Ok, enough with being positive and life-affirming: it’s back to ranting. A short post today, but this is something I’ve wanted to get off my chest a while.
In association with I-don’t-remember-what (it’s extraordinary the tangents that structure my academic/social/procrastinatory lives), I was recently introduced to the website ‘unilad’. I’m not going to link to it; as you’ll shortly be able to tell, they’re not high up on my list of favourite sites, and I don’t think they deserve the traffic. If you’re that interested, knock yourself out: the internet is, after all, in most parts of the world, the proverbial ‘free country’.
Now there are several horrible things about this site, not least the normalisation of a sort of dismissive I’ve-used-her-who’s-next misogynistic sexuality. (I think, in retrospect, this was how I got to the site, through a reference to ‘rape culture’. [On which subject, going off on another tangent, see the brilliant Madeleine Albright.]) But, possibly surprisingly — given recent discussions of abortion choices in which I’ve involved myself recently — this horrible sexist machismo is not what I want to talk about. It’s a horrible 6-letter word, familiar to rugby team drinking nights the world over (I know — no sniggering at the back — I’ve been on several): ‘banter’.
Ugh. I can barely bring myself to write it without quotation marks. But why this dislike/borderline hate? After all, according to the OED, its modern-day meaning is simply:
humorous ridicule […] good-humoured raillery, pleasantry
What’s not to like about that? ‘It’s all a bit of fun!’ is the perennial cry. ‘It’s just banter … just a bit of banter … good banter’ Ho, ho, ho.
Except, the thing is, it’s not ‘pleasantry’. It’s only ‘pleasant’ if you’re on the giving — rather than the receiving — end. It’s code for something ‘general unpleasant, but passed off as a social construct that others have to live with, or risk ostracisation’. You’ve got to join in with the ‘banter’, or you’re a loser/saddo/douche/whatever the fashionable word might be for, essentially, a social pariah.
The clue may lie in the first meaning given by the dictionary:
wanton nonsense talked in ridicule of a subject or person
That doesn’t sound so much fun, for anyone.