Sunday, July 12, 2015
Gentlemen’s clubs: the importance of being men-only
"Women's spaces" are good but Men's spaces are bad?
A mixture of incredulity and contempt. That’s how the denizens of right-thinking metropolitana responded to news that the Garrick Club, a set of well-housed gentlemen-only chairs in Covent Garden, had once again decided to say no to women members.
The Twittering class nearly choked on its quinoa. Discrimination against women. In this day and age. ‘Extraordinary’, chirruped Labour’s Chris Bryant. ‘In the 21st century’, exclaimed the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire. One headline’s emphasis said it all: ‘London’s famous Garrick Club still stubbornly refuses to accept women.’
The open mouths barely had time to shut before they opened again to unload a truck full of contempt on the silver-topped members of this ‘old fusty club’, this ‘special place for rich old white men to convene’. ‘You suffer from snobbery and latent misogyny’, wrote one unhappy lady: ‘It seems a waste of time to put energy into a rational argument to counter your irrational position. But perhaps now that at least we are all talking about your strange habit, things might change.’
But why should the Garrick Club change? Sure, it’s not to everyone’s taste. In fact, it’s to the taste of very few – a self-selecting group of luvvies, QCs and Jeremy Paxman, if reports are to be believed. It’s for those who like embroidered, stiffly starched napkins, those who enjoy the chappish banter of the dorm, those who want to spend an afternoon with David Cameron’s dad. Or someone like him. It’s a place, in short, for ‘peculiar, quirky old men who choose to spend time in the company of each other’, as GC member Max Hastings described it.
So, it’s not for everyone. And it’s not for women. No, it’s a club for those of an approximate mind, who share a similar hankering after some older, more refined England, and, when the nostalgia for the drawing room ebbs, who want to rib each other into the late cigar-fugged evening. They have sought each other out, they have formed a club (it was originally established in 1832, with Charles Dickens an early frequenter), and in the process, they have decided not only who they want to associate with, but also who they don’t want to associate with.
It is an act of discrimination. Of course it is. But in a relatively free and open society, acts of discrimination ought to be tolerated. After all, we indulge in them every day, judging who we’d like to spend an evening with, and who we wouldn’t. Extended further and deeper, these acts of discrimination give our social space its topography – its sports clubs, its women’s’ institutes, its churches, its special-interest societies, and yes, its no-girls gentlemen’s’ clubs. Discrimination, and the social institutions this gives rise to, is a hugely vital part of our social freedom. Attack it, and the whole edifice starts to crumble. First they came for the gentlemen’s clubs…Then they came for the WI.
This was recognised by Vera Baird, who as Labour’s solicitor general was involved in pushing through the anti-discrimination Equality Act in 2010. She said in a recent interview that ‘[Labour] obviously looked with bared teeth at the prospect of getting rid of [all-male gentlemen’s clubs]’, but realised that if it did, this could prompt parallel bans on women’s swimming clubs or gay choirs.
Baird’s position is also revealing, however. That freedom to associate with who we choose, to the exclusion of those we’d rather not associate with, is not seen as something to be cherished, as something that ought to be tolerated. It’s seen as a problem. Or rather, in certain cases it’s seen as a problem; namely, when the people doing the discrimination are seemingly regressive rather than right-on, when it’s a bunch of aging wealthy white men unchecking their privilege rather than a gathering of vocally gifted homosexuals. If the likes of Baird could apply the law selectively, and ban groups they don’t like, they probably would.
But the threat to an institution like the Garrick Club doesn’t come from the law exactly. Rather, it comes from this enormous centrifugal pressure to conform, this tweeting- and commenting-fuelled desire to make the old-fashioned, eccentric and sometimes objectionable adhere to today’s PC standards. You can see that in the near universal suggestion that the Garrick Club is not bang-up-to-date, that it’s stuck in the past, that it’s retrograde – ‘that [now] we are all talking about your strange habit, things might change’. Get with the programme, old men.
Don’t be distracted by the complaint, made by assorted female QCs and lawyers, that the Garrick Club, chock-full with male QCs and lawyers, is a de facto form of discrimination at work. While discrimination in the private, social sphere is a mark of freedom, discrimination in the public sphere is a mark of unfreedom, a restriction of people’s liberty to pursue their lives. If female lawyers are being formally discriminated against, then, sure, as the law already stipulates, put a stop to that – but don’t try to put a stop to men-only gentlemen’s clubs on the basis that a fair few members wear wigs in their professional lives.
You don’t have to be a fan of the Garrick Club to object to the pressure being exerted on it to woman-up. Because beneath all the nice-sounding blather about inclusion and diversity, there lurks a flattening impulse, a drive to purge our social landscape of its oddities and eccentricities, to erase all the blots and blemishes. And not only would that make our social world just that little bit more bland, it would also make it a lot less free.
