Two things got smashed at the Varsity rugby match at Twickenham in December. The Cambridge team was one. The other was my faith in humanity (the two aren’t linked – I’m not that tragic).
“I used to work in Chicago, in a department store” a chant in the row in front of me began. "A lady came into the store one day, asking for some material… felt, she got." Lovely. Bored of violent misogyny, the chanters managed to spice things up with some casual racism thrown into the mix as well: "A lady came into the store one day, asking for an oriental-looking device – my Jap's eye she got."
Regardless of the cringe worthy puns, this kind of thing really isn’t ok. The perpetrators were a group of Cambridge students who even had the gall to talk about…er, “tits”, during the designated minute’s silence for the recent death of Nelson Mandela.
In this instance, these ‘lads; were more pathetic than intimidating; the sight of one of them desperately trying to read the lyrics of a sexist chant off his iPhone but being consistently foiled by the poor 3G coverage in South West London was a particular highlight. But this was not an isolated incident; ‘lad culture’ is prevalent in different forms in Cambridge and across universities nationwide. Sometimes it can be benign, but often it can encapsulate a mixture of rape jokes, objectification, and even sexual harassment.
As a guy, the whole thing is incredibly alienating. It is of course far worse for the female recipients, but the culture nonetheless purports a flawed concept of masculinity to which others must conform. Cambridge is a microcosm of a wider culture of imbalance and inequality between the sexes. Girls are there to be got, to be claimed, to be paraded as objects. Changing ingrained sexist attitudes is monumentally difficult; the government can’t legislate misogyny away. But we can make progress little by little in raising awareness about the offensiveness of certain aspects of ‘lad culture’.
Hopefully ‘lads’ everywhere will take note. Only after they’ve finished making their Neknominate vids, of course.