Feminism and lad culture

Feminism and lad culture



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In most cases a lad culture is associated with sexual harassment and violence. This ranges from physical harassment to sexual molestation. In universities, lad culture is more influential in the social side of the university life. This occurs in extracurricular activities and sports, where sexism spills over into humiliation and sexual harassment. In 2010, the National Union of Students published a report that revealed that 68% of its respondents reported cases of one or more kinds of sexual harassment in their respective Universities. This paper seeks to critically discuss issues of lad culture through feminist theorisations, with the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence amongst students (National Union of Students, 2012)

Over the years, gender has emerged as a crucial theme in higher education, especially since 1990s where there was a ‘masculinity crisis’ both in the media and government (Crosset, et al., 1995). The crisis was deemed to be as a result of attack on masculinity, especially from career women and new forms of gender identity which were perceived to threaten men in the sense of insecurity. Nowadays, individuals assume that higher education is gender-blind, this is not the real situation in the universities, challenges still continue for female students in the Universities.

In Universities, men have used sexual harassment and sexism as a way to salvage space and power. For example the use of initiation ceremonies like sexual pursuit of freshers and ‘slut drops”, where female students are given lifts after night outs then left miles away from their destinations. The lad culture has been criticized as a way of promoting sex industry and normalizing sexual assault amongst women, especially in the Universities. For example, events like nude calendars, and wet T-shirt competitions have increased students’ participation in the sex industry (National Union of Students, 2012).

Alcohol consumption in Universities has greatly contributed to the spread of lad culture. Statistics indicate that British students spend more than 940 million British pounds annually on alcohol. The male students, especially sportsmen are perceived to be the heaviest drinkers, and they are deeply connected with the lad culture (Anon., 2008). In most cases, they meet at student bars where masculinity is measured in terms of alcohol. It is through these social gatherings that students come up with funny ideas like ‘pisshead of the year’ competition, ‘real men” competition amongst others. These competitions amounts to sexual harassment and sexual violence of female students. For instance, behaviours like making comment on women’s breasts, grabbing women in nightclubs and the urge to make women sexual objects (National Union of Students, 2012).

Lad culture is also spread through sporting activities in universities. Through sports, dominant and normative forms of manhood are exercised. Subcultures in sports can be very commanding, for instance, most studies conducted on rugby players have revealed their denial to adapt new cultural codes is often met with verbal harassment and violence. The cultural codes, practices and sporting masculinities of team bonding are characterized with verbal hostility, much of it homophobic and misogynistic. Nonetheless, the male rugby players are known to subject their female colleagues into abuse, for instance they refer them as ‘dykes on spikes’ (National Union of Students, 2012).

Team initiation ceremonies in Universities have really contributed towards lad culture. An initiation ceremony like ‘hazing’ uses humiliating tests as a way of controlling entry to a porting team as well as a way to facilitate bonding. Further, ‘hazing’ involves spanking women with a wooden paddle. A survey conducted at Southmpon University revealed that 14% of students reported cases of sexual abuse as a result of ‘hazing’ (National Union of Students, 2012).

According to (Hooks, 1994) there is a very thin line between feminism and lad culture. This mostly arises from a sexist thinking that women cannot do certain things. The writer argues that being in school would bring her joy since it was a place of ecstasy. At home, she was forced to be a different person since she had to follow the values and beliefs of the society. The writer brings into light how women were perceived, for instance, she claims that from her childhood, she only believed her career would only be to become a teacher. Other than being teachers, women would only become maids or wives. This is because men did not favour smart women in the society.

Culture defines a way of life, therefore, what is regarded as normal or superior is mostly aligned along gender, sex and relationships. It is very important to understand sexism perceptions in order to gain a deep understanding of dominant masculinities. The post-feminism idea of women being successful in the society is a major contributor of lad culture in universities today, since men feel like their territories are under threat (McLeod, et al., 1994).

According to (Hooks, 2000) feminism aims to eradicate oppression, sexist exploitation, and sexism. This does not imply that men are the enemy, sexist thinking is a problem, whether it is perpetuated by males or female colleagues. The lad culture in Universities can only be eradicated through a diverse understanding of the feminism. Most of the individuals only hear feminism through patriarchal means. Today, society is majorly influenced by religion where women are seen as being submissive.

(Hooks, 2000) argues that the issue of lad culture traces back in the 1970’s where women’s studies was meant to become an academic discipline. The majority of the women who paved the way for the introduction of women’s studies in higher education were fired since they did not possess master degrees or PhDs.

