An intake of breath. A guffaw. And the inevitable word is uttered: “lad.” In any JCR bar, on any crew date, even dawdling to the Rad Cam, I’ll overhear the inverted. If I call them out on their unoriginal cheap laugh they’ll plead innocent, insisting on ironic intention.
It seems that the inverted commas, which can easily be hidden behind, are a mask of attempted satire. They simultaneously include and distance themselves from the original alpha male and are easy to spot, lurking behind your resident college BNOC.
If Uni Lad is the pumped up on steroids older brother of this movement (stating the obvious here: this is the antithesis of feminism) then “lad” culture is its bespectacled knit wear clad younger brother, desperately trying to fit in.
The figure of the lad himself is now so ingrained in our culture it appears to be everywhere. I bet you a tenner you can’t scroll through your Facebook feed without seeing at least one hashtag followed by the word “swag”, from someone who you used to sit next to secondary school who has modelled their social media alter ego on Jay from The Inbetweeners.
This is one of the signs that the lad has been taken the piss out of so much this group has evolved from stereotype to archetype to the degree that it is now a marketing tool. Selling certain brands of offensive humour from the Frankie Boyle school of comedy, to Foster’s lager, Lynx products and, by provoking the insecurities of a generation of young men; protein shakes.
The pack mentality of wanting to belong to something (no matter how threatening to women) allows the sorry excuse for “banter”, complete with more inverted commas.
Just as alienating to young men as well as young women, some boys don’t want to be labelled as lads just because they don’t see sexual bragging rights as their raison d’etre, and would like a pint without high-fiving their pal afterwards and guffawing (looking at you, boy in EFL wearing a fedora and writing an essay on Judith Butler’s feminist critique)
Saying “lad” after a sexist comment in order to distance themselves from the seems to be the equivalent of saying “I’m not racist but…” or “no offence but…” and is just as toxic as saying it without the “ironic” intonation of voice. Exhale of breath. Don’t hide behind those inverted commas.