Words: Jessica Sheridan
How many more times this year will I have to hear the same old excuse of locker room talk? For anyone who still does not understand what third-wave feminists are trying to do when we shut down sexist jokes for encouraging misogyny and rape culture, we now have another very clear example of exactly what we are talking about.
On the 4th of November an event was created on Facebook entitled ‘Yeah The Boys Meet Up’ by a page with the same name. The event seemed to have been originally intended as a meet up for fans of the popular Facebook page Yeah the Boys which has over 470,000 likes. The page posts ironic memes and status updates jesting at lad culture, and with such a following it is not unusual that the fans would band together to organise a meet up at Sydney’s own Coogee Beach.
However what probably started as a well-intended social meet-up very quickly turned toxic.
Attendees, the majority of which were young and male, began posting sexist jokes that became more and more heinous as time went by. What started as ‘just a bit of fun’ deteriorated into threatening and hateful language within a matter of days. Many posts called for physical violence against any ‘two holes’ that turned up to the gathering, while others asked if boys could bring along their ‘two hole’ to share with other boys in attendance.
In case you were wondering, ‘two hole’ was their word for women.
The page drew a lot of attention fast, and for all the wrong reasons. Many people – men and women alike – posted in the page asking that the event be taken down, or imploring the attendees to stop disrespecting women. This was largely met by jokes about feminists being ‘triggered’ and vulgar, sexually explicit replies whenever women tried to explain why the event was offensive. Men, and sadly some women, banded together to defend the posts on the page with aggressive and violent threats upon those that criticised the blatant misogyny within. The event, which racked up almost 10,000 attendees, had spiralled out of control, and even the Yeah the Boys Facebook page posted to disassociate themselves from the meet up. The event was eventually cancelled four days after it was originally posted.
You might be wondering – what the hell happened? A lot of people were left confused by the event, for all kinds of reasons. Some people didn’t understand how something which had started as joking and banter had derailed into such a sexist and hateful mess. Some didn’t think it was fair that women were angry about the event, because it was just an all-boys meet up after all – so what if girls weren’t invited? Others claimed anyone complaining about the posts on the event page just couldn’t take a joke.
But there is a very real reason why I am not laughing. There is a very real reason why it’s not funny even though I understand the joke completely.
This is rape culture.
I don’t care about the event name. Frankly, the phrase ‘Yeah the Boys Meet Up’ means nothing to me. Women are not angry that the event appeared to be for boys only; that is not the issue.
The issue is that the type of jokes and sexist banter used on the page inevitably turned into hateful, violent sexism. I say inevitable because this is a pattern we have seen time and time again. We saw it only days ago when a Melbourne law student was added to a Facebook group chat with four of her peers who were sexually and explicitly describing what they wanted to do to her. We saw it when Donald Trump tried to defend against his descriptions of sexual assault with the archaic notion of locker room talk. Time and time again we see examples of people who do not seem to understand that their jokes have gone over the line into violent sexism and misogyny.
The issue is that jokes too easily turn into threats. Banter too easily turns into sexually aggressive descriptions of what men would like to do to women. Locker room talk too easily turns into the reduction of women to their ability to sexually please men (‘two holes’) and nothing more. This is an exact example of how rape culture is perpetuated in our society. This is why third wave feminism is all about shutting down the sexist joking and the misogynistic banter. Because too easily and too often it leads to a lack of respect for women, which in turn can lead to violence against women.
It is literally that simple, and yet that terrifying.
Until women and men are equal – truly equal – in society, then sexist jokes, banter and locker-room talk will inevitably lead to a culture in which women are seen as lesser beings and objects for sexual pleasure, nothing more. This is rape culture, and this is why third wave feminism is so important.