Sometimes banter is just banter

George Harrison

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Topics Free Speech

The first casualties of campus panics are usually the innocents. This was made all too clear in the aftermath of the LSE Men’s Rugby scandal last year, which exploded after members of the men’s rugby team distributed some jokey-sexist leaflets at the LSE freshers’ fair. As punishment for daring to exercise their right to offend, the team was banned for a year by the students’ union. Even the completely blameless freshers who had just joined the team, and had nothing to do with the leaflet, were left unable to play rugby.

While few people could deny that the leaflets, containing crude jokes about ‘sluts’ and ‘sloppy birds’, were unpleasant, it was hard to see what all the fuss was about. It seemed strange to me that so many intelligent adults had come to university completely unable to cope with a few off-colour jokes. At LSE, apparently, banter is a punishable offence.

The LSE rugby scandal came at the height of last year’s ‘lad culture’ panic. Overnight, ‘banter’ became a dirty word. ‘Good Lad’ workshop leaders, campaign banners and educational SU posters proclaimed that ‘banter is never just banter’. To which you couldn’t help but think: but what about when it is?

While it is often painted as the harbinger of a laddish, sexist dystopia, banter can be a wonderful thing. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks’. Banter can play a pivotal role in forming and maintaining friendships, and springs from a healthy desire to push and mock the boundaries of acceptable speech. Plus, contrary to popular belief, banter is for everyone – it transcends gender, ethnicity and cultural divides. Everyone suffers when we lose the right to shoot our mouths off and rip the piss out of our dearest friends.

Innocent banter is just that – innocent banter. Don’t let the censorious killjoys tell you any different.

George Harrison is a student at the London School of Economics.

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Topics Free Speech

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