The Tricky Topic of ‘Lad Culture’

On Monday 26th January 2015 the University of Birmingham and the Guild of Students launched the ‘Not On’ campaign to raise awareness to staff and students to pledge to challenge sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. This marketing savvy and well supported campus wide campaign is a reaction to tackle National Union of Students feedback about ‘lad culture’ on campuses up and down the British Isles. A year on I am going to blog about the topic because sport is associated considerably with a ‘lad culture’ and is on the knife edge of being both a cultivator of the behaviour or a key to shifting such a culture.

An example of sports association comes from the same week last year, where at the Sundance Festival, the film The Hunting Ground premiered. The film exposes America colleges and their lack of support and policy for students who report sexual harassment. The central and highly public case featured is around college American Football player Jameis Winston who has national individual and team accolades. But also in his three years at Florida State had a cloud of controversy following him surrounding a sexual harassment complaint, that both the college and state legal bodies have cleared him of. Interestingly in the past week of this year it was reported that there was an agreed settlement in the case, however, it is around the colleges role not the man accused.

Sexual harassment and harassment of any form in the UK is being combatted by a number of outlets, in a sport specific context the Football Association have commissioned videos for ‘Football for Everyone’ encouraging the reporting of harassment, plus generally encouraging inclusion. This interestingly targets from grass root to elite level, and involves fans, referees and coaches, not purely the playing participants. Showing that sport involves all not simply the athletes. It also does not reference ‘lad culture’ and maybe more explicit references would be productive.

Do whistle blowing documentaries and the increase in marketing strategies signal a shift in the perspective and importance of reporting and understanding harassment? For sport, it must be a priority to have clear and transparent strategies around the issue. Otherwise sport will continue to be an easy target (in the media) and ripe environment (lad culture) for harassment (of any kind) to take place and be scandalized. But, it has the potential to be a leading sector and space in which to harness the tricky issue of (sexual) harassment.

This post has a number of questions and speculative recommendations. Plus there are wider theories and discussions about lad culture. A year on from the launch of the ‘Not On’ video, it merely had me reflecting on what type of impact it may have had. It certainly made me ponder where the tricky topic is at…



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