The NUS has recently published research which placed ‘Lad Culture’ and its consequences under the microscope. The study, carried out by the University of Sussex, identified that 50% of participants identified “prevailing sexism, ‘laddism’ and a culture of harassment” at their universities. In light of the results, the NUS are now calling for a summit to tackle the issue, identifying the struggle ahead as the findings hinted towards a complex, implicit and pervasive cultural tendency in the bedrock of campus culture.
What is ‘Laddism’?
In the study, Lad Culture was defined as a sort of group mentality in which individuals may partake, being identified as a cultural phenomena which affects university experience and campus culture as a whole. In particular, some of the key attributes related to Lad Culture were
Contemporary ‘lad culture’ is understood as one of a variety of masculinities and cultures in UK university communities, which men and women may dip in and out of, but which may shape their identities and attitudes and frame their experience of university life
- “Banter” which is often not politically correct i.e. sexist, misogynist, homophobic
- Normally associated with heavy drinking and nights out
- Often leads to sexual molestation or harrassment- ranging from “jokes” and catcalls, to sexual violence
- Linked with sport- in particular socials and initiations
- Thought of as being influenced by a want of renewed sexism following the crisis of masculinity of the ’90s
In attempting to define the concept, the study did stress that the definition was not “homogenous or monolithic”, signalling that lad culture is not always enacted by all men. In fact, anyone can partake in ‘laddishness’, and those who do join in are not necessarily always ‘lads’.
How does it affect campus culture?
Lad Culture was found to be detrimental to campus culture in that is normalises attitudes supportive of sexual harassment and violence. The subculture was also deemed as detrimental to academic achievement, and intimidating and alienating to certain other groups such as homosexuals.
Some of the more prominent negative sides of Lad Culture seem to be primarily exacerbated by its strong connection with alcohol consumption, which was found to create pressures for students to engage in a high frequency of sexual activity; encourage inappropriate and offensive “jokes”; and even lead to sexual harassment.
The new research from the NUS confirms and reiterates themes that have arisen again and again across hundreds of young people’s entries to the Everyday Sexism Project.Laura BatesEveryday Sexism Project
Many other national women’s organisations have supported the call for a summit, with bodies such as the Everyday Sexism Project and the Equality Challenge Unit committing to the cause.
Perhaps one of the most worrying aspects surrounding this pack mentality, is that the study’s participants highlighted that they felt unable to challenge these behaviours; often being ridiculed for being unable to take a joke or simply ignored.
Another uncomfortable truth raised by the study is the issue of normalisation. It’s this intangible quality to the cult of laddishness that makes uncomfortable and disturbing behaviours- such as rape jokes and initiation games like ‘pull the pig’- seem natural and unavoidable.
It is precisely this invisibilisation of gendered university practises and negative ‘lad’ behaviour that makes them so difficult to detect- even by its members- and even more difficult to challenge.
Although the study found that Lad Culture primarily affected social life and nights out at university, it was also noted that the issue did also feed into institutional practises, such as implicit gendered hierarchies of degree courses, and male dominated participation in classes. Moreover, the NUS stressed that there is a gap in governmental policy for students that are female.
On the other hand, it is equally important to realise that this study has by no means provided us with a comprehensive guide of Lad Culture, and less so the tools for counter action. The study itself calls attention to the fact that its results are based on a sample of 40 students, the majority of whom were white, British, middle-class undergraduates. The NUS also acknowledged the fact that the results have not shed light on any quick fix situations .
‘Lad culture’ is a problem that needs to be urgently addressed. ”Kelley TempleNUS Women's Officer
The fact that the participants felt powerless to challenge the behaviours of ‘Lad Culture’, as well as the fact that there is a gap in governmental policy for female students have contributed to the NUS’s strong appeal for a summit, in the hope of driving a “cultural shift”.
The study may not have presented a clear course of action for tackling the negative effects of Lad Culture, but it has been instrumental in helping us to understand the phenomena and its consequences. It is clear that issues such as offensive banter and sexual harassment must be addressed, so the next steps will be to arrange the summit, and launch further investigation into the area.
Do you think that Southampton has a problem with ‘Lad Culture’? Let us know by commenting below, tweeting @WessexScene, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more about the proposed summit and the study results here.