Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and rape
I have never considered myself a feminist, I’ve never held strong views nor have I disregarded those who do; however characters such as Dapper Laughs and the attitude he endorses are threatening to take my generation back to a position so many fought against.
I know many people, my friends included, argue that he is a character, no worse or more offensive than Keith Lemmon or Ali G, he is simply a comedian that ‘pushes the boundaries’, I’ll even admit that I enjoyed one or two of his earlier Vines, that is however, before the impact of his humour became apparent. After journalists Nathanial Tapley and Abi Wilkinson wrote articles speaking out against the comedian, they received a horde of misogynistic and abusive tweets from his fans, including anything from rape threats to just completely uneducated, generic school boy slander such as ‘why don’t you go back to your home on whore island.’.
I must say however that my personal favourite was ‘Ohh come on seriously what is with all this woman’s rights bullsh#it! Get over it’. I am astounded that anyone could manage to take his Vines, tweets or TV show as genuine advice and would act on it, but the fact of the matter is that people have, and that he personally has contributed to the new wave of ‘lad culture’ that is seemingly getting out of hand. You only have to visit a pub to witness guys standing at the bar, comparing photos of girls and describing exactly what they’d like to do to them; I don’t see it a coincidence that this has become increasingly acceptable around the same time Dapper Laughs reached ‘fame’?
Another topic that’s been raised and contested over social media is the issue of women being approached and harassed, or ‘catcalled’ on the street. Whilst on Facebook I saw a study Shoshana Roberts had conducted in Manhattan whereby a camera recorded her silently walking around for 10 hours. The footage captured over 100 incidents of harassment with comments varying from more the polite ‘hey beautiful’ and ‘have a lovely evening’ to ‘bless you mami, damn!’ with one male in particular deciding to walk beside Shoshana for 5 minutes, after she didn’t respond. After watching the video I saw a comment that one of my ‘friends’ had attached to the link, ‘Hardly harassment you mardy b****’.
Many of Dapper Laughs earlier Vines seem to support the ever growing idea that it a man’s god given right to approach women on the street and voice their evaluation of their appearance, so it hardly comes as a surprise that one of his fans is appalled at the idea of catcalling not being received as complete and absolute flattery. With characters such as Dapper Laughs teaching men not only to approach women on the street (offering anything from a comment about his penis to a comment on her breasts) but also explaining that ‘if she cries she’s just playing hard to get’ and that the best way to get a woman’s bra off is to hold a knife up and shout ‘turn around and lift up your f***ing shirt’, it is in no way surprising that women are feeling increasingly vulnerable on the street and can interpret a simple greeting as harassment.
As much as I’m completely disgusted my the man, I’m still not too sure who’s really to blame for the Dapper Laughs effect. Is it O’Reilly himself? The things he says and actions he promotes are absolutely obscene and unforgivable, but would it have had the same impact if his cult following were a little less impressionable and able to decipher the difference between ‘banter’ and harassment? When I first viewed it I certainly didn’t think the things he was saying were genuine comments and suggestions, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Surely this then brings the blame back to O’Reiley for not considering the effect his humour may have, particularly considering his target audience.
One for sure is that his career is well and truly over; after a video of one of his live shows was released, showing him telling a girl she was ‘gagging for a rape’, ITV axed his show and his tour was pulled. Following this he featured on Newsnight where he claimed that Dapper Laughs was just an act and in no way represented his thoughts or opinions; this was then conflicted as Emily Maitlis quoted him saying that Dapper Laughs was ‘an extension of [himself], he allows [him] to do things [he] wouldn’t normally do.’. In my opinion he looked not only terrified but like a complete fool on Newsnight, he should have just stood up and accepted what he’d done instead of making excuses for things he’d done just days before; at least then he’d have managed to maintain a little dignity.