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Why would women want to join the Garrick anyway?

"Pass the port, old boy." Credit: Getty

May 8, 2024 - 10:00am

Following a vote last night, the previously all-male Garrick Club, founded in 1831, will now be opening its doors to women. No doubt this will be seen by those on the “progressive” Left as a great victory in the long battle against sexist, misogynistic Britain. For those on the Right who resist these impulses, it’s a sad day for the old-school male, no longer free to enjoy the exclusive company of his own kind. The Garrick vote may seem like a victory for proponents of a certain kind of gender equality, but is there really anything here worth celebrating — or crying over, for that matter?

Back in the Eighties when I joined the Groucho Club in Soho, we assumed that those old, stuffy, reactionary gentlemen’s clubs such as the Garrick, White’s and the Travellers Club were places of the past. Those Colonel Blimp figures had no place in modern, multicultural Britain — a country that thanks to Tony Blair and the New Labour project at the end of the Nineties was rebranded as Cool Britannia.

Now the Garrick has been rebranded by this vote, in which 60% of members elected to admit women. The club’s break with its single-sex past means it can no longer be accused of misogyny. Fresh blood — from a new wave of women members reportedly including classicist Mary Beard and former home secretary Amber Rudd — will give the club a new lease of life and kudos. Thanks to progressive-minded feminists, the Garrick might even be seen as respectable.

The Garrick is supposed to be where Britain’s power elite come to meet and make deals and connections. It’s full of High Court judges, top barristers, politicians, the head of MI6 (until recently, at least), members of the House of Lords, the heads of arts organisations, famous actors, journalists and even King Charles.

So isn’t it a sign of progress that women can now join the power elite? Not exactly. For the Garrick has not suddenly become a club for women; rather, it is a club for a certain type of woman. Successful, affluent, socially ambitious — the kind who longs to appear on one of those annual “50 Most Powerful Women in Britain” lists and who dreams of dinner with Helena Kennedy.

The new-look Garrick may be a little less male, but its establishment mindset won’t exactly disappear overnight. Under the fig leaf of inclusive feminism, clubland really has nothing to fear.

I’ve always thought it odd that a so-called gentlemen’s club like the Garrick could be so ungentlemanly as to reject the company of women. No true gentleman would do that. But the question that has been missing from the whole debate is this: why would any woman, or any man for that matter, want to join a club of such crusty old squares? Garrick men wear the club’s salmon-pink and cucumber ties and never trim their nose hair! And do women really want to get cornered by Sting or Jacob Rees Moog as they discuss tantric sex or the benefits of Brexit, respectively?

There’s a small group of elite women whose names had been put forward for membership over the years, including Joanna Lumley and Mary Ann Sieghart. (The latter was refused membership but settled for lunch instead. Has she no pride?)  I do not understand why so-called feminists and progressives would like to join — such as Mary Beard, who has said: “I have enjoyed my visits to the Garrick and would love to become a member.” This is the place where there remains a large number of men — 40%, going off last night’s vote — who don’t want you there because you’re a woman. Isn’t that enough to put you off for life?


Cosmo Landesman is a journalist and editor.

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Simon White
Simon White
12 days ago

In all seriousness, and in the light of the vital need to protect women-only spaces, I can’t help thinking this might not be the victory its pursuers believe. If nothing else, it becomes a rhetorical weapon against women.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago

They do have women’s toilets I hope?

David Morley
David Morley
12 days ago

I’m sure once we’ve sorted out all their problems for them elite feminists will turn their attention to women who are far less well off than them and struggling to make ends meet. Don’t hold your breath though.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

My thoughts exactly. The kind of woman who wants to join this type of establishment isn’t the type to bother themselves about their less wealthy or notable bretheren.

William Shaw
William Shaw
11 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Women want their own spaces; the protection argument is largely a fig-leaf to allow them the hypocrisy of denying men theirs.
Women want the fun of attention-seeking in a male space. They enjoy the power of disrupting male congeniality.
Women seek to destroy everything that belongs to men.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

To some women the idea of a man enjoying himself with something that has nothing to do with them is complete anathema.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
12 days ago

I’m afraid I didn’t get past the “don’t trim their nose hair “. I’ll be having nightmares for the rest of the week.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
12 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Just wait till the wimmin stop trimmin theirs…

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
12 days ago

I’m surprised they didn’t just vote to admit trans-women. Although none would be likely to join, it would have kept the feminists at bay.

