Male students must make a stand against ‘lad culture’ at university

Misogyny and lad culture at university have been in the news a lot over recent weeks, after a rugby team at LSE was disbanded for handing out crude and explicit leaflets.

Emma Watson’s recent “he for she” campaign sparked a positive conversation about men’s role in feminism – and we need to continue to talk about men’s attitudes towards feminism at university.

Trying to get male students involved in feminism is often problematic. Some men are reluctant to accept a movement that they, wrongly, assume will emasculate them. And some women aren’t keen to let men into feminist groups, believing they will undermine their views.

But men should unite with women against inequality, whether this is by lending their voice to the struggle, or by simply by becoming silent allies, supporting the movement while allowing women to lead it.

Sexual harassment is rife at university, the NUS says, and the culture at universities often encourages conformity.

University campuses are increasingly becoming spaces where sexist behaviour is exhibited explicitly and accepted as the norm. Club nights are often marketed in a particular way for students. They often encourage dress codes like “slag and drag” or “CEOs and corporate hoes”, which perpetuate the subordinate status of women and the dominant role of men in society.

Female students find themselves treated as conquests by men on nights out. Alcohol, peer pressure and blasé university and club policies on sexual assault create an environment where sexual harassment thrives.

One male student told me: “Student nights often take on a predatory edge. Men compare how many times they’ve ‘pulled’ and, as more alcohol is consumed, they lose the little inhibition they had, becoming forceful in their approach to women.”

So how do we challenge sexism at university and make feminism a united movement?

The problem must be tackled on two fronts:

Student unions should offer more support and clearer guidelines on how to report incidents of sexual assault. Universities need to take more responsibility for their students; club nights on and off campus need to be more efficiently regulated.
We also need to prevent men contemplating assaults on women in the first place. And to do this, we have to accept that lad culture creates an environment in which sexual violence thrives. The two go hand in hand, and we need to come together in an effort to kick it out of universities.
Perhaps one of the most effective ways of doing this is by men talking to other men. A female student at Warwick University says that men are more likely to listen to other men.

She says: “I once explained to a male student about ‘male privilege’. The conversation was 20 minutes long and he disagreed with me. Then he asked his male friend ‘is male privilege a thing?’ and his friend said yes. Suddenly he was open to the idea of male privilege and agreed with me”.

This story may be infuriating, but it shows how important it is that men step forward, especially at university. Men need to talk to those who are perpetuating sexism to try and change their attitude.

Many male students don’t like the sexism that runs through their social groups, but feel are reluctant to challenge it, afraid that speaking out will leave them isolated at university.

But if male students talk about feminism with one another, university campuses will slowly become better informed and, in turn, more safe and equal.

Emma Watson says: “All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.” That’s a sentiment that all students, male and female, can embrace and run with.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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