A tip of the hat to Naomi Firsht, a freelance journalist and Spiked magazine columnist, for this piece in today’s Times:
If you hadn’t read the Financial Times exposé on the Presidents Club dinner and had only seen the hysterical response to it, you could be forgiven for thinking it was essentially a sex-slave auction. The overblown reaction has turned one [J4MB: ALLEGEDLY] sleazy dinner into a national incident. But it shouldn’t be.
By all accounts the dinner was an awful, old-fashioned kind of evening where some of the guests behaved in a lecherous and unacceptable manner. And no woman employed as a hostess, or in any job, should have to put up with being groped.
But the outrage is completely out of proportion. Already there has been a resignation, the club has been shut down and there is talk of charities returning the money it raised. Moreover, this sad, seedy event has dominated political discussion for more than 24 hours.
The Labour MP Jess Phillips branded the event a “lady zoo” and said that “women were bought as bait for rich men”. In doing so she patronisingly denies the free will of the women who chose to work there. It appears that some hostesses had worked at the dinner before and were happy to do so again. And they all received an email a few days before the event specifying what colour underwear to put on. Surely this must have rung alarm bells about the kind of event they were taking part in?
Commentators are appalled by the hostesses’ skimpy outfits, but plenty of women gladly work in jobs from pole-dancing to car show hostessing where they make money by looking attractive. It’s not exclusive to women either, as any male stripper can tell you. Will these other lady and men “zoos” have to be shut down too?
The auction prizes offered at the dinner, including trips to strip clubs and plastic surgery for the wife, are undoubtedly offensive but are they really worthy of so much agonised national debate?
The descent into moral panic has many commentators asking whether the Presidents Club dinner is indicative of wider issues of inequality between men and women. Even Theresa May worries what the dinner “says about this wider issue in society about attitudes to women”. But all it tells us is that some rich men enjoy being waited on by attractive women. [J4MB emphasis] That’s no shock, and it shouldn’t result in soul-searching over women’s place in society.