Editorial: Old boys club has got to go

By Andrew Austin

11 comments


The decision by Napier lawyer Alison McEwan to boycott the Law Society's Christmas party because it is being held at the men-only Hawke's Bay Club is understandable.

The club has not had any female members since it was founded in 1863, but new club president Alan Cooper told Hawke's Bay Today there had never been any rule to stop women from membership. If someone did want to become a member, they would have to be proposed by an existing member, seconded by a member and endorsed by the membership. Interestingly, of the few women who have applied, none have been deemed worthy enough to be accepted.

One can understand why Ms McEwan is boycotting the event as one would think in this day and age exclusive little clubs like this would no longer exist. Mr Cooper said many women visited the club, most often as wives or partners. One wonders that if they are welcome, why can't they just as simply be made members. Then again, many women would probably not want to join the club, but it is about the principle.

Times have changed - the modern world we live in is not supposed to have the little wife tied to the kitchen sink, barefoot and you know the rest.

Women deserve equal rights and even if there is no firm rule about women members, the existing members enforce this discriminatory practice every time they deny a woman the right to be a member.

I can hear the arguments forming already, including the one about women's only gyms or fitness centres. That does not wash with me as that is more about women not feeling intimidated by the presence of men while working out.

Also, the thing about discrimination is the historical connotation it carries. A men's only club is worse than a gathering of women because women were denied the vote for many years, whilst men as a broad group have not suffered such discrimination. Likewise a whites-only club meeting exclusively is more sinister than the reverse because of the appalling historical tradition of slavery.

Being excluded from something is more discriminatory for groups historically discriminated against.

Coming from a country with a shameful past in this regard and to a country that led the women's suffrage movement, I would like to see the day when these clubs either change their "policies" or cease to exist.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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