Banter. It’s becoming a really familiar word isn’t it? Creeping up in the footsteps of friendly chat and casual hanging-out conversations.
Banter personifies the voice of that grim, negative man who makes a sexist comment that makes the room falls silent. But now, the room is taking part. If you don’t find it funny, you’re missing the joke.
Honestly, how sad is this?
I’ve been in the hallowed presence of male banter lots of times. It’s always such a tricky one. We all know how to challenge a sexist remark right? Or if not, we certainly know how we should react, or feel about it.
It’s easier to call someone up on a comment such as ‘yeah but women are just more emotional than men’, or ‘women aren’t funny’. These comments are offensive, and just plain inaccurate – but at least they openly and outright state their claim. But banter is the seedy, shady accomplice of brash sexism, sneaking into the conversation.
What is banter exactly? It’s not chit chat, it’s not friendly conversation, it’s Andy Gray’s spiel, it’s the jokes and letters page of Zoo and Nuts magazine, the latter of which call themselves ‘man paradise where girls, games, gadgets, laughs, footy and fun abound!’ LOL.
Banter, or ‘top bants’ is now part of mainstream dialogue. And we all have to laugh along as if this was heart-warming male bonding. Every time I’m in the presence of banter I feel like I’m slowly being locked into an airtight Tupperware box, whilst simultaneously sticking out like a sore thumb.
It always seems to happen in unexpected places – the lifts at work, the till at the supermarket, at fun parties. Banter locks you into a gender role and makes it impossible for you to escape. ‘Sorry what were you saying?’, ‘oh don’t worry just a bit of banter’.
As someone who enjoys taking part in the conversation, banter makes me instinctively feel like I should have something to say, some kind of comeback. But I just don’t. The comments are so casual in their offensiveness that it’s hard to address them.
The last couple of years have seen a gaggle of banter-centric websites pop up. True Lad (if you’d like to get a feel for the site, this might help – the sidebar features pictures of half naked women that readers have sent in) is one offender in particular.
A series of thought provoking and charming events
This is an online forum where readers submit anecdotes and ‘jokes’, always including the word lad.
One entry reads ‘I will always stand on the right of the escalator, until a girl with a nice arse walks past on the left, I'll then follow her up. LAD’.
This isn’t a shouty comment, it sounds casual, but what it does is completely objectify a woman and take away her voice – I can almost hear the dull sniggers of other True Lads across the country.
That’s one of the tamer posts. Another reads, ‘it was my birthday last week, and my gf thought she would do something special for me. While we were in bed she produced a pair of leather hand-cuffs and said, "hand-cuff me to the bed and I'll let you do anything you want!" So I hand-cuffed her to the bed, and went and played golfLAD’.
The implied joke here makes challenging this comment difficult, and if I did I would expect an ‘it’s just a joke, you don’t get it’ response. The mainstream media seem to be sanctioning this dialogue and spurring these sites on - FHM have endorsed True Lad as ‘simple genius.’
Meanwhile, the Durex UK Facebook page is aimed entirely at young men, with posts such as ‘how would you feel if someone turned you on and left?’, and links from The Mirror questioning the legitimacy of the female orgasm.
They also featured a campaign for XXL condoms featuring a picture of a woman with plasters around her mouth. Seemingly turning safe sex into a cheeky joke about blowjobs. Or is that a joke about domestic violence? It's hard to tell, what with all the banter flying around.
Durex make sex unsexy
I look at these websites and hope that the editors of Viz have collected the worst letters they’ve ever been sent and created a fake site in some post-ironic parody. But that's probably not the case, is it?
Possibly one of the most famous lad websites was closed following an incident where a user claimed it was okay to rape a woman if he announced that it was a ‘surprise’.
The website, Unilad, was closed after this, with a statement claiming it was all ‘a joke that went too far’. And here’s the problem. If you’re not up for ‘top banter’ then you don’t get the joke, you can’t have a laugh. You’re not funny. There are so many websites that permeate this view.
Toplad for instance, referring to itself as a ‘ladometer’, which includes features such as ‘soup for sluts comedy noodles’ and ‘girls fail video!’.
To not like banter is to be uptight. It’s to miss the joke. Because that’s what banter does, it masquerades as one massive joke. Which is as offensive to men as it is to women.
What we need to do is draw attention to how sad these websites are. With features such as ‘top ten ways to get girls to like you’, these men should be ignored and at most pitied, with no further thought.
The nature of male banter has made it very hard to take point with these sexist views, and it is difficult. But if you feel like you’re in the middle of a banter exchange that you feel uncomfortable with, just say.
It doesn’t have to be confrontational, a simple ‘sorry what do you mean?’ will often stop people in their tracks and cut short ‘top bants’. It’s the only way forward.
Do you find banter offensive? Have you been caught in the middle of it? How does it make you feel? Let me know…