To stare at the crumpet on the treadmills

Ok I’m curious about this “banter” nonsense that I was asking about yesterday, via the BBC Big Questions a week ago that started with a segment on “bloke culture.” I’m repulsed by many aspects of this, and one of the main repulsion-sources is the assumption that the natural state of men is loud emphatic unabashed loathing of women, and that rejecting or avoiding that state is an artificial and harmful kind of repression and discipline.

That relies on what Carol Tavris refers to as the hydraulic theory of psychology, in which people are seen as like boilers that need valves to release the pressure so that they don’t explode. But people aren’t like boilers, and raging at hated others isn’t a release valve at all, it’s a way of stoking even more rage and loathing, and passing it on to others.

Promoting systematic hatred of sets of people is not a healthy thing to do. Human beings don’t have a good history with that kind of hatred. Stoking group-hatreds doesn’t end well.

So. What’s “bloke culture”? The same as “lad culture” I assume, so I started with that, and found an item from last October. The rugger club at LSE passed out a leaflet at the freshers’ fair that was an epic festival of misogyny and other hatreds dressed up as “banter” – a leaflet

in which it described women as “mingers”, “trollops” and “slags”.

View image on Twitter

It’s odd that the highlighting starts so late, after the bit about “the crumpet” and “is a cunt.”

There are further references to “the perfect hedonistic cocktail of barbarism, beverages and women” while and another section suggested a committee member embodied everything the club holds dear: “debauchery, hedonism and misogyny”.

The men’s rugby club has issued an apology, and says it is organising a workshop for its members, who it says “have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’”.

“Banter” isn’t some magic word that makes it ok to shit on underlings. It doesn’t work like that.

Someone from the club issued a statement.

“The executive committee will cooperate fully with the student union to ensure such behaviour does not take place in the future. As a club, we will be taking steps to ensure that something like this cannot happen again. We have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’ and we are organising a workshop for all our members.”

It is not the first time the LSE student union has hit the headlines. In January 2012, the university investigated allegations that a Nazi-themed drinking game led to a brawl in which a Jewish student’s nose was broken during a skiing trip to Val d’Isère. The trip had been organised by the student union and was attended by 150 students from the university’s athletics union.

Hahaha Nazis haha banter hahahaha it just doesn’t get any funnier than that.

A women-only meeting is being held on Tuesday at the student union to enable female students to talk about the incident and broader concerns affecting women at the LSE. There is growing concern across university campuses around the country about a culture of misogyny and discrimination – known as “lad culture”. A recent National Union of Students (NUS) survey showed more than a third of female students have been subjected to unwanted or inappropriate groping or touching.

Why is it known as “lad culture”? That’s one question I have. That makes it sound ok. Why make it sound ok? Why normalize it? Whose idea was this, anyway?

I see from the links the Guardian provides at the end of the story that the rugger club was shut down – so it’s like Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma. Good outcome, but why is the BBC promoting the kind of thing by burbling about “bloke culture”?


  1. says

    why is the BBC promoting the kind of thing by burbling about “bloke culture”

    What’s the gender of the people at the BBC that are doing the burbling?? I bet I can guess. Spolier alert: I bet it’s …. blokes.

  2. Callinectes says

    This seems to be a different operational definition of the word “banter” than I am used to.

  3. says

    I imagine it would be possible to troll these guys pretty hard by inventing a thing called “asshole culture” and talking about how it’s under attack by feminism and Rebecca Watson and Anita Sarkeesian. Then there would be wails of “won’t someone think of the poor assholes?!”

  4. Jean says

    The same LSE that had issues with Jesus and Mo t-shirts? So imaginary friends need to be protected from imaginary offenses but women are fair game.

    You’d think someone at LSE would see those things and react before they have to issue public apologies after the fact.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    @Marcus Ranum, 6: that really isn’t in the same league. “Fashion designer turns out something ridiculous-looking and impractical SHOCK”. It’s not on the same level as the entitled jerks of the LSE’s ingrained attitudes.

    From my position of privilege (i.e. white cis het male) the line that really summed it up for me was “they are scum and they will all work for us one day”. It’s about class as much as sexism and the rest.

  6. says

    Fashion designer turns out something ridiculous-looking and impractical SHOCK

    Fashion designer turns out something utterly un-athletic for women athletes.
    It’d be another story if they had male athletes running around with lace wings trailing behind them.

    Of course it’s not in the same league, but what does that have to do with anything? Because it’s less sucky, it should be ignored?

  7. Scr... Archivist says

    Ophelia, reading these reports I wonder if “banter” is shorthand for “locker-room banter”. That would be verbal competition between young males in the form of boasts and insults to prove which of them ranks highest in an arbitrary definition of masculinity, usually at the expense of women.

    But do Britons use the phrase “locker-room banter”, or is that more of an American expression?

  8. rvoss says

    “That relies on what Carol Tavris refers to as the hydraulic theory of psychology, in which people are seen as like boilers that need valves to release the pressure so that they don’t explode.”

    It is a very old myth that “venting” anger purges it from our system. A bit surprising that there are still adherents. Expressing anger in an angry manner only serves to increase it. It would be a more accurate analogy to say that, rather than employing release valves, this sort of venting is more like turning up the flame.

    Thank you, Ophelia, for shining a light on this antiquated and well debunked concept.

  9. says

    Expressing anger in an angry manner only serves to increase it.

    I kept noticing that at work meetings, in which people thought they were healthily “venting” but ended up angrier rather than calmer, yet never seemed to notice the discrepancy. Then I read Tavris’s book Anger which explained it all.

  10. johnthedrunkard says

    I’m 59, and my experience of ‘locker rooms’ is pretty limited. But I’ve never been exposed to this kind of lurid misogyny in any face-to-face with other men.

    Is this because of my location (growing up in Berkeley in the 60s) or is this particularly vile ‘bantering’ business a new phenomenon? Or does the interwebs provide an unprecedented venue for recruiting sociopaths?

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