Dying For A Six Pack: The Crisis of Masculinity

By Jacqueline Spragg.18 Nov 2016

Lad culture: a subculture initially associated with Britpop music of the 1990s. “The image of the ‘lad’ or ‘new lad’ arose in the early 1990s as a generally middle-class figure espousing attitudes conventionally attributed to the working classes”. I personally believe this definition is a complete polar opposite to the types of “Lads” we know, see and most definitely hear today. The National Union of students describes Lad culture as group or ‘pack’ of ‘Lads’ with a mentality residing in activities such as sport and heavy alcohol consumption, and ‘banter’ which was often sexist, misogynist and homophobic. Recently, the union has called for a summit on Lad culture due to the effects it is having on generic divide in universities, increasing sexism and increased sexual harassment like common catcalling which, I’m sure, every girl has witnessed. The formation of this new type of hench, offensive group of complete juvenility can be seen as a harmless culture giving people the gift of “Banter”. But despite the jokes and harmless mick taking, people partaking in this new culture craze can unfortunately become ignorant and blind to the devastating effect they’re having on women, society and sadly – themselves.

Favouring and representing the male species in the most charming, respectful, non-misogynist way possible is the very widely supported twitter account- Meninism. Despite all my descriptions of this account being completely sarcastic, as the page in fact presents men in a pig like, women hater type of demeanour it unfortunately still has a wide fan base of 1.2 million “Meninists”. I understand the account is only supported by some on the basis of humour, not the belief in certain views presented. However, some of the alarming tweets are like a blast from the past with a despicable outlook on the role of women while presenting men in an evil, menacing way. The uncomical tweet of, “Rape should be legalized, women were put on this earth to please men… they are no more than sexual objects” is to me, an unforgiving statement. The account doesn’t strive for equality, it strives for history and I believe Meninists should strive for something different. Meninism should help men with the stresses of being men. For most guys, there are pressures and hardships they have to face in everyday life. This is in terms of the way they look and fitting in with the social culture around them. Despite statements spread across the media like, “stop objectifying men – real men have curves” and “I need Meninism because the movie Magic Mike promotes an unrealistic view of how men’s bodies should look”, both actually portray the idea that men do in fact face societal pressure to be the “perfect man”. The constant pressures and succeeding actions of men to impress other men is a growing problem in terms of affecting women, especially within universities. For example, in South Wales a university summit proposed a crackdown on laddish behavior following a series of alleged sexual assaults on three different women during fresher’s week. Crime Commissioner for South Wales Sophie Howe said agencies would be working on a programme to cut out laddish culture in universities. She said that Lad culture “can at times lead to sexually inappropriate behavior” and that “there have been a number of examples in universities across the country which is really worrying in terms of laddish culture.” Shows like TOWIE, Geordie shore and ex on the beach are thought to have been one of the reasons for this universally, corrupt culture. They are named ‘reality’ television shows which is a complete misnomer as it is certainly not reality to get ‘mortal’ 5 out of 7 nights a week, aiming to 3-way kiss with 2 girls, and labelling girls in a objectifying way. Although these shows can be seen in a lighthearted, non-detrimental way, the portrayal of the young men may have an adverse effect on both sexes. Prior to reality TV shows, it was unheard of for a man to have a lifestyle of pumping iron, tanning beds and Veet hair removal cream. This lifestyle is harmless, if practiced safely and a documentary by Reggie Yates, “Dying for a six pack” aims to show how this is not always the case. Many guys take fitness and personal representation over the limit, and in the documentary Reggie investigates the extreme ways in which male body culture is impacting on young British guys - from extreme exercise to invasive plastic surgery and even steroid abuse. Reggie investigates the extreme end of male masculinity and also the deep rooted, psychological threats it has on some men.

The Lad Bible attempted to body shame star of prison breaks, Wentworth Miller by posting two contrasting pictures of his physique on their website. A quick scan over their pages reveals a puerile, perverse and narrowed-down take on reality, consisting of laddish banter and objectification of women. Wentworth Miller responded to the photo, and the cruel caption mocking his weight, by writing about his ongoing struggle with severe depression since his early teens, including his first suicide attempt at age 15. His response is raw and painful to read as it relates to so many men under pressure to be the man they are “supposed” to be. For men in the UK, the most common type of death is suicide and men compose 75% of these deaths. This figure is disturbing and upsetting and is stated to have connections with how men are pressured at home, with relationships, remaining strong in terms of crisis and their struggle to make a good impression in front of their friends.

Men today are constantly pressured to fit in with the new culture surrounding them, to push themselves to sustain beauty and value in terms of impressing women and other men and regaining this image of masculinity to present to the world. Men are allowed to cry with joy when their national team wins the World Cup, but they are censored when it comes to crying because they are stressed by work or devastated by the breakdown of a relationship. It’s not fair and it’s not healthy and it needs to change. We could make a start by challenging the laddish banter culture used by men, against men and against women. For young men in particular, it takes a lot of courage to stand up to this marauding, distorted version of masculinity. Men need to be encouraged and supported to look after their mental health and wellbeing. Lad culture and a pressure to be the perfect man does nothing to promote the integrity of individual men and causes people to really forget what it is to be an individual person.