Women only member's club: Is Grace Belgravia a step back for equality?

 - Women only member's club: Is Grace Belgravia a step back for equality?

Sofeminine's Sophie Herdman shares her thoughts on the recent opening of a women only members club.

When I first heard about the women only members club, Grace Belgravia, opening next month my immediate reaction was positive. "Great," I thought. "After years of men waltzing around in their private members clubs, laughing in the face of women who dare try to enter, it's about time that women get to do the same."

But there was a niggling thought in the back of my mind, a thought that maybe a women only members club is actually a step back for equality.

Think about it this way. When someone insults you for no reason other than, let's pick a random example, you're a woman, what's the best response?

I don't mean the most satisfying response - which would naturally be to throw a big old fat insult back at them - but the most effective response. It's to not retaliate but to, if possible, explain in a calm and controlled manner why their behaviour is so ridiculous.

In the same way, responding to men only members clubs with "fine then, if we can't come to yours we'll open our own" is an easy and satisfying response, but it's lazy and even a bit petty.

Quotes from the founders have hardly increased my support for the club. "Women are becoming more confident, more powerful and taking control, but there is not a single venue where they can all come together without the disruption of men," they say. I'm still trying to work out what makes men a 'disruption'.

Alongside this strong modern day woman statement, they say the club is: "Empowering and nurturing women through seven stages of life from young adulthood, through fertility, pregnancy, child rearing, empty nesting, menopause and ageing-well." It seems a slight contradiction to their previous statement. Because I might be wrong, but I'm guessing that there aren't too many men's clubs out there that sell themselves on supporting their members through child rearing and empty-nesting. 

The founders also say that they had wanted to find a venue that had two sets of stairs, so that men - who are allowed into the club on Thursday evening for dinner the lucky things - would be forced to take the back stairs, like women have been forced to for years in men's clubs. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment and a part of me would absolutely love to see this. But this form of "you hit me I'll hit you back" retaliation just seems like taking the easy and fun option, but one that won't take us any closer to equality. 

How can we tell men that men only clubs are wrong when we have our own versions? How can we fight against inequality, but say it's ok when we're doing it? What we need to do - and by we I mean anyone who is opposed to this form of gender segregation - is take the moral high ground, to lead by example the way to true equality.

Perhaps if they weren't trying to sell this as a female empowerment issue it wouldn't grate quite so much. 

I understand why the founders have done it - revenge is sweet - but this is lazy feminism, and at £5,500 annual membership it's expensive lazy feminism too.

Do you think it's a good idea to have a women's only club?
Yes - it's a great idea for networking and for women to support each other.
No - it's a step back for equality.
No club that costs £5,500 a year is a good idea!


Sophie Herdman
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