Oi Oi! Lads on tour!
Pass a pint of Stella (or don’t, and if my mother asks I asked you for Appletiser).
Whilst talking last week about objectification, my niece interjected, often, with “Why do guys think that’s ok?” It’s a difficult one because I don’t want her to tarnish all men with the same sexist brush – but it would seem that is, very unfortunately, what my niece is surrounded by. I should note for my lovely male, believers in equality, friends who have a tendency to shout out ‘Oi Oi Lads on tour’ on a night out, I understand you do so in an ironic way, this isn’t about you, although the embarrassment I feel on our nights out is…much love.
She talked, angrily, about how there are some young men she knows who will openly objectify a girl walking past and say degrading things about her, without any recognition of what exactly it is they are doing. She’s not friends with these young men. She’s friends with the nicer ones. The one’s that only do it to the women on TV or in the paper. That’s much better.
When you are in a society where all things are sexualised and a woman needs to be undressed to sell a product, you make it normal, you make it acceptable. I saw an advert a while ago with a pretty much naked women, using a sexy voice to sell me Tana lady…that’s just bad marketing! Or how about that Oasis advert that gives a Scotch Egg, yes, a Scotch Egg, a sexy female voice…that’s just plain weird.
So when a ‘lad’ talks about a woman in a sexualised manner – it’s already ok. The problem is that it doesn’t stop there. As this has grown and gone unchallenged this ‘lad’ culture has become more dangerous. Its language is becoming violent and it’s being dismissed as ‘banter’. Now I have banter, my banter is excellent. It doesn’t need to sexualise or demean anyone to be that way. A disgustingly perfect example of this is the Uni Lad website, that decided rape and drugging girlfriends was ‘banter’. (There are many very good articles about this: here’s one from the F-Word). But the problem isn’t with the guys that write this. They are, of course, morons and most people, wouldn’t write articles like that or particularly read them. The issue is actually the groundswell of people who respond by simply saying ‘They’re just lads, thinking they’re funny, it’s not a big deal’. It is a big deal. It is a huge fricking deal. Especially, when the people who say this are guys that my niece would call her friends, and even more painfully, young women, just like my niece, who want people to think they can have banter too.
I asked her what she did when young men acted like ‘lads’, she said she had challenged it one or twice but got the same response: “Get a grip it’s just a laugh” or “Girls are so frigid, they need to get a sense of humour”. After that kind of response, I get why my niece and any other young woman, doesn’t bother challenging it again. It would take a lot of courage to do so. And these are young men who are her friends. But I say again, maybe it’s not their fault, they are buying into a culture that has gone unchallenged, so why would they know better. If you took one of these young men aside and said ‘Why do you think that’s funny?’ I wonder what response you’d get?
“Because it’s just taking the piss”
“Because it’s not real, nobody actually thinks like that”
Or maybe just a grunt and a shrug…perhaps I’m being harsh, that probably because my nephew’s last voicemail sounded that way, I think he wanted a lift somewhere, but I had trouble deciphering that between the grumbles. I guess he was too tired for syllables…
The response wouldn’t be “Because I find reducing women to a sexual object and violence against women highly amusing”. Which, when they laugh along, is exactly what they are endorsing. If only they knew, if only someone would talk to them about it.
Sexism was overt, then there were campaigns, there were laws and it become subtle but just as dangerous. Now that it is challenged less, it seems like it’s becoming louder again but even more dangerous. Why? Because this time round, it has a new way of delivering itself, one that can mask itself in humour and twitterfeeds.
So I told my niece to do something about it: don’t let it go unchallenged, even if it’s your mates – explain why it’s not ok and make sure they understand. For those of you reading, if you don’t already do this. Start.