VAWG & Sexism in Contemporary Culture

2014-08-05 23.25.00Words by Honor Tuttiett

With all this discussion of rape culture lately, it feels as though we are heading in the right direction to becoming properly aware of its significance as a nation. However, with the dawning of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, Bristol has been preparing some suitably respectful events to mark how far we have still have to go in the fight. In this thought piece, I wish to discuss some of the elements of contemporary life that I believe are holding us back, and preventing us from feeling the full gravitas of the on-going abuse that one in three women are being subjected to.

I was very pleased to see a question chosen on the BBC Free Speech programme last week that concerned abuse against women. This was a powerful subject that had some new thoughts shared about it on live television; progress. However, I have been seeing a clash against this in the young men around me recently. There is a huge rise in a jokingly sexist attitude that stands as a massive hindrance to understanding both sexes. It has been with the prominence of ‘lad’ culture amongst the under thirty males that misogyny is kept mainstream. If you are not aware of this term ‘lad’, it defines a young male that is loud about his ego, jokes about absolutely anything and mainly, is sexist towards women. ‘Lad’ culture, ‘rape’ culture; one jokes about it and the other does it and both seem criminal to me.

Although I believe this isn’t a new attitude amongst young men, perhaps it is becoming a more jarring one as the world becomes increasingly conscious of the importance in equality. I also personally think that it has had deep roots in a loss of masculinity, and see it as an attempt to retain a difference to women through the outright sexist attitude towards them. Of course it is all in the name of ‘banter’… that is their motto and excuse for saying any controversial joke. But they are actually perpetrating a mindset that excludes and damages half the population in a time when they easily could be progressive for equality.

To give reason to this belief, we can look at masculinity throughout history. The main attributes to being masculine that we can clearly see were to be strong, both physically and emotionally, to gather and to provide. However, in the 1st world today, where can these attributes that masculinity has been built around actually take place? You don’t need to be strong to work at a desk or get food from the super market. You don’t need to solely provide, as women are most often their own providers now, and for children you both are usually earning. So where do these key elements to being masculine go?

I find that this ‘jokily’ sexist culture contributed by the ‘lad’, is also being perpetuated by the music industry. Repeatedly showing explicit male dominance through music videos is one way in which I see archetype masculinity being retained. The recent criticism and fame of controversial songs like Blurred Lines by Robyn Thicke or even more recently, Plan-N-Skillz with Literally I Can’t, have been a huge focus in the media and luckily went too far in their expression of sexism resulting in public focus of the significant issues of racism and misogyny that still go on. The artists have defended their songs as a parody of an already made cliché in music today however; they don’t seem to be demeaning this cliché at all. It is hard to see a parody in the lyrics because they sound just like the songs they are trying to satirise.


Another good example of ‘lad’ culture dominating pop cultures themes and expressing their want for sexism to live on is with the adoption of Dapper Laughs on ITV2. It’s show based around the comedian Daniel O’Reilly after he got noticed through releasing Vine videos. When my boyfriend first showed me him, I tried to see the funny side, but found that really this guy is the class nob who has been given air space. It is alarming to me that this guy was given a place on national television,

His show was recently taken off air due to public outrage over jokes he made at the expense of homeless people. The charity Shelter has refused his donations in a way of an apology because he had outraged them so much. Showing the extent that this culture is at odds with the good work being done in the world.


It seems that young men are building this culture in order to still define themselves as masculine in a world where there is little place for the old archetypes of masculinity to perform. I see it is a response to the feelings of uselessness that come from these pre-existing expectations of men that can no longer be fulfilled. But the world is waking up to violence against women and I feel how we speak about them is a good place to start looking at for reform.


We need to look at why there is a platform for sexism in mainstream media, there has to be a market for it otherwise it wouldn’t be made. So how come in a time when we are becoming ever more conscious of the atrocities sexism brings, are we making the perpetrators rich? And is it this that makes young men think that sexism in speech (even if it is joking) acceptable?


Please discuss with me your thoughts.

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