Male social drinking and feminism don't have to be mutually exclusive Wikipedia Commons

Never in recent memory has there been such pressure on men to be hypermasculine. A generation of gym-bunnies, who idolise lady-killers on Geordie Shore and whose confidence depends on obtaining 100-plus likes on an Instagram selfie, is endemic of the crisis of masculinity that young men are going through.

So-called ‘lad culture’ is a clear manifestation of this insecurity over how to be a man. Although it is perhaps an intrinsic part of British culture encompassing both 1980s football hooligans and present-day Magaluf holidaymakers, ‘lad culture’ is most visible in university life. Despite its focus on academic excellence, Cambridge is no different. If anything, a long history of white male privilege has arguably made ‘laddishness’ even more pervasive in Cambridge University culture.

“These typically all-male environments are often accused with providing the platform for ‘lad culture’ to blossom”

However, while most students, male and female, would likely be able to say that they have witnessed or taken part in ‘lad culture’ in some capacity during their degree, it remains a rather nebulous label that although used frequently, is rarely explained in detail. The NUS defined ‘lad culture’ as “a group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport and heavy alcohol consumption, and ‘banter’ which was often sexist, misogynist and homophobic”. Although this rationale addresses many of the culture’s most salient features, the inherent problem with ‘lad culture’ is that it has become so normalised in university life that it is difficult to provide a precise definition without attacking all pillars of university culture.

While it is disputed whether getting quite drunk and sleeping with multiple people in freshers’ week constitutes ‘lad culture’ or rather just having a good time, there is usually no such room for discussion when talking about drinking and sports societies. These typically all-male environments are often accused with providing the platform for ‘lad culture’ to blossom. Given that such societies have hierarchies, social capital can be acquired by being a part of these exclusive circles. This often leads to self-professed BNOCs being able to increase their popularity by embracing ‘lad culture’.

“Male bonding is invaluable for men, especially those who are already struggling with their masculinity”

Excessive drinking in particular fuels ‘lad culture’ in these groups and is usually the most significant factor that bridges the gap between a bunch of lads on a night out and instances of sexist behaviour. Sexual harassment and general degrading attitudes towards women is arguably the most toxic expression of ‘lad culture’. Education is key to breaking this vicious cycle.


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Men must learn that something as seemingly trivial as catcalling or crude jokes, although evidently not illegal, are in fact contributing to the rise of a harmful culture that can often result in more serious instances of sexual harassment and assault.

This of course does not mean that all men who play sport and drink alcohol are sexists. It would be wrong to always portray men as the perpetrator. Such a rash judgement may only make men feel demonised and push them towards more toxic, aggressive masculinities. Male bonding is invaluable for men, especially those who are already struggling with their masculinity, and so should be encouraged, not restrained. Men can be ‘lads’ who play sport, drink and have a good time, without entering the bounds of ‘lad culture’.

In order to stem the flow of ‘lad culture’, men must think about themselves as men. Although easier said than done, they need to find the courage to not conform to this toxic stereotype and challenge ‘laddishness’ when they encounter it. As a member of both a drinking and feminist society, I myself can attest to the struggle of reconciling these two seemingly polar-opposite causes. The problem for many men is that they see feminism purely as a form of ‘man bashing’. When in reality, it is much more than that.

I would like to think that most male students, although they may not openly identify as a feminist, would support some of fundamental tenets of feminism: equal pay, access to abortions and challenging of sexist behaviour. Feminism ultimately needs men on side in order to win the battle for gender equality, and rejecting ‘lad culture’ is a key step that students can take to help advance this worthy cause

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