The “lad culture” (as seen in men’s magazines like Nuts) has been around for a long time.
But it has recently taken a turn for the far worse with websites like Unilad, Truelad and others finding massive popularity on university campuses.
Unilad (until it was forced through criticism to close down and reconstruct itself) existed to “push boundaries” with its “jokes” about humiliating women, and “tongue-in-cheek” advice about how to inflict sexual and other violence on women.
All this at a time when according to a survey by the National Union of Students one in seven female students have been a victim of sexual violence while studying at college.
A series of indicates a noxious “lad” culture of bigotry towards women and ethnic minorities became systemic within University College London Conservative Society, in particular.
And now William Hall, a recent UCL ConSoc president, is standing for president of the University of London Union.
Hall, a Conservative councillor in Henley and the son of Baron Hall of Birkenhead, came under criticism during hustings last year for opposing the creation of a Women’s Officer but also for describing homosexuality as “a lifestyle choice”.
University of London students will also vote for Vice-President and London Student editor, and to the new position of Women’s Officer. While the move towards introducing liberation officers was approved by the governing body of ULU, Hall has stated his opposition to it.
Liberation officer posts (such as the most common and historically established Women’s Officer post) are designed to ensure representation for marginalised sections of the student body and to give students from oppressed groups the opportunity to autonomously organise their own campaigns.
When challenged over his position, Hall backtracked on his “lifestyle” remark, going on to say that he favoured ULU having “someone to run liberation campaigns”, but not necessarily from the appropriate oppressed groups.
During Hall’s presidency of the UCL Conservative Society, the organisation was accused of bigoted behaviour from fellow students and sections of the national press.
The most notorious incident took place during a Societies’ visit to a “Port and Policy” event hosted in the Oxford Union. One member heckled a woman speaker saying, “shush... you’re a woman” and told her to “get back to the kitchen”.
Hall publicly distanced himself from the heckler, denying they had been invited to the event and claiming they “may have found out about it from our Facebook group” — a claim questioned by UCL’s Cheesegrater newspaper, which noted the individual had regularly attended the Society’s events in the past.
Prior to Hall’s presidency, the Conservative Society had already gained a dubious reputation when the then-president, Kieran Weisberg, wrote an article in The Caerulean defending the infamous Tory right-winger and campaigner for the repatriation of immigrants, Enoch Powell.
With Hall at the helm, this reputation worsened when UCL Tories joked on Twitter about “not wanting muddy [mixed-race] children”, and member Thomas Elliot appeared at a party in “blackface” costume and make-up.
Hall’s presidency reached a nadir of offence during a Conservative Society trip to Belgium. In an email to the Cheesegrater, Weisberg highlighted the behaviour of Hall as “standing out” after punching fellow Tory Matthew Gibbard in the genitals and encouraging him, successfully, to expose himself in public.
Weisberg describes how Gibbard later complained that he “would not be able to make racist jokes for three days as he would be staying with a foreign ambassador”.
Gibbard, Elliot and Hall do not display the same degree of vile “extreme lad” misogynistic culture. But their remarks and behaviour have to be seen in this context.
Hall is yet to address many of the criticisms levelled at him although they relate both to his own behaviour as well as his responsibility as President.