There’s been a lot going on this week, centred around the closing of the Uni Lad website and really, Eva Wiseman sums it up pretty perfectly in this article. But it also made me think about my own view of ‘banter’, a term I really, really hate.
Remember this woman from The Fast Show?
Yeah, that’s the 90’s version of ‘but it’s only banter!’ You can also add ‘Well, it’s not very PC, but…‘, ‘I’m not being funny, but…’ It’s used as an excuse to cover up when someone says something bullying/offensive. I really hate how it’s become a blanket excuse for bad behaviour.
Interestingly, it’s a predominantly male saying; I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard a girl or woman use the phrase. I hear men and teenage boys using it all the time and they clearly think it’s acceptable. Made a rude remark to a girl? It’s banter. Made an off-colour joke that you know might get you into trouble? It’s banter. Upset someone with an out-of-order comment? Banter. And it’s becoming acceptable. It’s seen as a catch-all excuse that is designed to get someone off the hook and it’s not on.
The sensible thing, really, if someone has said something they shouldn’t is to just apologise. By claiming the banter defence, they’re probably going to irritate the person on the receiving end more and look pretty arrogant. By saying it’s banter, the person in the wrong is saying that their target is being over-sensitive and humourless. It shifts the blame. What’s worse is that it’s becoming acceptable. People are just carrying on, afraid that if they try and counter the argument, they look like party poopers in a glorious band of male bonding and humour.
But if banter is becoming an acceptable defence to unacceptable behaviour, what does that say about us?