Just a quick rant about one of my least favourite words today. See Edit II to read about what happened to a teacher’s protest on the subject.
In the last few years, “banter” has become an increasingly common excuse people trot out when they’re talking offensive crap and want to be let off the hook “because it’s just bants”.
The claim tends to be that it describes “joking around with friends”, teasing people and such like, and indeed if it were restricted to groups of like-(small)minded people maybe it’d be fine. But in my experience it seems to mean something else entirely. Namely, while addressing people you do not know, “I want to be a dick here, leave me to it”. Why would someone request that, though?
Traditionally, when people say horrible things, we can remain silent, laugh along, or challenge them. More recently, these challenges tend to be met with calm down, love, it’s banter. This is just the latest iteration of a long-standing silencing tactic; your feelings on this matter are unimportant, my right to speak without consequence takes precedent, you are overreacting and should be quiet.
People like to say “no subject is off-limits in comedy” and the get a sense of humour line is itself quite funny. If you seriously think that parroting some of the oldest, most pervasive forms of discrimination found in our cultures (whether it’s sexism, racism, homophobia or whatever) is in any way edgy or indeed at all funny, it is you who is lacking a sense of humour. These “jokes” are not innovative or clever, they are as old-hat as they come.
“Banter” is simply a get-out-clause people use to protect their “right” to offend, remain ignorant, dismiss others and uphold the status quo that benefits them. Lol none of these things affect me, so I can joke about these issues that I’ve never thought for 5 seconds about and make fun of you chumps who have to deal with it! Get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich #bants
It’s truly pathetic that people think they can hide their sense of entitlement and desperation to fit in under one such revealing word.
So, next time you hear someone say it and they’re not just taking the piss out of this idea (if my favourite facebook group hadn’t been closed I could show you a truly comedic example of the supposedly humourless feminists, punning away on banter like masters; murder on the bantz floor, the unbearable bantness of being, Das Bant… you had to be there) do tell them to shut their stupid mouths and grow up.
I’m glad when I was at university the word hadn’t really taken hold yet – I wouldn’t go back to that culture if you paid me anyway (despite rather enjoying the course) but it would’ve been even worse if all the binge-drinking, cock-waving, bank-of-mum-and-dad-money-burning children had been throwing that wannabe excuse for their behaviour around as well.
Another thing I’m glad I’m not involved in at all: football. I tried, I did. So many people talk about it so much of the time, it’s impossible to live life without having some unwanted info thrust into your awareness. But lots of us just do not care. One of the reasons I was never able to enjoy it is that it’s institutionally sexist.
A prominent example of this is the current coverage of the Premier League chief exec Richard Scudamore’s emails, and Musa says it best:
When accused of sexism, there is often an effort among men in football to infantilise themselves: what you might call the “boys will be boys” defence. “We’re just kidding”, so the argument goes, “chill out”. However, it’s strange to see these men rely on a defence of youthful irresponsibility, and in the same breath expect to be trusted with billion-pound budgets.
Indeed, LADS, why be satisfied with leading so basic and immature an existence? If the essence of that defence doesn’t offend you somewhat, well, it’s a bit of a chicken/egg concept – how much of that attitude comes from our surroundings? Can we counter it?
A mole in a group called Football weekly extraaaaaaa sent me a screenshot of a discussion – here are my picks of the TOP BANTZ. Burn it with fire.
Please do add your own examples of the Banter Fallacy and how irritating you find it below.
- Tom Chivers hates banter, too.
- It’s not a joke and it’s okay not to laugh – Clementine Ford
- Women have had enough – the misogynistic murders and defending sexism
- Steve Coogan, 2011 – on the Top Gear ‘lads’ and their misdirected attempts at humour
- On the Ethics of Teasing and Mocking People, in Groups, in Friendships, and in Debates and Satire – Camels with Hammers
- Independent: Grace Dent on TV: Dapper Laughs is unpleasant sexism dressed up as ‘banter’
Edit II: On a serious note, a teacher got so fed up of children using banter to excuse horrible behaviour that he tried to address the situation and has been forced out of his job as a result. His conclusion: adults resist change to a staggering degree.
Edit III: “Teenage Boys Are Too “Scared Of Banter” To Talk About Their Feelings” – people often accuse feminists of ignoring the issue of high male suicide rates (perhaps it’s just that they weren’t wanting to talk about it at the time because the topic was something else) – but suicide prevention is important, and the causes for men are real and need tackling. So there’s another reason to bin this thing.