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Sadiq’s war on banter

The mayor’s ‘Say Maaate to a Mate’ campaign treats men as monsters in need of re-educating.

Lauren Smith

Topics Feminism Identity Politics UK

‘Hands. Face. Space.’ ‘See it. Say it. Sorted.’ ‘Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.’ Just when you thought public-service announcements couldn’t get any more patronising and annoying, London mayor Sadiq Khan hits us with his toe-curling ‘Say Maaate to a Mate’ campaign.

Khan’s new campaign is urging men across the capital to say ‘maaate’, in a disapproving tone, to their male friends whenever someone says something sexist. The aim is to ‘tackle violence against women and girls’. Giant billboards with the word ‘maaate’ warn us of the dangers of ‘banter’ gone too far. And if these giant, Soviet-esque propaganda posters weren’t bad enough, the ‘Maaate’ campaign is also accompanied by an interactive short film.

In this inadvertently hilarious video, a group of male friends are playing FIFA (or ‘soccer’ as one inexplicably insists on calling it). As the film progresses, one of the gang becomes increasingly misogynistic. He goes from complaining about women’s football to threatening to slap an ex. There is a button in the corner of the screen that says ‘maaate’, and your job as the viewer is to press it when you think your chauvinistic friend, Coops, has gone too far. If you fail to say ‘maaate’ to your mate before the end of the video, Coops himself chides you for not stepping in.

It’s a scene that can only have been written by someone who has never interacted with human males before. Coops’ banter clearly needs work. ‘I’m deffo in the mood for spicy breasts now’, he says, after a friend suggests they get some takeaway chicken (geddit?). When one of the boys mentions bumping into an attractive female friend, he pipes up to say, ‘I might have to send her a dick pic later of little Coops’. The ‘How do you do, fellow kids?’ meme instantly comes to mind.

The script feels like it’s the product of a bad ChatGPT prompt. But apparently, it was drawn up by top advertising agency Ogilvy UK, with the help of ‘linguistic science’. The mayor’s website assures us that the campaign has been ‘endorsed by experts in tackling violence against women and girls’. According to Khan himself, the word ‘“maaate” can be used at any age and at any time to convey surprise, displeasure, disagreement or doubt’. Presumably, the three a’s are crucial in getting the point across that sexist banter is never okay.

The flaws of Khan’s campaign are visible from space. On the mayor’s website, beneath the interactive video, there is a text explaining that ‘in the UK, a man kills a woman every three days’. This is true. But clearly, the kind of person who is willing to commit heinous and violent acts against women or girls is not going to be deterred by some light chiding. No woman is going to be saved by one man turning to another and saying: ‘Mate, it’s just not on, yeah?’

No, the real aim of the campaign is surely not to tackle violence against women, but to wage a culture-war against ordinary Londoners. That much is made clear on the campaign landing page, which lists several supposedly sexist behaviours and phrases that it wants Londoners to start calling out. Under a section headed ‘What is misogyny?’, it lists behaviour that is not only ‘controlling’, but also ‘confident’ and ‘competitive’. Heaven forbid that London’s men should carry themselves with confidence!

Tellingly, although the friends in the ‘Maaate’ film are a mixture of races and classes, Coops, the clear villain of the piece, is white and working class. It was the same in Khan’s previous anti-misogyny campaign, the equally patronising ‘Have a Word’, which launched last year. Apparently, these working-class men haven’t yet got the memo from City Hall that their masculinity is ‘toxic’ and something to be ashamed of. It seems their kind is unwelcome in Sadiq’s safe-space capital.

Khan’s snobbish campaign is an insult to Londoners – male and female alike. Men shouldn’t be told by the state to be less confident and competitive. And women don’t want Sadiq to protect us from banter. Maybe someone should have a word with the mayor.

Lauren Smith is an editorial assistant at spiked.

Picture by: Twitter.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Feminism Identity Politics UK

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