International Women's Day 2015: Has Lad Culture Really Gone Away?

Lad Culture: Where Do We Stand Now?

The battle against lad culture on campuses has stepped up a notch during the past year, with male and females alike joining the call to arms to turn their universities into safer spaces and stamp out misogynism.

All has been quiet on the front for a while, with the accusations of horrifyingly sexist initiations petering out into barely a whisper, but does this mean the war has been won?

Feminist societies and students across the UK have been at the forefront of the fight, tirelessly campaigning for the issue to be taken seriously and holding universities, nightclubs and fellow students to account.

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Cardiff University student Vicky Chandler's petition to have sexist comedian Dapper Laugh's gig cancelled sparked the downfall of the self-proclaimed "lad", after Chandler successfully persuaded her university to pull the plug on his appearance.

Kent University's student union pulled a promotional poster for its summer ball after the women's campaign officer intervened and expressed her disgust for the advert. Bethany Taylor held the SU to account for the poster, which she said was perpetuating rape culture.

Leeds students protest against Tequila UK, an events company which discussed raping students in order to promote its club night

Another promotional poster, this time from a nightclub in Glasgow, angered students for its use of violet and sexist imagery, while feminist students in Nottingham demanded action be taken after university reps were filmed singing misogynistic chants about having sex with dead women.

Women's societies have also been proactive in their fight, with campaigns to introduce non-profit sanitary products, hashtags turning the idea of beauty on its head, and feminist club nights.

Hattie Stamp, the feminist society president at Bristol University, and founder of Boobie Nights, the city's first feminist club night, told HuffPost UK young people are increasingly recognising how essential feminism is, and getting involved in the movement.

"As soon as you start to really think about it, you realise that women and men are not equal and there are a lot of things in our society that need to change, and that can be really frustrating," she says. "Student feminist groups are a great way to talk about that frustration with people who feel the same, and I think increasingly that's what students are doing.

"A lot more students are openly calling themselves feminist and engaging in the movement than a few years ago."

And perhaps most importantly, it seems feminist fever has spread to male-dominated societies, and in particular sports clubs, many of whom have had a long and uneasy associated with lad culture.

Late last year it emerged a fraternity at Edinburgh University had seemingly discussed raping members of the feminist society. In 2013, Oxford University's rugby club organised a "free pussy" event where members were instructed to spike their date's drink, while Durham's rugby club landed itself in hot water after playing a drinking game which allegedly involved members finishing the sentence "it's not rape if...".

There's certainly no shortage of examples where lad culture has ingrained itself in university society. Now, however, male students are increasingly playing their part in helping disseminate the message that the culture is no longer acceptable.

One such example is King's College London's men's rugby team, who have teamed up with the university's student newspaper Roar News to shoot a naked calendar and raise money for domestic violence and abuse charity for LGBT communities.

Research from 2012, carried out by the National Union of Students, showed the prevalence of lad culture in sports teams can prevent LGBT students from joining sports teams, so it's an important step in the right direction.

Following research revealing more than a third of female students had faced inappropriate touching and groping, universities were slammed for failing to take action against lad culture and sexual harrassment.

Alice Phillips, the women's officer at Bristol University's student union, agrees universities need to be doing "a lot more".

"'m currently working hard to get consent workshops in place for all new students this September, and I think the university needs to do more to train staff to be able to deal with reports of sexual harassment and assault. University management need to make it clear that harassment and lad culture will not be tolerated in their institutions."

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Cambridge University

Six times lad culture was taken down

It's this kind of pressure from students which is prompting universities to crack down on lad culture. Cardiff University's football team was banned from playing for two weeks after it delivered a presentation on how to sleep with women who have low self-esteem - to a group of female students.

The London School of Economics even went so far as to disband its men's rugby team after sexist and homophobic leaflets were handed out during a freshers' fair. The club triggered a string of complaints over the pamphlet which branded women slags, trollops and mingers and joked about banning "homosexual debauchery" from their initiation.

"Calling out our peers is really important," Alice explains. And it seems more students are willing to take their associaties to task. Stirling University's men's hockey club found itself facing disciplinary action after it was filmed ridiculing one female who dared to stand up to the group, who were chanting offensive lyrics about miscarriages.

Bristol's student union has called on its vice chancellor to sign the NUS' reclaim your campus pledge, which includes commitments to engage in a national strategy to tackle lad culture on campus and bring in compulsory consent workshops - such as those in place at Oxford University.

"Lad culture is definitely a real problem nationally," Alice adds, "and there is lots to be done to improve things here at Bristol.

"One signatory to our petition left a comment saying: 'I'm signing because I can't count the number of times I have been sexually harassed in clubs/on the street by my university peers'."

Connor O'Donnell, a politics student at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), agrees, saying lad culture is "still prominent".

"It’s especially prominent on the nightlife scene; I have female friends and when we go out they are made to feel uncomfortable. [Lads] see groping as friendly and acceptable, and consistent pestering to be a form of flirting.

"The same goes for when around Nottingham in the day (including in the NTU area), cat-calling is unfortunately still a common occurrence, I would argue that this is due to lad culture, and it is often not confronted as a social problem. When I have confronted people on their ‘laddish’ actions, they pass it off as just being a joke, or friendly ‘banter’."

"People can cover up the effects of lad culture by saying it’s just a laugh, but it does take an effect on people, it makes people, myself included, feel uncomfortable and those who witness such acts from lad culture should not be a bystander, but confront the perpetrators and educate them on their wrongdoing."

However Connor does highlight the efforts his university is making to combat such issues; the Sun newspaper has been banned from being sold in the union shop, while a survey has been created to enable students to raise any concerns.

It seems although lad culture is unfortunately still prevalent on campuses, and indeed in society as a whole, more and more recruits are signing up to help eradicate it, and make universities a safer, secure space for all.

Maggie Cole

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