New Lad emerges as old-style wimp

Steve Connor
Monday 07 September 1998 00:02

THE IMAGE of the New Lad as a sexist larger lout who seeks out new heights of macho irresponsibility hides the reality of young men who are deeply insecure about the rise of Girl Power.

A sociological study of the phenomenon of 1990s lads who drink designer beers and read magazines such as Loaded and FHM has found that the boisterous image of young men today is a smokescreen for males who cannot take the rise of feminism.

New laddism is a response to the movement of women into the workforce and the greater assertiveness of females as expressed by girl- power pop groups such as the Spice Girls and All Saints, researchers have found.

Angus Bancroft, a sociologist at Cardiff University, will this week present details of his research at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Cardiff, where he will deflate the male ego with an outspoken attack on laddism.

"We recognise laddishness as the most popular response chosen by men as they face a series of challenges from women.

"In this light the lad is not a witty and ironic challenge to politically correct feminism, but an attempt to avoid its challenges, a cop-out," Mr Bancroft said.

"The lad was supposed to be a tough, arrogant, sexy and self-reliant replacement for the effeminate New Man. However, the evidence we present seems to indicate that when all is said and done, the lad is a bit of a weed, and seems curiously out of his depth in the midst of changes affecting society at every level."

There are many examples of laddish behaviour in history but the New Lad represents a departure from the past, Mr Bancroft said. "Gangs of young aristocratic men wandered the streets of ancient Rome at night on rampages of drink and violence. What is new is that these things were in the past seen as phases in a young man's life which he would grow out of.

"The New Lad is a broad shift in male behaviour across the social classes."

The number of men unemployed now exceeds the number of unemployed women and girls are consistently outperforming boys in school exams. The uncouth behaviour of the New Lad is a "blokelash" against the failed New Man, Mr Bancroft said.

"Reports of low esteem among many young men, an inability to form social bonds or to relate to society are seen as one of the causes of rising crime and a crisis in masculinity ...

"It is not a triumph for feminism, because women do not have anything to gain if men increasingly retreat into a world which celebrates the narcissism of the beer belly."

Paul Gascoigne is the the archetype New Lad, with affectedly irresponsible masculinity but who is insecure at heart, Mr Bancroft said.

"To properly understand laddishness, we put it within the context of the increased infantilism present at all levels in British society, the search for instant satisfaction and the rejection of responsibility, social or personal. Of this the lad is one aspect."

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