Beheading the Archbishop of Banterbury with the righteous sword of shouty, poetic activism

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Banterwatch: It's Not Just Girls

Normally I like to start off these Banterwatch posts with a photo of the guilty party, but there are no photos of today's subject, Grimsby resident Neil Withers, accompanying any of the reports.  So I've whipped up a quick artist's impression, instead:

Grimsby resident and 'intimate grabber' Neil Withers: artist's impression by the author.

You may wonder why I describe Mr Withers as a total shit. Well, as the Grimsby Telegraph reports, Mr Withers 'intimately grabbed' a colleague at work, which shocked and upset said colleague to the extent that they had to take time off work to get over it. 

This is sexual assault,  clearly: but Mr Withers doesn't see it that way, of course. He calls it 'horseplay and banter', one of those 'things that happen in the workplace'. It is, he says, 'just lads being lads'.

'Lads being lads', because the victim of Mr Withers' intimate advances is a lad: a male co-worker. A case like this highlights the fact that Banter Culture isn't just harmful to women, but to men, too. Indeed, it can have a particularly insidious effect on men, as objecting to it often leads to their masculinity being called into question. A response from a male respondent to a survey carried out by one of the NUS Reps at the Tackling Lad Culture Summit has stayed with me:

"If you stand up to banter, you face further ridicule, and either don't have a sense of humour or don't have any balls."

This is the kind of attitude men who stand up to Banter Culture have to put up with, so all credit to the man who took Neil Withers to court for not putting up with it. We need more people like him regardless of their gender. 

It's becoming traditional for me to dedicate a poem to the bantzman criticised in these reports, too. So to Neil Withers, I dedicate this poem, about my own encounter with a bunch of 'lads being lads' in the woods of my hometown, back when I was still presenting as male. I recorded this a while back, so there is a rambling introduction complaining about Julie Burchill, but just ignore that bit. I also thought it would be a good idea to record it in my bra, for some reason. Really, I ought to record a new version: aside from anything else, I have much better tits these days...

There's a happy ending to the tale of Neil Withers and his intimate grabbing. Withers was found guilty at Grimsby Magistrates Court, given an 18 month conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £100 compensation. While I would have preferred him to face jail time, it's good to know his 'banter' has now landed him with a criminal record. Maybe this will make him think again the next time he considers 'intimately grabbing' someone,  whatever their gender.

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