An Open Letter To The 'Lads': We Need To Talk About Lad Culture
The lad: the boss of banter, the downer of pints, the life and soul of the party. Everyone loves a lad. What would uni life be without the classic lad crew? Or a night out perhaps? They’re no harm. Just a bit of fun.
But there’s a problem here. You see, there is a very fine line. On one side of the line is the nice, funny guy – he’s confident, talks politely to your mum, and he’s a gentleman. On the other side of the line is the misogynist. The lad stands firmly on this line. He has sexist tendencies, but isn’t labelled as an asshole because he makes us all laugh.
I like to laugh just as much as anyone else, but I’m concerned with the sense of humour that surrounds lad culture. I’m concerned with humour that has the purpose of making people feel uncomfortable. While a lad’s ‘locker room talk’ may be brushed off – or simply encouraged by his pals – there’s a point where enough is enough. There’s only a matter of times I can hear rape jokes before you think ‘Was this ever funny?’
A lot of it comes down to peer pressure, or acceptance. Many lads are kind people when alone, yet drop them amongst their rugby team and he’ll start bellowing sexist chants and cheer along to alcohol-induced groping attempts in nightclubs.
Something they wouldn’t normally do is suddenly acceptable, in an attempt to ‘outlad’ their pack.
Take the cruel ‘pull a pig’ prank that seemed to blow up last year. This is a game in which lads try to hook up with the least attractive girl they can find on a night out – typically this is also an overweight person. Their horrific games are built around their shock factor.
How the hell does any decent person look at a fat girl, killing it on the dance floor, and think, this is a great opportunity to intimidate somebody, for nothing more than a few pats on the back from fellow fuckboys?
You are not doing this as a compliment. You are doing this to embarrass somebody. Is your masculinity so fragile that any female, who doesn’t meet your sexist, narrow-minded standards, must be degraded? News flash: some girls aren’t interested in you. You think that an unconventionally pretty girl needs to be mocked, rather than realising the fact that she probably doesn’t give a shit about you. She doesn’t need your attention to know she’s desirable.
And while we’re on the subject, what is it with these lads and their so-called compliments? Don’t assume every girl you offer a drink wants one. Don’t assume every girl you ask home wants to join you. We talk about cliques and hierarchies for girls, but the lads may as well be the queen bees for men – the ones who believe everyone wants a taste of them.
Whether it be because you aren’t single, you’re only out for a dance with the girls, or you just don’t bloody want to go home with him, any declines are typically followed by some rude 'you’re an ugly slut anyway' sort of comment. Any indication that you cannot be their possession, or that you have bruised their ego, causes them to step all over you.
This is why, too much of the time, lad culture has become a breeding ground for sexism, homophobia, and similarly vile ways of thinking. What was once just considered fun and games can kick start an array of instances of hate crime and sexual assault.
One in three female students experience sexual assault or abuse while at university. If only there were a way to stop this… Oh, wait — there is.
Firstly, education is needed. There must be more information about consent, safe sex and respect. Current sex ed lessons seem to do little more than show confused teens how to put a condom on a banana. The emotional side of things is just as important. Last year, The Tab discovered Bristol and Oxford were the only universities that made sex ed compulsory.
There’s a bigger picture, though. When it comes to pointing fingers at your local university’s rugby team, we have to remember that we all have a responsibility. Call somebody out if they’re overstepping boundaries. Don’t be a bystander. And don’t do it yourself.
We’re all grateful for our freedom of speech – don’t get me wrong – but just because you can say something, that doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can call that girl a slag for not wanting a drink from you, that doesn’t make it okay to do so.
There are plenty of things to joke about, and, perhaps, groping girls on dancefloors, or catcalling them on their way home, aren’t one of them. If your laddy friend’s ego is fuelled by authoritative opportunities to belittle people, don’t give him a high five for his smooth banter. Tell him where to stick it.