Good Lad workshops are a far cry from the patronising ‘down boy’ attitude
You can still have fun with the boys
The hot solution to lad culture at university is the consent class, presumably, where bad blokes are all sat down nicely and told to stop being so bloody rude and treat women with respect.
Ever to the rescue of lesser minds, out of Oxford has emerged Good Lad workshops, which apparently promote positive masculinity in “gender confusing situations”. More jargon it would seem.
Partially fronted by Matt Janney, the ex-boyfriend of Emma Watson, the Good Lad movement has sometimes come across as patronising and unwanted – even if it is definitely necessary.
I went to one of these workshops put on by Hatfield College JCR to find out what it means to be a good lad and whether it’s as patronising as it initially seems.
The lesson in positive masculinity attended by senior bar staff, sports team captains and social secs was met by a lot of scepticism, with almost everyone there, including myself, expecting a preachy sermon on respecting women.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t. The guys running the workshops explained first off that they weren’t going to tell us not to have fun, go out with their friends, drink, or talk to girls.
Having defined what a lad is as a group, and watched a video of a load of posh girls from Oxford tell us what they thought a lad is, we started talking about what we’re told in the bog standard consent classes.
The definitions of harassment, consent, and sexual assault hold men to a minimum standard. So basically don’t be a dick.
But the problem with this is no man is going to sit in a consent class and think “oh wait, so you’re NOT supposed to sexually assault someone?” Most chaps think they’re a good guy, and they generally are until they start hitting the Snakebite with the lads.
The Good Lad idea of positive masculinity is more than just meeting the minimum standards. They encourage an atmosphere where guys can enjoy themselves but not in a way that could make a girl feel uncomfortable.
So it was all pretty vague up until this point, but it started to make a little more sense when we introduced some examples.
The first example was a load of boys, drunk and singing as they walked down the street, a girl is walking the other way. What do you do?
We had pretty good discussion on this. How can you continue having banter with the lads without intimidating the girl? One suggestion was moving onto one side of the street so she can pass safely, or even just making sure you don’t engage her at all.
Then one guy is pissed and tells her the party is the other way, she looks down and says nothing, and the guy shouts something explicit at her, and half the blokes laugh. How can you be a good lad here?
A lot of the sports captains, often big characters in the bar, came up with decent suggestions like taking a leading role and telling the guy he’s a tit, or apologising to the girl.
We also chatted about organising socials better. Like why are you sometimes not allowed to speak to girls until midnight? What does that say about the way we view girls? If its just for team bonding, could it be no one but the team and the bar staff?
The workshop was a pretty good way of getting lads talking about gender issues in a way that doesn’t make their balls retract, although I don’t expect them to be hash tagging ‘Yes all women’ anytime soon.
Hatfield Communities Officer Daniel Cain-Reed organised the workshops. He told The Tab: “I want to see as many members involved in College Sport and taking advantage of the opportunities that our fantastic sports clubs offer.
“In order to do this we need players to feel included in a tight knit team, able to participate regardless of their background and above all enjoy amazing socials.
“Bringing Good Lad provided the crucial space necessary for male role models to discuss the potential threats that can arise from large socials.
“Getting everyone on the same page and able to think about the consequences that behaviour may have has made a great step towards ensuring that our sports clubs are as inclusive as possible.”
The workshop was definitely an improvement on the down boy ethos of consent classes, but will chatting about gender issues really stop boys getting overexcited on a Wednesday night?