The topic of lad culture is gaining momentum across campuses nationwide. It first received mass media attention after the NUS Women’s Campaign published their seminal report, ‘That’s What She Said’, studying the lad culture movement and its impact on female students experience in higher education.
Flickr: Tom Ellefsen
The concept of the ‘lad’ is not a new one, however. Some claim it began in the 90s, with the first publication of men’s magazines featuring nude, overtly-sexualised women, and pop icons like the Gallagher brothers paving the way for today’s ‘lads’. Others claim that the attitude fostered by ‘lads’ everywhere is one that has always existed, handed down by fathers and male relatives everywhere, but only becoming prevalent with the increasing use of social media to ease mass communication. With many universities across the country beginning campaigns to combat the effects of lad culture, many are still left confused about what is even meant by the term ‘lad culture’ and why it is an issue.
Lad culture is dominated by misogynist, prejudiced attitudes that are swept under the carpet as ‘just a bit of banter’. It is often referred to as a ‘pack mentality’. One male by himself may be a perfectly pleasant and amiable individual, but bring a group of young men together, add in heavy alcohol consumption, and the issues can begin to arise. Sports club initiations and night outs are typically referred to as prime examples of the culture in action. These hyper-masculine environments are dominated by crass conversations and taunting, all claimed to be performed in a joking manner. To the lad, any subject matter can be made light of. Even those present who may not agree with the actions of their peers don’t feel able to speak out, for fear of the negative attention being turned on them instead of women or minorities, the typical targets of lad culture’s attentions.
One participant in the NUS study stated that they did not have a single friend who had not experienced harassment while at university. Other students have also stated that the prevalence of lad culture on certain campuses made them reconsider their options when applying to universities, even choosing to live at home or take an Open University course instead. The issue of lad culture and its negative impact on students’ experience of university is not simply limited to the social aspect either. The NUS’s report found that it crossed over into their academic lives also, with traditionally feminine subjects, such as Nursing, being dismissed as less important than other traditionally masculine subjects, and women students feeling silenced or unable to speak up in seminars.
The issue of lad culture, whether old or new, is clearly no longer something that can be ignored. Student unions have taken moves to counteract its negative effects, such as banning songs with offensive lyrics like Robin Thicke’s popular hit ‘Blurred Lines’, or launching good behaviour campaigns aimed at sports clubs, like Oxford’s ‘Good Lad’ campaign.
The Union of UEA Students already has a Zero Tolerance to sexual harassment policy and this academic year will see moves made to ensure that further steps are taken to combat unacceptable behaviour in the name of ‘banter’.