According to (Jackson & Sundaram, 2015) lad culture is an issue in higher education. However, this does not mean that every male student is laddish. Those who exercise the lad culture appear to be a small minority. Laddism cannot stand out as a dominant form of masculinity in terms of figures. The minority individuals who exercise the lad culture have a possibility of dominating space, thus shaping the climate and culture in terms of social influence. The lad culture is so normalized in the social spheres, thus making it acceptable to a group of students.

Today, instances of lad culture come into the limelight as a result of the press. However, the real truth is that the vast majority of incidents like sexual harassment and violence in the Universities goes unreported. This is because many instances of lad culture are not visible or are never made visible to the University staff. In addition, in Universities there is a tendency of perceiving lad culture as a stand-alone incident rather than a broader culture of gender inequality.

Over the years, the lad culture has attracted attention from the National Union of Students. This led to a research in 2012 which was aimed at providing a deeper examination of the issue of lad culture, how women students encounter it together with the experience. The study involved 40 female students across the UK. The study concluded that there were many instances of lad culture in the institutions of Higher education.

According to (Phipps & Young, 2015) laddism is among the many potential masculinities that male and female students can opt in or out. Various researches have confirmed that lad culture can have an extreme social-cultural power which can affect an individual’s identity and experience. Lad culture, particularly occurs in the extra-curricular activities and nightlife. For example, one of the interviewees gave her sentiment on one of the university rugby team players wearing a vest written ‘campus rapist’ in the front and ‘it is not rape if you say surprise’ on his back. Further, she explained an episode in which a female student walking home was accompanied by twenty naked rugby players all being a part of an initiation ritual. Another instance, was of a female student locked in a toilet, and pelted with pornography materials.

In Universities there are nights called ‘Horny” where leaflets are distributed bearing topless women or scantily dressed women. Events like ‘Tequila’ which promotes sexual harassment rough unsolicited sexual texts. For instance, in Cardiff Metropolitan University, a woman described an advert for a student night, which showed a female student with duct tape across her chest and private parts and tied to a wall by her wrists and ankles. Another instance was that of a student wearing a T-shirt written ‘ I was raping a woman last night and she cried’ (Dempster, 2007).

According to (Phipps & Young, 2015) two thirds of their study participants, termed sexual harassment and violence as a normal part of University life. Participants reported the vast majority of sexual molestation. For instance, one female student at a nightclub explains how they went to a nightclub with a friend, and she would hear guys telling her that her lipstick would make male students cock look like a barber’s pole. Nonetheless, a focus group participant had been pushed down the stairs on a bus after confronting a group of students who were exposing their private parts. These are but a few cases of sexual violence and harassment in Universities.


The issue of lad culture has become rampant in most Universities today. This has contributed to sexual harassment and violence, mostly on female students. This has really affected their studies as well as their individual lives. This is evident on campuses where various bans have been introduced, for instance the ban on ‘hazing’ ritual. The lad culture has also been propelled by the sexism thinking in the society (Giroux, 2008). However, the feminist movement has tried to neutralize the effect of sexism thinking that gradually takes toll on lad culture (Hooks, 2000).


Anon., 2008. Our friend Jack: Alcohol, friendship and masculinity in university football.. Annals of leisure research, 11(3-4), pp. 311-330.

Crosset, T. W., Jeffrey, R. B. & McDonald, M. A., 1995. Male student-athletes reported for sexual assault: A survey of campus police departments and judicial affairs offices. Journal of Sport & social issues, 19(2), pp. 126-140.

Dempster, S. R., 2007. Degrees of Laddishness: Masculinities within Student Experience of Higher Education.. Doctoral dissertation, Lancaster University.

Giroux, H., 2008. Neoliberalism, corporate culture, and the promise of higher education: The university as a democratic public sphere. Harvard educational review, 72(4), pp. 425-464.

Hooks, B., 1994. Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Hooks, B., 2000. Feminism is for everybody: passionate politics. Cambridge: South End Press.

Jackson, C. & Sundaram, V., 2015. Is ‘lad culture’ a problem in higher education? Exploring the perspectives of staff working in UK universities. Society for research into higher education, pp. 1-9.

McLeod, J., Yates, L. & Halasa, K., 1994. Voice, Difference and Feminist Pedagogy. Curriculum Studies, 2 (2), pp. 189-202.

National Union of Students, 2012. That’s what she said: Women students’ experiences of ‘lad culture’ in higher education. National Union of Students, pp. 1-78.

Phipps, A. & Young, I., 2015. Neoliberalisation and ‘lad cultures’ in higher education. Sociology, pp. 305-322.

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