A week ago I started an online petition that had the unexpected consequence of reducing one of the Lad Bible posse’s Archbishops of Banterbury into a grovelling French existentialist philosopher on Newsnight. Numbed by the sheer spectacle of a grown man being demolished by a calmly relentless Emily Maitlis, I still couldn’t help but wonder: where do you even buy a turtleneck these days?
The petition demanded ITV to cancel its affiliation with Dapper Laughs, stage name of comedian Daniel O’Reilly, a top lad, cheeky chappy, and, of course, an activist of misogyny. I pointed out that ITV was in breach of its own ethical policy by granting Dapper a show in which he teaches hapless men how to get laid using techniques from the timeless “no means yes” school of thought. Enough said about the wider implications of a TV network approving messages that women suffer from on a daily basis and yes, it did feel weird to have to try and play ITV at their own game like that rather than taking a more overtly moral stand. But anyhow.
It’s worth mentioning that although women are the primary victims of hate speech disguised as pulling advice, Dapper’s show also reinforced the usual broken male stereotypes by humiliating the crap out of the protégés misguided enough to seek his advice. Remember the small boy who hung out with the big bully at school, who laughed at all his jokes, benefited from his protection, etc, but was also dehumanised in the process and got the doormat treatment? Dapper Laughs: On the Pull was like that but with adults. Every man should also be motivated by wanting to avoid the inner misery that aspiring to objectify half the population entails.
In just four days, the petition gathered 68,000 signatures and ITV announced they would not offer Dapper a second series. Though they didn’t actually apologise for running the show in the first place they did immediately remove all traces of Dapper from their website which proves they read the petition at least. I honestly thought that would be the end of it, accustomed as I have grown to feminist outrage being dismissed by douchebag-dominated businesses as quickly as possible. But the next day ITV’s decision snowballed. Within hours, Dapper’s tour, Christmas album and clothing deals were also cancelled. I for one was, to appropriate one of Dapper’s catchphrases, “proper moist” right up to the Newsnight appearance which was so pitiful that I went back to “moderately dry”.
There was no “I” in my petition and much as it gained more traction because I am a man, I did not stand alone, nor was I magically born a feminist. Quite apart from the fact that I owe literally 100% of my feminist consciousness to the women who have patiently opened my eyes over the years, the petition’s success was built on fantastic awareness-raising by student Vicky Chandler who got Dapper banned from Cardiff University and journalists such as Abi Wilkinson. The irony is that as with so many other women who highlight sexism, both women received countless threats of rape and intimidation from Dapper’s fans. And speaking of trolls, the double irony with sugar on top is that I was trolled a grand total of… once! Since it was only the one time, it is worth reproducing here: “Are you proper out like one of these gays, or are you still in the closet?” Wow. Burn.
A few more men defending Dapper on Twitter mentioned my name, but none of them actually bothered to add the @ symbol so that I would directly receive their tweet. This incredibly low number can only be explained by the fact that I am a man and also, I suspect, because I pre-emptively highlighted my supposedly ‘manly’ credentials in my Twitter bio: “ex-army, boxer, environmentalist and feminist”. So it occurs to me that Emma Watson’s angle in the HeforShe campaign is more relevant than I initially thought. Incidentally I have never before in my life experienced my own white male privilege so clearly.
Thankfully, in addition to the predictable online trolling and tears in Dapper’s defence, there has been a lot of articulate debate about him, ITV’s commissioning decisions and the wider issues at hand – so there is no longer much for me to add. All I will say to anyone whose patriarchally-structured mind jumps to the defence of one (admittedly ruined) entertainer rather than to the plight of all women everywhere, is this:
The *character* (for the sake of argument) Dapper Laughs and several convicted sex offenders walk into a bar.
And here’s the punchline: after several drinks they’re all chatting exactly the same shit.
And therein lies the problem with that type of humour, which lacks any layers and nuances and thereby trivialises serious issues.
In fairness to some of the petition’s politer critics, I do agree that there is a risk when you start banning content left, right and centre based on who shouts the loudest. However, in this instance, no-one has been censored by the non-existent fascist feminist PC brigade. There certainly is a right to free speech in this country – but there is no such thing as the right to a TV show. Even if there were, there would be still less of a right to a show on ITV2 (low blow, I know).
My final insight into the whole experience was cake-based, specifically based on the sponge cake that my housemate’s mum sent me (laced with generous lashings of plum jam in case you were wondering). A while ago when Dapper still only had an online persona, an elderly lady and family friend of my housemate’s left her house using her Zimmer frame for the very first time. As a 26 year old, I can only imagine that losing a degree of mobility for the first time in one’s life must be a big deal. While crossing the road, she became the unwitting object of one of Dapper’s more popular six-second Vine clips and she only found out about it because her grandchildren showed it to her.
Cruel banter led to a gift of cake.