I feel like we can attribute the lack of progress we have made in this country in issues such as gender equality, race and sexuality to the social idea that is ‘Lad Culture’.
If you live in the UK, you probably already know the type of person I’m referring to when I say ‘lad’. Purely as a stereotype for illustration purposes, let me explain for those who aren’t familiar with this type of person: They can usually be found in either a popular nightclub or a gym. They are confrontational and often intimidating. They wear tight t-shirts and walk with a swagger. But I’m not here to criticise their dress sense. ‘Lad’ is more of a state of mind, and one that has become and excuse for all manor of horrible thoughts and actions.
When I was young I went to a state school which was full of chavs (young ‘lads’). I’m now 25 and I realise that this group of young troublemakers was a pre-cursor to the adult lads that I see today. In school they would tell racist and/or sexist jokes, in adult life they’re causing racially incited violence and disrespecting women by inappropriately groping them in clubs or abusing them in relationships – all under the protective umbrella of “banter”. Their views towards gay people are often horrific and archaic. Lads are not only allowed to get away with this behavior due to their numbers as a culture, but they believe that this behaviour is OK. That they aren’t doing anything wrong. This is the heart of the problem – Saying someone is “such a lad” is pretty much a compliment to a lot of men in this country.
When we have a group of people who are intimidating, large in number, quick to anger and often physically large (due to their warped view that bigger muscles make you more important as a person), how do you stand up for what is right? Standing up to a lad that you encounter on a night out who is being racist/sexist/homophobic is obviously the right thing to do, but when they are only going to beat the living crap out of you for doing it, and then walk away laughing about it with their other lad-mates, is this actually making any difference or is it just empowering them in their false sense of status and superiority? For them, if they can beat you physically in a fight, they are all-round the better person. We need to take this culture down, but confrontation is not the way to do it.
The fact that things such as ‘lads mags’ and newspapers such as The Sun that flaunt pictures of naked women in order to sell copies is a large part of the problem. It is allowing lads to think that it’s ‘OK’ to treat women as objects to be physically objectified. The term ‘lads mags’ also goes towards reinforcing ‘lads’ as a group of people in our society with a collective view and opinion about these sensitive issues. I even know some girlfriends who brush off the fact that their boyfriends buy these magazines because ‘boys will be boys’. I don’t think they realise the impact it’s having.
Football is, unfortunately, inherent in lad culture. I don’t think that everyone who enjoys football is a ‘lad’, but I also know that there are no lads who don’t enjoy football. About once a month you hear of a player being shouted racist insults at from the crowd. Football chants are terrible too – often using a cocktail of racism, sexism and homophobia to in some way immaculate and dehumanise the opposing team and their fans. By having this dehumanising group mentality, the lads in the crowds think it’s totally fine.
When lads get older, they get worse. They get stuck in their ways, having immovable opinions on women, people of a different sexual opinion to themselves and people of a different colour or creed to them too. They become harder and harder to reason with as their morally unformed opinions haven’t been challenged as they have grown up and are now cemented in their mind. We need to stop ‘lad culture’ now so that the next generation of adult men don’t turn out the same.
It’s not a case of “Women shouldn’t let their boyfriends/husbands do these kinds of things.” and it’s also not a case of “Well, the good men in this country should stand up to the bad lads whenever they see something they don’t believe is right, shouldn’t they?” Instead, I think that it’s something for us all as a society to deal with. I think the first step is for us to recognise that ‘lad culture’ is wrong and harmful to the growth of this country as a whole. As other countries and societies become more and more accepting of people of different races, gender identities and sexual preference, we don’t want to be seen as ‘that old nation who are socially stuck in the 1960s’.
We don’t want to become irrelevant as a nation. We need to fix this. ‘Lads’ need to go.