Chris Stark: Sometimes banter is just plain bullying

This article was first published in May 2020.

Chris Stark is a DJ on Radio 1 and Radio 5 Live. He is also co-host of ‘That Peter Crouch Podcast’ – and a massive football fan. Despite his cool job, Chris has struggled with things like body image and feeling the need to fit in.

Here, Chris talks to us about banter: about how it can turn into something negative, and how we can all play a role in changing the way we think about ‘bants’.

Banter should be fun. We’ve all been in situations where it’s crossed into something darker.

So, to summarise what Chris has said:

Sometimes banter is just plain bullying

If banter makes a person feel sad or uneasy, then it is more like bullying. “I’ve been in situations where I know I’ve made people feel uncomfortable. And it’s disguised under the word ‘banter’.” Picking on someone can sometimes make us feel bigger, but it’s not ok.

It is unfair to always target the same person

Banter should not focus on one person over others. “Because it’s very hard to stand up for yourself. If you’re that one that’s being constantly picked on, what can you do?” Try and think about the impact of what you’re saying. “Would you like it if you were that person in that situation? You don’t really know how much damage you’re actually doing to that person.”

Call out your mates if someone is being unfairly targeted

“The most powerful thing you can do, if you are part of a group that is doing that, is show a bit of support for that person. Suddenly that questions that whole pack mentality that’s there.”

Banter should be playful, not mean

It’s ok to have fun with your mates – and take some ribbing yourself. But if it becomes nasty or vindictive, then it’s not banter anymore. “Banter should be fun. And we’ve all been in situations where it’s crossed the line into something which is a bit darker than that.”

When it comes to banter, sport is a unique environment

“It feels like it's its own world, where you can say things that you wouldn’t normally say to someone, but because it’s within the confines of a football match you act differently.” It is important to be a ‘good sport’ – but play nicely. Sport should be fun and competitive, but not nasty. “The idea that you’ve got to act a certain way just because you’re in a sports team or a football team – it’s all nonsense really.”

Life is better if everyone pulls together

Blokes can still have a laugh together, without one person being picked on unfairly. “If everyone’s happy, if everyone’s playing well, your team wins… Really it’s up to all blokes out there to decide what lad culture is actually going to be, and what it stands for.”

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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