘upset’, leading to the ‘calm down’ comments.
What everyone needs to remember is that it is perfectly acceptable to state when something makes you uncomfortable, and no one should be mocked for doing this. This ‘culture’ has created an uncomfortable environment where feminists are laughed at for ‘hating men’. Yet feminism is about equality; why should anyone feel embarrassed to admit that they stand for this? All ‘lad culture’ has achieved is a few students feeling good about themselves by acting in a negative way towards others, in other words, bullying. I suppose my question is: why should I put up with this crap? Particularly from younger students who have no idea what feminism is, how it feels to worry that you will struggle with your career due to your gender…the list goes on. If these lads want feminism to go away, they need to stop being so sexist, as they are the reason we need feminism to begin with.
It is a shame, because the majority of male students are actually very respectful and mature. Sadly, sometimes the minority, through social media and extremely offensive behaviour, can be seen to represent all male students. ‘Lad culture’ should be renamed ‘boy culture’: it is only for the immature.
Is there a solution to this? ‘Lad culture’ seems to want to redefine masculinity in a way that makes immaturity and misogyny ‘manly’ behaviour. Pages such as ‘Wipeout sexism on FB’ attempt to target sexist pages and reduce the impact ‘lad culture’ has on social media. Additionally, ‘Spotted: Sexism on Campus’ responds to ‘spotted’ pages (which mean men and women can anonymously comment on each other’s appearance – not great for either sex), by shaming sexist comments, and aiming to prevent this from fixing in society as a norm. Several student unions have also removed offending events, such as ‘rappers and slappers’, which is definitely a step in the right direction. There has also been a UK campaign to remove The Sun newspaper from campus shops due to Page 3.