Policing pregnant women: moralism dressed up as evidence
A paper published this week in the journal BMJ Open, called ‘Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy’, reported the following findings: first that, in one study, ‘delivery of a low-birth-weight infant was not associated with alcohol use’; second that, in two studies, ‘we found evidence that women who delivered low-birth-weight infants were less likely to drink alcohol’; and third that, in all three studies, ‘For preterm birth, we did not find strong evidence of an association with alcohol use in any of the three cohorts’.
As the paper shows, most women drink very little alcohol after the first three months of pregnancy. However, most women drink more normally early on in their pregnancy, a time in which lots of women don’t realise they are pregnant. It has been suggested over the years that preterm birth and low birth weight may have something to do with drinking in early pregnancy, but this paper seems to suggest this claim is untrue.
This is reassuring news for women, but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage. A Telegraph headline read, ‘Pregnant women should be tested for alcohol amid binge-drinking fears. One in three pregnant women admit to binge-drinking in the first three months of their pregnancy.’ Yes, that’s right, a paper that presents evidence that contradicts the link between drinking during pregnancy and problems at birth has ended up providing the rationale for carrying out drugs tests on pregnant women, as if they were broodmares.
This was no media spin or misrepresentation of what the authors wanted to communicate; it followed directly from the message the researchers decided to transmit. Going back to the paper, the discussion of the findings opens this way: ‘Our findings show a high prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy… these findings illustrate low adherence to alcohol guidelines advising complete abstinence from pregnancy.’ And it is this ‘finding’ – and only this – that the researchers claim is important. That women have a few drinks during their first few weeks of pregnancy, that they are not completely abstinent from the word go, and so, horror of horrors, do not adhere to ‘the guidelines’, is apparently the big news.
In our book Parenting Culture Studies, my co-authors and I argue that we live in a highly risk-conscious society, in which ‘experts’ have completely detached ‘risk’ from the probability of something actually going wrong. This, we contend, results in a powerful impulse both to moralise about the ‘risky behaviour’ of parents, and would-be parents, and police and regulate their behaviour. This latest story provides a very clear example of what we mean. It has become the role of such ‘experts’ to pry and poke about into the habits and lifestyles of pregnant women, turn what women do when they don’t adhere to ‘the rules’ into a focus for moral outrage, and then argue that the lives of women should be monitored and policed further still.
In response to this paper, Clare Murphy of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) told the Telegraph: ‘We would be extremely wary of any measures which sought to further police pregnant women’s behaviour.’
We should indeed be wary. It is high time we had some resistance to the idea that pregnant women and mothers should simply do what they are told by ‘the rules’, and, worse still, that they should submit themselves to the gross invasion of privacy that would be blood tests during pregnancy.
Kansas Acts to Protect Christians
When the Supreme Court redefined marriage, fear turned to reality for people of faith. The only thing five justices ensured was that the futures of all religious Americans will be replete with hostility greater than what we see plastered in the headlines today.
That has some political leaders like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback taking precautionary measures. This week, the Republican governor signed Executive Order 15-05, or “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom, that "prohibits state government from taking any discriminatory action against any ‘individual clergy or religious leader,’ or any ‘religious organization’ that chooses not to participate in a marriage that is inconsistent with its sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” according to the governor’s website.
Sarah Warbelow with the Human Rights Campaign haughtily responded, “Having nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with enabling discrimination, this executive order is divisive, unnecessary, and sends the wrong message.”
Governors shouldn’t be forced to affirm in an executive order what the First Amendment already does. But the discriminatory and divisive Rainbow Mafia has left Christians with no other choice. And thanks to the leadership shown by Brownback, religious protections can be restored — led by grassroots action at the state level.
Another Fake Indian Unmasked
You may have never heard of Andrea Smith, but she’s a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California at Riverside, and she’s yet another leftie outed for faking a minority identity. Smith has claimed Cherokee heritage in order to further her career, including research and speeches, as well as founding an organization called INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, a self-described collection of “radical feminists of color.” Additionally, she’s an active member of the Indian group Women of All Red Nations (WARN).
But it’s all fake, says The Daily Beast, “as David Cornsilk — a research analyst who did genealogical work for the Cherokee Nation in the late 1980s and has operated his own practice, Cherokee Genealogy Services, since 1990 — can attest. He confirmed to The Daily Beast that Smith reached out to him twice during the 1990s to research her own genealogy. There was no evidence of Cherokee heritage either time.” Cornsilk claims when she came to him the second time, she told him “her employment depended on finding proof of Indian heritage.” That didn’t mean there was proof, though the lack of it didn’t stop her from perpetuating a lie for personal gain.
Her case is reminiscent of Rachel Dolezal, the supposedly “African-American” woman leading the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. When Dolezal’s parents outed her as completely white, the charade was up. But in some ways, Smith is more akin to Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who likewise claimed Native American ancestry in furthering her own academic career. We suppose it’s all tied to white guilt — some liberals feel so bad about their whiteness they just start pretending they’re not white. And with men identifying as women, who’s to say they’re wrong?
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.