The phrase “he’s such a lad” gets thrown about a lot, but there is a real issue around lad culture in Universities. Lad culture has been a point of focus for the National Union of Students (NUS), Universities and Students’ Unions (SU) throughout the country. The attitude created by lad culture is one you would have hoped we had left in the 80s, but unfortunately laddish behaviour is popular and on the rise.
So, what is ‘Lad Culture’?
The the term ‘lad’ is a very innocent one just meaning ‘guy’, but the meaning of lad has changed considerably. The modern understanding of being a ‘lad’ is a person that largely does things for a laugh and the greatest issue is the misogynistic attitude. Lad culture has led to young men objectifying women by verbally abusing and giving women offensive nicknames. The real growth of lad culture has mostly occurred due to young men wanting to impress their peers, thus seeming ‘laddish’. Unfortunately, this attitude is being regarded as normal due to the amount of young men acting in such a way and being pushed by friends to act similarly.
The term “new lad” was formed by journalist Sean O’Hagan in a 1993 article which symbolised a new postmodern masculine behaviour. Men’s magazines; Maxim, FHM and Loaded were examples and influenced the return of hegemonic masculine values of sexism and male homosociality (Faludi, Susan (2000) p. 594). The modern era saw the rise of feminism and the rights of equality being fought for; some men saw themselves as battered by feminism, one could also consider that “laddishness is a response to humiliation and indignity…the girl-power! Girl-power! Female triumphalism which echoes through the land” (Weldon, p. 61)
Part of “the postmodern transformation of masculinity…the 1990s ‘new lad’ was a clear reaction to the ‘new man’…most clearly embodied in current men’s magazines, such as Maxim, FHM and Loaded, and marked by a return to hegemonic masculine values of sexism and male homosociality”, which meant that this was a renovation to create a new masculine identity. Lad culture grew beyond men’s magazines to movies such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and to the TV sitcoms; Men Behaving Badly, The Inbetweeners and Fantasy Football League. These were television programmes present images of Laddishness that are dominated by the male pastimes of drinking, watching football, and sex. These are presented as being ironic and “knowing”.
A recent University leaflet in LSE described women as “mingers”, “trollops” and “slags”. A BBC poll in September showed that more than one-third had seen promotional materials around University that featured sexualised images of women. Because of such language becoming more and more common in Universities, a recent poll showed that half of all women asked felt uncomfortable in Universities due to laddish culture. In response to this issue, the NUS held a ‘Lad Culture Summit’ in 2012. The report from this meeting showed that 75% of women felt like laddish behaviour affected their lives. Being in the 21st century, you would expect the youth of today to treat women equally, but lad culture enables discrimination and objectification of women to continue.
Diane Abbott MP said:
‘It is important that the government and Universities listen to what students are saying, and challenge any normalisation of sexism on University campuses. This isn’t about being killjoys, but about building a society where people can learn and thrive free from shame, harassment and abuse.
Polly Williams, (Senior Policy Adviser, Equality Challenge Unit) said:
“A dominant ‘lad culture’ may also damage the student experience of many male students, who either feel that they have to conform, or become disengaged from campus life to avoid it.”
The rise of the new lad coincided with a backlash against feminism by both men and women, and in particular against the figure of the new man as “one who has subjugated his masculinity in order to fulfill the needs of women…this passive and insipid image”. At a time when “the stereotypes for men attentive to feminism were two: Eunuch, or Beast”, – and when women were increasingly feeling that “new men are fine in the kitchen, but who wants them in the bedroom?” – the “new lad” image
offered “a space of fun, consumption and sexual freedom for men”, as well as “a refuge from the constraints and demands of marriage and nuclear family”.
Lad culture in the 21st century is heavily embedded in to social media from Facebook pages and websites such as LAD bible and UniLad has been a source of influence to promote that this type of norm. These websites are easily accessible containing videos of football, violence and even people making a fool out of them, and is considered to be funny.
The solution, in my opinion, is pretty simple … respect. To remove lad culture, young men need to be the change and give women the respect that they deserve and expect. No one deserves to be objectified and violated just for a laugh or to fit in. In short, grow a pair and give some respect.
The NUS are working on the arranging compulsory training and workshops; this has already implemented in Oxford University Student Union and their Union has recently made it compulsory for sports societies to undergo training around lad culture, thus people become aware and conscious about it.
Eva Wiseman, a Guardian writer specialising in women’s health, claimed this to be a start of a solution: “It’s to try to wobble the dominating culture by pointing out that it’s one of many. That it is challengeable. Speak-up-against-able. So that students realise, when they feel themselves riding that banterous wave down North Street, that it’s possible to swim against it, and if not, to roll off down a slipstream, down to the water where it’s quiet.”
University of Bath’s Students’ Union President, Jordan Kenny, tackled the issue by allowing:
- Increased visibility of Lad Culture to the student body.
- Training for student leaders on what Lad Culture is, how it affects student groups and students, what can be done to tackle it, and how to report issues
- An increase in participation from key demographics in student groups.
This article was co-written by Imran Sanaullah & Anonymous