UniLad: When ‘banter’ becomes dangerous?
UniLad were forced yesterday to pull down their site and replace it with an apology after online uproar over comments that were seen to condone rape.
The site, that has become notorious for its outrageous writing style with article titles such as ‘A Medley of Minge’ and ‘The Angry Shag’, is due to relaunch on February 13th.
UniLad recently published an article claiming that 75% of women and slightly more men would be willing to have sex after one date, that ended “If the girl you’ve taken for a drink… won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.”
As an afterthought, the site added “Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’.”
This sparked ferocious debate online, with numerous followers both criticising and supporting the site on Facebook and Twitter, with comments on the Facebook page including “clearly a wench complaint”, which got 237 likes, whilst others have used social networks to express their disgust.
The tide of feeling eventually forced the magazine to remove all content and replace the site with an apology and a countdown to the relaunch.
UniLad said: “We would like to make a public apology as it appears that some of the content previously published on this site has caused some distress.
“Any flippant comments that may have been said during discussions, I also apologise for, it will not happen again. We are certainly going to be cleaning up our act on unilad.com.
“We do appreciate where you are coming from with your points, hence forth, an immediate change in material.”
This apology seems pretty forced, and has an air of ‘we still stand by our points about it’, so whether a relaunch will succeed in improving the reputation of the site remains to be seen.
What it has exposed, however, is a culture of ‘banter’ on campus that is becoming increasingly damaging, to the point where a joke is no longer a joke. The rape culture perpetuated in society seems to be concentrated in a campus setting where women may feel unsafe in their halls, lectures and unions.
UniLad have only served to make this worse. Statistics show that up to one in four women will be raped during their time as a student, a chillingly high number. The NUS Hidden Marks report found that 60% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by other students. All of this should make all students think about how they can make their universities a safer place, whilst UniLad seem to encourage men to assault women.
Many have attempted to use the argument that this is a curbing of free speech, and that rape jokes are just banter. But banter culture extends to so many things in today’s society, whether it be casual racism, homophobia or joking about rape, and none of these things are ever acceptable. The label “banter” makes light of comments that could seriously distress anyone, and whilst the writers at UniLad seem to think this is not their problem, all men have a mother, or sister, or girlfriend, who they would not want this to happen to.
Ruth Brewer, Vice President and former Women’s Officer at the Liverpool Guild of Students, said: “The article that appeared on the UniLad website is a disgrace but, unfortunately, not entirely surprising.
“It only serves to highlight this ‘laddish’ culture of making jokes about rape, and that doing so under the guise of ‘banter’ only serves to perpetuate the problem of violence against women.
“There is a direct correlation between society’s attitude towards rape and violence towards women and conviction rates for these abhorrent crimes.
“Reports show that the public perception of rape victims affects the way jurors judged cases in court, resulting in a current conviction rate of just 6%, and with articles like this, it is hardly surprising.
“Earlier this year, University of Liverpool students unanimously passed policy to make the Guild a Zero Tolerance to sexual harassment union. We will be running a number of workshops this semester to build on this extremely positive step, and to work with our students about raising awareness about sexual violence towards students.”
Estelle Hart, NUS Women’s Officer, wrote in a blog that “The creators of the website would like us to think that this is a one off, an oversight but it’s actually part of a pattern from a site that views women solely as sex objects and slaves commonly referring to women as sluts and wenches and advising their readers how to get what they want from them.
“Society fails to take rape seriously enough and we regularly see statistics suggesting that women who flirt, dress provocatively or drink are to blame if they are assaulted.
“The main perpetrators of sexual violence against women students are other students so telling male students they not only have the right to treat women like objects, or property, but holding it up as a norm, even an ideal, is not just stupid. It’s downright dangerous.”
Alex Partridge, founder of UniLad, who describes himself as a “very conservative, yet very controversial comedian”, has declined to comment in public on the matter.
It seems that this debate will rage on, but it is clear that a huge shift in culture will have to take place before rape convictions increase and jokes of this nature become unacceptable to all. Magazines like UniLad, as well as the student population as a whole, have a role to play in ensuring that university is a safe place for all students, rather than encouraging mindsets and behaviours that pose a genuine danger.
What are your views on this issue? Let us know in the comments.