‘Banter’

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.

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One thought on “‘Banter’

  1. Yes, even people like David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd use it. It’s innocent blokes like that who, without meaning any harm, spread the insidious belief that abuse is OK. I especially disl;ike the selfjustifying ‘It was ONLY b….’

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