UniLad. In typical Twitterstorm fashion, the site was actually taken down while I was in the process of writing this post, but here's the rundown on what's happened so far.
- Horrendously misogynist website runs post insinuating that rape is acceptable and to be encouraged.
- Woman challenges them about it. Retweets galore. Twitterstorm ensues.
- Offending post is taken down.
- Apology about "cleaning up our act" issued, made reasonably pointless by every other post on the site, photo on UniLad Facebook group etc.
- Twitterstorm continues.
- Offending site is taken down. Victory for the Thought-Policing Pitchfork-Wielding Twitter Mob. Sort of.
Almost a decade ago, I was an innocent sixth former, looking forward to going off to university and meeting lots of amazing new people who would be "more mature" and "have more in common" with me. Then I went off to university, and I met Unilad. Unilad was often the most 'popular' guy in the hall. He had a crew of identikit unilads. He was obnoxious and offensive, intimidating and pathetic at the same time. This was 2003; the word "banter" wasn't widely used and I think you could say that the UK was still experiencing the glory days of the lad's mag, before circulation figures started declining and titles started folding and Maxim was still in print and running articles entitled "How to cure a feminist". Sadly for lad culture, however, Unilad was doing a really good job of making feminists and activists out of the young women he targeted.
Unilad cracked jokes about my friend's appearance - and called me "ugly" when I told him where to stick his opinions.
Unilad groped me umpteen times on nights out and laughed in my face if I reacted.
Unilad wrote misogynist articles for the student magazine and responded with something about "stupid humourless feminists" when he was challenged about it.
Unilad put all his support behind a Playboy-themed RAG week.
Unilad made me feel like I was the one in the wrong for feeling uncomfortable about a social event being held at a lapdancing club.
Unilad stood in front of the stage at the union, leering, cheering and filming on his his phone as a young woman was goaded into stripping as part of a "dance contest" to win drinks, before she ran from the room in tears.
Unilad told my boyfriend to dump me so he could have some fun and stop having to hang around with a "bird" who was anti-porn.
Unilad made me really upset, then he made me really angry. The anger took on a whole new dimension when I found out that two of my closest friends had been victims of rape and I understood how this had changed their lives. These days I know that Unilad usually hasn't had the chance to form meaningful relationships with women yet, especially sexual ones. It's obvious from the way he talks about it - just look at UniLad Magazine's neverending posts on the subject. It's a bit tragic. But his mindset still persists on campuses across the country.
No wonder I found so many blogs speaking out about this sort of culture when I got understandably riled by all this and started looking into gender equality issues. There were a lot of young women about who felt the same and wanted to do something about it. And there still are. When I go to conferences and look at blogs, I meet - and read the thoughts of - young women who are having their own gender equality awakening because their eyes have really been opened by incidents like this and the fact they're still apparently acceptable. Of course it's not the only reason we come to feminism and activism, but it's a major concern among most of the young feminists you'll ever meet, because it affects us all.
For me, it happened in 2003 and you'd think things would have moved on. "Lad culture" wasn't the "in thing" the last time I checked. The majority of men I know - and the majority of the men I've spotted on Twitter talking about this today - have serious issues with it all. They don't want to be associated with it. But it's still around, and it still leads to straight-up regressive and vile websites like UniLad having nearly 70,000 "fans" on Facebook. Websites where every other post appears to be about rape - making jokes about it, attempting to dress it up with euphemisms and pretending it's "just a laugh".
Last week, when I came across UniLad for the first time, reading the famously deleted post "Sexual Mathematics". I was confused, because it seemed like the site was supposed to be all about the banter. All about the banter, yet strangely lacking in anything remotely resembling "banter", and instead full of the sort of stuff that no-one could actually find amusing. Mostly a lot of jokes about rape and sexual assault, if you're wondering. If you fancy letting yourself in for a treat, you can read the cached version of the post here. That is, of course, if you're up for reading such gems as:
"And if the girl you’ve taken for a drink happens to belong to the ’25%’ group and won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds."
Damn, I just love the stench of rape apologism. Especially deleted rape apologism that then becomes the subject of a half-arsed "apology" ("Sorry that people were offended. It won't happen again.") that's rendered totally pointless by the fact the site is crammed full of posts making jokes about raping women AND men, making unpleasant comments about the way women look at the same time as being apparently unable to refer to them as anything but "wenches" who need to "get back in the kitchen". Oh, the fact that posts with titles such as "The Angry Shag" end with sentences like this:
"To finish off, I doggy-style her head into the wall attempting to knock some sense into her."
UniLad's readers weren't happy with this "apology". Concluding that it must have been a woman who forced this apology from the site's creators, they're on fine form. "Rape the bitch," says one. "Fucking PC faggots," says another. We've even got "Slap a hoe like a true lad" and "Whoever complained should be raped". Doubtless all those comments are Just A Joke, from Average Guys Just Having a Bit of Fun. And let's not forget Average Girls Just Sticking Up for The Guys. The ones who say things like: "Girls complaining about this article are probably closet lesbians". Which, funnily enough, is the same sort of thing the UniLad account tweeted at the woman who started all this off by challenging them about that post.
Maybe they just need to grow up. Let's hope that when they do, they leave all this behind them. I wouldn't bank on it, though, because these attitudes stick around, They work their way into relationships and the way people treat women. I probably just need to lighten up, though, because it's all about the banter, right?