SU President Jordan Kenny to battle ‘Lad Culture’

Written by Jordan Kenny, University of Bath Students’ Union President

Lad Culture is defined in different ways by different people, but it is commonly accepted that it is a set of culturally infused behaviours and attitudes which serve to alienate different groups of individuals. 

The National Union of Students’ (NUS) suggests ‘Lad Culture’ can involve (but is not limited to) issues around sexual harassment, rape and assault, ridicule, racism, sexism, bullying, abuse, and well, the list goes on.

Essentially, ‘Lad Culture’ is a behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, and that is never okay.

Contrary to some individuals’ viewpoints, I don’t believe ‘Lad Culture’ is inherently gendered. In fact, all genders have been shown to portray the characteristics of being ‘Lads’, from on nights out or whilst at the bar, to on the sports field and in lecture theatres.

The NUS’s ‘That’s what she said: women students’ experiences of ‘lad culture’ in higher education’ report begins to unpack many of the issues which engulf Lad Culture, and focus on a number of areas. In particular, the report outlines how sport and heavy alcohol consumption, group or ‘pack mentality’, ‘banter’, sexism and misogyny, homophobia, sexualisation and objectification of women, and rape supportive attitudes and sexual harassment are all common features of ‘Lad Culture’.

The current discussion around ‘Lad Culture’ isn’t something new, and has been bubbling up for a number of years, but has recently hit the headlines, from the undercover filming of initiations, to removal of sport teams by Students’ Unions. These incidents are not isolated, and demonstrate that ‘Lad Culture’ is a phenomenon which has infiltrated all areas of society, and as a result, Higher Education.

I would urge you to take a moment, search ‘Lad Culture’ online, and view some of the articles, websites and instances associated with the behaviour. You may think some of these instances are completely innocent, and some are falsely associated with ‘Laddish’ behaviour, but what isn’t fine is when it starts to make individuals feel uncomfortable.

So, what is happening at Bath, in Higher Education, and society more generally to challenge the issues that we are presented with?

Each Student Officer at the University of Bath sets personal goals, to go alongside the Top Ten and Union wide aims and objectives, one of mine being ‘to remove barriers to participation in student groups through the reduction and removal of institutional and cultural ‘Lad Culture’.

In an initial attempt to address this, we have established a Lad Culture Strategy Group, the aim of which is to develop strategies on a local level to start addressing the core issues.

The strategy group will work to develop national evidence into local action, delivering measurable outcomes for dealing with issues and addressing them. How this will shape up, I don’t yet know, but I can assure you that progress will be made in terms of awareness and training of our student leaders, with the aim of achieving behavioural change in our student groups and amongst the student body in general.

Now, in my opinion, there is not anything wrong with the actual word Lad. In fact, it is used positively in a number of instances. The problem has come with its new associations, in relation to episodes of derogatory behaviour and actions. In fact, at Oxford and Cambridge for example, ‘Good Lad’ workshops are now the norm. The problem we face in challenging ‘Lad Culture’ is to reclaim positive attitudes that enhance the experience of everyone.

‘Lad Culture’ is a challenge to address, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background feel safe and able to participate fully in activities. I would challenge you to think for a few minutes. Consider the post you found hilarious on social media, the chant you joined in with, or the words or actions that you use. Consider the lasting effect they have on an individual or a group of people, and if in anyway, evoking those negative emotions is justified.

If you feel you have been a victim of ‘Lad Culture’, please contact the Advice and Representation Centre, located on level 3 of the Student Centre, or by visiting BathStudent.com/advice.

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