The sexist LSE rugby club flyer is just the tip of the university misogyny iceberg


Eleanor Muffitt
Wednesday 08 October 2014 12:56 BST
The two students were asked to cover their t-shirts at an LSE freshers fair
The two students were asked to cover their t-shirts at an LSE freshers fair

Last week, the streets of London were filled with misogyny, homophobia, and classism. Leaflets deriding trollops, sloppy birds, and homosexual debauchery were distributed, including mockeries of previously polytechnic unis. Women who play hockey and netball were referred to as beast-like; readers were informed that these 'slags' only don their kits so they can pick up men.

Who on earth wrote this tripe? Surely cave-dwellers would openly celebrate such outdated views? But no, it’s campus lad culture; it's the aspiring managers and academics of the future who proudly composed and handed out these leaflets.

Written by LSE’s men’s rugby club in a poorly judged bid to attract new members, these leaflets epitomise the lad culture we've heard so much about in recent weeks. Two stories in particular stand out: the NUS' revelation that one in four university students experience sexual violence, and the Drinkaware survey in which a third of young women admitted they receive inappropriate or unwanted physical attention on a drunken night out.

Anyone with half a brain knows this sexual violence doesn’t stand apart from the chitchat we hear down the pub. Rape jokes, cat calls, asides instructing us to get back in the kitchen: they all feed a culture which excuses sexual harassment and assault. This misogyny escalates at university, with Facebook groups like Spotted and Rate your shag sitting cosily alongside “shagcharts” and Unilad.

Talk to women at university and you'll be unsurprised to find sexism top of the list of their grievances. Sure, the leaflets display obnoxious attitudes towards LGBT people and those who attend less established institutions - but the main victim of this document is the second sex.

“Trollops, mingers, slags”; this is how the men who wrote this leaflet see the women they study alongside. Hailed as “tasty” sex objects (but only once the rugger chappies have downed enough shots), female students clearly don't receive any actual respect from these men.

Universities and unions are finally beginning the battle against on-campus misogyny. Oxbridge has introduced compulsory sex education classes for freshers, and this month the NUS' lad culture national strategy team will launch their pilot scheme.

LSE is rightly mortified by the leaflets. The club in question has been forced to shut down and apologise, with members made to take sex education classes. While the uni’s involvement is to be commended, really it’s the unions who must monitor this sort of behaviour.

Unis are busy bees, what with all the lectures, fees, and accommodation they have to stay on top of. If a club is sexist, women should talk to the union’s women’s officer; but alas, this can only happen if they have one. Not all unions do, and LSE’s part-time one, Gee Linford-Grayson, can surely only do so much in so little time.

Jess Lishak is Manchester university’s full-time women’s officer and runs their “We Get It - zero tolerance to sexual harassment” campaign. The scheme encourages groups like sports teams to publicly stand up to sexual harassment and to challenge lad culture, and Jess is currently supporting other student unions to take on the campaign and tackle the issue nationwide.

She said: “This incident highlights the need for women students to have autonomous groups, representation in power structures, and safe spaces, so they can come together to discuss issues they face on campus and work to eradicate discriminatory behaviours and values.”

These men think this behaviour is acceptable for a reason. We need to clamp down, and it’s only with someone on site nine till five, actively tackling lad culture and sexual violence on campus, that this can be done.

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