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Artillery Row

Men deserve single-sex spaces too

The campaign against the Garrick Club is tiresome and opportunistic

If a friend informed me she’d been refused entry to an all men’s club my instinctive response would be, “Lucky escape…”. Yet, so urgent was the issue of men meeting without female company, that it has made several Guardian splashes in recent days. (Shush, no one tell my local madrassa).

The paper’s latest crusade against the Garrick Club, a male-only private members club focused on theatre and the arts, spearheaded by award-winning reporter Amelia Gentleman, almost immediately provoked the Head of our Civil Service and MI6 chief to resign their Garrick membership, with a string of other influential men following in their wake. Does this not simply prove just how over-egged the Guardian’s implications of a woman-hating cabal were? 

Yet despite mulling over the story for ten years, it was Popbitch rather than Gentleman’s coverage which informed us that her father-in-law Stanley Johnson, who has faced widely reported allegations of spousal abuse and groping, and known for fathering former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was among the club’s high-profile membership. It is almost as if the coverage was by and for establishment women, and not in fact a forensic probe into the club’s influence.

Most people in London have never heard of the Garrick, never mind the rest of the country. We have serious gender-related issues harming our country, be it Female Genital Mutilation among certain immigrant communities, pushes to legalise surrogacy, soaring child-rearing costs, domestic abuse, low rape convictions and more. 

Not only is the presence of male and female-only spaces a matter of free association, but they often make up a net benefit to society and are erected organically and informally every day. We all know that sometimes the company of our own sex is a necessary tonic — just ask any gender-critical feminist being harangued for not thinking a 6’5” bearded bloke should have access to the ladies’ loos. I have often heard male friends complain about how the dynamic of a relaxed lads’ pub night invisibly shifts when a pretty girl is invited and what was a casual chat becomes an uncomfortable peacocking match. What woman hasn’t found herself unable to have an unbridled gossip session with a bestie when a boyfriend rocks up unannounced? Is it not true that single-sex schools often perform better? Societies where men and women are harshly segregated as a rule, a la Afghanistan, are cruel and dysfunctional as a rule, but this is not the case in the UK. 

The fact that the odd business meeting, and more likely extensive informal networking, may take place in clubs like the Garrick is a non-issue. Far more worrying is the liberal bubble’s obsession with forcing historic associations to drop their fundamental freedoms and buckle before the bien-pensance. There are huge opportunities for such meetings between both sexes elsewhere, including during formal work hours. It also ignores the fact that an elite has always and will always exist, and it is the quality of this group that ought concern us, not abolishing it. 

If anything is enforcing an “unofficial caste system” in our country, it is not any single boozy dining room in Covent Garden

If anything is enforcing an “unofficial caste system” in our country, it is not any single boozy dining room in Covent Garden. Rather more important is the destruction of our industry and productivity by successive governments who would sell their own grandmother, or failing that our energy security, for a quick buck. Then there is the comprehensive system. The latter has been such an abject failure that there is no one left around with the brains to admit so. Social mobility is at its lowest in 50 years. By the mid-60s Direct Grants, a form of private school made to give around one-quarter of spaces to state-funded pupils, and grammars outperformed regular private schools. Since the wanton destruction of both these options, access to “better” schools is more dependent on one’s finances or questionable religious conversion than it was back when we still needed ration books. Take a look at the average history textbook from 1924 compared to 2024, and the decline is palpable. 

The Guardian’s bizarre campaign is yet another example of elite zealotry dressed up in the language of anti-establishment courage. It has taken front and centre at a time of domestic and global crises because it is easier to address and express outrage about than some of the truly dark phenomenons the state has decided to ignore, or even support.  It is akin to how Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently implied the far-right was a numerically equivalent threat as Islamism or his Tory colleague Caroline Nokes’ decision to whinge about “microaggressions” in the aftermath of an attack by an Afghan man granted asylum despite being found guilty of a sex offence. Both our abandonment of meritocracy, and this latest obsession with London clubs, reveal an establishment which refuses to deal with reality.

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