Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Old Men’s Club Decides Women Are Banter Destroyers

Old Men’s Club Decides Women Are Banter Destroyers

The Debrief: Over 500 members of The Garrick Club voted, with 50.5% in favour of overturning an 184 year ban on women members…

Do you know there’s a special place for rich old white men to convene? Like, aside from boardrooms, the Houses of Parliament, fundraisers, The Spectator’s summer party, lawyers’ chambers, newspaper conference room, the letters section of The Times and the highest offices of the film, TV and music industries, they need somewhere to hang out on their own, don’t they?

That’s why only 50.5% of the Garrick Club’s 500+ members voted in favour of overturning a lifelong ban on women becoming members of the 184-year-old club. We say ‘only’ because although first-past-the-post voting would say 50.5%’s a winner, the rules of this old fusty club include an insistence that to overturn a rule, more than two-thirds of members have to vote against it.

The club has famous members including Jeremy Paxman, Stephen Fry, Damian Lewis and Hugh Bonneville and less famous ones including Great British establishment figures including civil servants, lawyers, diplomats, journalists, judges, academics, ministers and more of that type of guy.

Of those who voted against the inclusion of women in their special club, 11 were QCs and three were former Conservative ministers. Another told The Guardian why he’d voted against women being allowed into the club (FYI, women can go into certain areas as guests of men, but are banned from other parts of the club): ‘Men behave differently if there are no women there. There’s camaraderie, banter… the knowledge that you can say anything you want and have a jolly good discussion about anything in a completely egalitarian atmosphere in which no one is trying to impress anyone else.’

He later said the ban wasn’t ‘against women’ but because ‘some men would not be able to resist showing off to impress the women’. Right, so exclude women because men don’t know how to control their banter!

While we get that segregated areas can really work to celebrate and protect minorities, all the Garrick Club is doing is helping an old boys’ network to the detriment of female professionals of the same standing as its members. Workplaces traditionally hostile to women might have fewer older female professionals, but that means the ones who do stick around could do with a little more inclusion.

As the UK’s highest ranking female judge, Baroness Hale of Richmond, once put it: ‘I regard it as quite shocking that so many of my colleagues belong to the Garrick Club, but they don’t see what all the fuss is about.’

Women’s banter-destroying capabilities, clearly…

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Tags: FFS News, Sexism