Swings and roundabouts: “Banter should have no place in university culture.”

FOR

Grace Burton, Opinions Editor

DID YOU KNOW that referring to women as “whores” makes you a lad? Did you also know that I’m not meant to be offended by the casual inferrence of prostitition onto an entire gender, because it’s clearly just “banter”?

If there’s one word that I wish could be expunged from the history of the English language, it’s banter. Not because I object to the word particularly, but because the ugly behaviour and comments which it embodies make me despair for the future of comedy. UniLad, the epitome of banter, which was shut down earlier this year following an article which pretty much encouraged rape, showed the true face of those who bandy about sexism, racism and homophobia as “just banter”, with the backlash that following the article . Whilst commentors have intellectually destroyed UniLad, the banter that was its lifeblood still remains in university culture.

The press has been littered with examples of apparent banter in the last year; a University of East Anglia rugby club was disbanded earlier this year after running an utterly hilarious social featuring costumes of such comedy greats as the KKK and Baby P, and of course there was the now infamous photo of a certain Aberystwyth sabbatical officer. Now isn’t the time to be discussing that, but let me just say that in my view, whoever thought setting up a Facebook page declaring that the ‘Aber Guild President is a LAD’ [“Keeping women in their place (on their knees) since 2010!”] is, by declaring a slight error of judgement to be ‘banter’ (I cringe every time I have to type that word), mistaken if they thought they were in any way coming to the defence of our president.

But hey, I know what you’re thinking – I’m a feminazi. I want to come to your socials and on your nights out and give you all a good telling off for having a sense of humour because I can’t take a joke. I want to take away your freedom of speech because I’ve got nothing better to do. Well, no, not really. But how about we take a minute to talk about your freedom to not be an odious prick? How about you exercise that for once in your clearly quite blinkered life? I’m all for comedy, when it’s clever. But what’s clever or even new about thinly veiled bigotry? It’s not funny, it’s tired. Being cutting edge or close to the bone is great, but being outright offensive when nobody outside of your circle of sycophany finds it funny has no comedic merit.

As students, we have the opportunity to be educated, worldly and maybe just slightly original. We’re already being sidelined as the government raises tuition fees, and international students have most recently been the ones to suffer thanks to the UK Border Agency. How about a little solidarity? You were intelligent enough to get into university, so why resort to such a knuckleheaded attempt at comedy; don’t be a shitLAD.

 

AGAINST

Joshua Richards

THE NOBLE and necessary tradition of banter is under siege from a barrage of anti-banter artillery. The definition of banter itself, being the “playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks”, hardly seems to justify the hyperbolic onslaught from the politically correct banter-Nazis, otherwise known as the left wing media columnists. Social interaction without banter is another way of saying “let’s return the art of conversation-making to the witty limits of a cucumber sandwich”. The point of banter is to engage others in a playful two way tussle, breaking down the barriers of the mundane back-and-forth lexicon of the average day to create a mutually beneficial environment whereupon the participants are able to relax in each other’s company, taking the much needed piss out of each other. If nobody picks on the unfortunate soul named Barry, then how will he ever make friends?

Instances like this are perhaps even more important in a University environment. The potential for banter to break down social and regional backgrounds upon arrival in the sphere of higher education is great. There can’t be any awkward interactions with new people if you can break the ice with a few well-meant barbs to make people feel included and a part of the group. It’s comforting knowing that you can always fall back on insulting your housemate’s swampish Norfolk background so that there’s never a lull in conversation.

What some people seem to take issue with is the idea of ‘UniLad’ banter- this title definitely excludes and maybe even calls into focus some testosterone-fuelled desire to point the banter lens at the female population. This isn’t true. ‘UniLad’ is a label used by those who don’t fully understand the humorous intentions of banter- not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to, out of some sort of sense of purchase on the moral high ground. So does the real problem lay with those anti-banter Nazis? In my own opinion, yes, those people who have a need to stamp out the culture in which the importance of not taking each other seriously is valued in order to protect an apparently fragile and increasingly mollycoddled world need to be prevented from damaging a national tradition.

Banter is not reserved for the rugby team social night, but for those of us who believe that a rounded person should be able to have the micky taken out of them without forming a united people front. Should banter come with a warning label? No, as students (in most part) represent the latest of those who have begun the final rite of passage from teenager to an independent member of society, we should be encouraging the establishment of banter between students as a social norm to preserve the tradition of light hearted slights as a way of bonding that is not new but helps define the Great British sense of humour. A Britain without banter would be like France; LOL jokes… it’s just banter.