YOUNG VOICES

The 'Lad' Label: Why We Need To Leave It Behind

28/07/2014 09:24 BST | Updated 28/07/2014 09:59 BST
QuinnDombrowski/Flickr

Student populations all over the UK are struggling with how to combat the "lad" culture dominating universities.

Over the past year, many student communities have tried to make the point that the "lad" figure should not be idolised but actively fought against, leading some student unions to create the idea of a "good lad" culture.

At the University of Oxford this has taken the form of encouraging men to embrace the idea of the "good lad" through participating in workshops. Sports clubs in particular have been targeted, with members undertaking good lad workshops in order to check their behaviour.

The motive behind the workshops is admirable, but the terminology used may be a step in the wrong direction. By calling the workshop a "good lad" workshop, the implication is the "lad" will remain, but in a reformed version. It might be the case that the term "lad" holds too many negative connotations to be redefined into something positive.

Some feel what needs to happen is not a building upon the lad character which exists, but to wipe it out. The "lad" should not be built upon or improved, but replaced. However others insist the term just needs redefining.

Nicholas Kirby, from the good lad workshop, said: "The real challenge is not simply to change one's own behaviour so that one is no longer seen as being 'one of the lads', instead it is to promote a positive change in lad culture so that being one of the lads is no longer seen as being negative.

"Instead of rejecting the term 'lad' we challenge men to scrap the negative behaviours and retake the term 'lad' as an embodiment of positive masculinity."

He added he recognises the option to "disassociate from the label 'lad' and 'lad culture' and claim that it has nothing to do with oneself", but believes that drawing out the positive masculinity in the term is the better path to take.

However, the power of the word should not be underestimated. Language is the most important part of forming cultural and societal identities. After all, wasn't 'lad' culture formed by individuals motivated by the thought of the 'lad' label applying to them? By showcasing personality traits typical of the 'lad', ordained by some higher power - exemplified by the 'Lad Bible' website - individuals earned the right to become part of the club.

The video played at the beginning of 'Good Lad' workshops, asking women to give their definition of a lad culture, highlights how a main element of being a lad is partaking in the herd mentality to become part of the pack.

One woman said: "A lad is more of a mentality than a person [...] it's a certain way of acting and being with a group of guys."

Other women also made the point of separating the 'lad' from the individual, one defined being a 'lad' as "not really an individual concept, it's more like in relation to the peers around you".

The general consensus seems to be that men only take on their 'lad' persona when they want to perform for a group, when they don't consider their own character to be enough.

There is no doubt that those who strive to become a "good lad" do so with the best of intentions. But to dispel the 'lad' culture of UK universities, men must be encouraged to embrace their individual masculinity. It's time to disband the club.