When I started university three years ago, shouting LAD at your friends was generally considered to be an acceptable past time. I happily joined in, thrilled at how easy it was to generate comedy by thinking of puns based around the word ‘banter’. To me, LAD culture was ridiculous and parodying it was brilliantly funny. #LADbants seemed harmless and, most importantly, were so demonstrably absurd that it was okay to laugh.
The thing is, the joke started to wear thin. There are only so many ways you can say that women belong in the kitchen or on your genitals before it all gets a bit monotonous. To combat this, the jokes evolved and got darker. Now it wasn’t making sandwiches that LADs were joking about, but domestic violence and, most commonly, rape.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that LAD culture represented a collective inferiority complex. The best way to establish yourself as part a collective, and integrate yourself as a new member, is by identifying the enemy and hating them loudly. For LADs, women were an easy target. At school, racism is dealt with firmly from childhood, but sexism is usually brushed off. Taking sparsely educated young boys and adding years of conditioning from an inherently sexist society is enough to shape an army of young men who know that a few sexist gags will guarantee them a place as one of the lads.
Social networking sites like Facebook became an easy outlet for the worst of the sexist jokes. It’s impossible to ‘like’ almost any page without filling your newsfeed with the latest in sexist comedy. The sheer volume of sexist material distributed from pages with no apparent relation to LAD culture became, and remains, unbearable.
Luckily, not everyone prides themselves on being a total sexist cockwomble. The Everyday Sexism Project, founded by Laura Bates, leads the fight back through educating and challenging people who might otherwise ignore the uncomfortable fact that there are a huge bunch of people who think it’s okay to be massively sexist. Joining the group on facebook and following them on twitter should be your next move.
Before I found these groups, I knew sexism was a problem but I didn’t know how to explain it. The Everyday Sexism Project draws attention to a plethora of behaviours you would almost certainly otherwise miss or dismiss. In their own words, the ESP exists ‘to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest.’ When you see everyday sexism for what it is, it becomes impossible to ignore. You’ll find it in places you wouldn’t expect, and almost certainly find it in yourself.
Acknowledging that sexism and misogyny are rife is crucial in the battle against them. The good news is that it’s never too late to stop yourself engaging in it. #feministLAD