On Friday the Independent posted an article, by an anonymous writer, demanding that "white men should never hold elected positions at British universities again" and that "being a student union president should no longer be a place for privileged white boys to swing their dicks around".
Many people's initial reaction was to check the date to see if it was April 1st already. But wind-up or not, the article actually just expressed in blunt terms attitudes towards young male students that have become all too common. Here Spiked Online writer, Ella Whelan, describes what she saw first hand while recently studying at the University of Sussex.
Increasingly, students at UK universities are encouraged to act like children. Student Unions now give advice for everything from cooking to sexual relationships (the latter now being a compulsory workshop held at some of the top universities). Its seems that mistakes are now unacceptable at university, and not with regards to studies. Students are allowing their peers to police their private lives, from what music they play in the student haunts to the type of conversation that is and isn’t allowed between members of the opposite sex.
'Palpable hatred of young masculinity'
The infantilisation of students in the name of protection has come at a great cost. My own alma mater Sussex university has recently introduced a series of Sexual Consent Workshops which seek to educate students on the proper way to conduct relationships without breaching consent. This is predominantly aimed at young men, as the potential rapists waiting to be educated, the main targets being sports clubs and anyone prone to drinking, flirting and geezer-style behaviour.
This is not only a huge problem for guys, but equally a terrible insult to women. What students unions seem to argue, is that young people can’t be trusted to have sex; women are too vulnerable and weak to make it clear what they want, and men are too boorish to understand the fundamentals of human interaction.
This palpable hatred of young masculinity amongst student activists and radical feminists in student politics is extremely fashionable. Last Friday The Independent ran an article, which was later pulled, by an anonymous writer calling for all white males to be banned from union elections.
Earlier in the week a campaign was called to pressurise The Gardenia, a late night cafe in Cambridge, to close after allegations of predatory male behaviour running unchecked. The Gardenia campaign is not a critique of some idiot overstepping the line, it is part of a wider attack on young men at university.
The two-word warning...
Lad culture and laddish behaviour is a new term to me. I started University four years ago, and have only heard these types of slogans come about recently. On Wednesdays the sports socials would tour around Brighton drinking heavily and making lots of noise, there would occasionally be the odd time in which you had to nudge a lad who was standing too close, but confident in my ability to give the two word warning to anyone I didn’t fancy, nights out were always great fun.
(Incidentally, the most persistent and annoying advances often came from PC poetry events and indie gigs at the Green Door Store, which often housed the loudest daytime feminist supporters.)
Flirting, meeting drunk strangers and sexual relationships at university are nothing if not messy, spontaneous, and fun. Activists whose attempts to try to curtail young people from making mistakes claim to prevent rape, but all it does is treat individuals who are supposed to be adults like kids.
Rape is not a natural outcome of laddish behaviour, and a suggestion otherwise is extremely dangerous. What tends to be the underlying view in this type of feminism is a fear and distaste for working class boys who are laddish, like football, like a drink and generally don’t say please may I before they lean in for a kiss. In my experience, if you are unsure enough that you have to ask, the answer should be pretty clear.
'Die Cis Scum'
I went to a university in which certain loud groups in student politics wore Die Cis Scum badges and marched around against rape culture on a Tuesday morning. The majority of students took no notice and continued to get pissed and do what they wanted.
However there is a danger in ignoring a pervading trend of censorship at university. Young lads seem to have been targeted the most under censorious student unions; Spiked Online’s recent rankings of UK universities attitudes to free speech found that there had been a total of twenty six bans of The Sun, twenty one bans of the Robin Thicke song ‘Blurred Lines’ and eight bans of ‘unruly sports teams’. The implication often made that all men are predisposed to be pigs is pathetic and untrue.
Sexism is not about simply being ‘nasty’ to women, and feminism is not about being sympathetic to women. The way to deal with the broader problems, which go far beyond petty squabbles over language, is to debate and discuss them freely. If there are really people out there who today believe that the coarse comments of a few drunk lads are the real problem, then things are far worse than we thought.
By Ella Whelan
Photo: Flickr/Bryan Ledgard
Ella is a writer for Spiked Online and a research coordinator for Spiked Online's Free Speech University Rankings.
The associated Down With Campus Censorship Campaign is running an upcoming tour of debates in Bristol, Cambridge, King's, LSE and others. To find out more, visit the campaign website here.
You can also read more of Ella's writing on her website here.
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