What part of "Private Gentlemen's Club" is hard to understand?
Private gentlemen’s clubs are known for being exactly that: private and full of gentlemen. The whole concept is very 19th century – which is when most of them were founded of course – but two centuries and several suffragettes later, it looks like nothing much in that world is going to change.
Especially at the Travellers Club, in Pall Mall.
Its members were asked to finally put the ‘women’s issue’ to rest by voting on whether they wanted to permit female members to the club. A surprisingly large 40 per cent said yes, but they failed to win a majority, with the remaining 60 per cent voting no. Us pesky women will still only be allowed to attend the club as guests of male members. [Didact: And thank the Lord for that. At least common sense prevailed in this case.]
The reasons for women's continued exclusion that crop up in the whopping 8,000 word report on the matter, commissioned by chairman Anthony Layden (just so you get an idea of the clientele, he is the former British ambassador to Morocco and Libya), are nothing if not mind-blowing.
One member wrote of his avid fear of letting women in: “The male congeniality of the bar and [smoking room] would be destroyed. Hen parties would appear and shrill voices be heard.”
Good god – shrill voices? I say, shall we ban women from the entire capital?!
Another concerned member said: “My experience of the club table at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, where one does unfortunately encounter lady members, is that their presence leads to very different and far less enjoyable themes of conversation.”
Raising the children perhaps? Gender inequality and sexism? Oh, I’m sure this gentleman wouldn’t know about anything of the sort. He’s probably just frightened the ladies will spend all night discussing periods and lipstick.
But, apart from shrill voices, hen dos and girl talk, why is it that these gentlemen don’t want women to join their ranks? Is it because of old-fashioned, unfounded and sexist fears – or do they have some legitimate reasons for wanting their single-sex space? [Didact: Yes, let's take a guess at that, shall we?]
For that is what a gentleman's club is. These clubs provide a venue in which men might relax quietly, drink fine liquor, smoke if they choose (filthy habit, in my opinion), read good books, relax in comfortable chairs, play cards or billiards, and pass an evening in pleasant conversation with other men that they respect and admire, with the frankly priceless ability to speak and act as men. Clubs like these provide a badly needed avenue for men to unwind and recuperate after a hard day's work- that was their original purpose, anyway- and also provide a venue in which to conduct profitable business discreetly. No woman should ever be allowed to take that away.