Christopher Edwards
Christopher Edwards
12 days ago

The toilet issue would raise it’s ‘ugly ‘ head again. (sorry couldn’t help the treble entendre)…

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
12 days ago

Why can’t these females grow into adulthood with grace? Why do they have to shriek their way into places not meant for them? Would a bunch of guys hanging out in a neighbor’s garage man cave have to put up with this? Would any woman want to hang out in a garage man cave? Good grief, ladies. Will you ever be done ruining everything?

nadnadnerb
nadnadnerb
12 days ago

Sting and Jacob Rees Moog (sic) could form an “interesting” (i.e, boring) electro-pop band! Let’s call it “Elastrator”.

Simon James
Simon James
12 days ago

Fair point. You can tell this is not a serious attempt to break up the ‘old boy network’ because it is not accompanied by calls to close all private schools. They do more to facilitate access to a clique of the powerful – male and female – than the Garrick and its ilk.

David L
David L
11 days ago
Reply to  Simon James

I’m sure they don’t want to join the Garrick
They just want to spoil it for everyone else.

R Wright
R Wright
12 days ago

After progressive women smashed men’s clubs and the boy scouts it gets a little less easy to sympathise with them over women’s only spaces.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

So you’d be happy with the likes of Katie Dolatowski (check him out) having access to women’s spaces? That says a great deal.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
11 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

,,,consequences QR.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

No, but it does explain how the erasure of men’s spaces is now leading to the erasure of women’s spaces. Feminine appeal has all but disappeared in the West.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
4 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

So you see an equivalence between ensuring safe spaces for women so they’re not victims of sexual harassment and worse while changing or using toilets, and having a “safe space” for a glass of port with your chums?

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
12 days ago

Meanwhile, men move gleefully in the other direction, towards female public lavatories. Progress! of the symbolic kind!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
12 days ago

On the one hand, many women do not want men in female-only places; on the other, they want to crash the male-only spaces. That is some curious logic.
Stateside, the Boy Scouts just renamed itself. In the name of inclusivity, of course. No such hand-wringing within the Girl Scouts for some reason.

Poet Tissot
Poet Tissot
12 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Feminism tying itself up in knots.

Christopher Edwards
Christopher Edwards
12 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

They are a curious gender Alex

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
11 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

..akshully, the girls hate being on their own… and they’re better off when their are just amongst “us”.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
4 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

As the writer here points out no they don’t. For the vast majority of women the Garrick and other private clubs are immaterial. We would however like to use the toilets or change our clothes without men looking on. We are happy to offer the same courtesy to men.

Chipoko
Chipoko
12 days ago

Terminate BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour – or create a Men’s Hour!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago
Reply to  Chipoko

“Woman’s Hour” is an hour six days a week, of feminist propaganda. It should be renamed “Misandry Hour.”.
The BBC World Service should be called the Woke Service. It tends to take a very anti British line.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
12 days ago

I wonder why there’s isn’t a long line of male applicants trying to join women’s clubs? I read somewhere that there’s a 13year wait for new memberships at Garricks so I hope that a lot of men have put the names down just so that wait is extended to 30years. We’ll see how long the girls want to hang around then.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
4 days ago
Reply to  jules Ritchie

I don’t know if you’ve been following the news but there aren’t really any women’s clubs. The ones that started seems to have failed there is the women’s Institute but they all admit men of course the men have to dress like women but they are absolutely welcomed.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
12 days ago

The Garrick voters are idiots and traitors.
There are hundreds of mixed sex club, but caving to ennemies wanting tio change their club was presumed to be a ggood idea.

Paul T
Paul T
11 days ago

Soooooo whaaaaaaaat?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
11 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

…sorry missed the point ?

David L
David L
11 days ago

Upper middle.class white women. Literally the worst people on earth.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
4 days ago
Reply to  David L

Only when accompanied by their partners and awfulness the upper middle-class white man

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
11 days ago

…the reason the shouty AWFL types need to invade male spaces as of right, is because, as Mary H’s earlier article on the Garrick implied, women only spaces quickly become completely toxic. In the company of gentlemen, perhaps they can be ladies.

Kevin Kilcoyne
Kevin Kilcoyne
11 days ago

The idea that there is something misogynistic about the male desire to be around other men without the presence of women is overtly misandrist. It shouldn’t need saying, but men and women tend to be different. There are of course exceptions to this, and any individual may display traits of the opposite sex – but by and large there are behaviors/comportments that are commonly unique to each sex.
Why is it that male only spaces have a reputation for being ‘toxic’ while female only are ‘safe spaces’? I believe it is because masculinity itself has come to be seen as toxic. Assertiveness, strength, bravery, and dominance are all seen to be damaging to the plight of those who do not display them, and ought to be restrained in favor of empathy, compassion, tolerance, and kindness. Rather than an understanding and acceptance that a combination of all of these traits together are what’s needed to make society work.
From experience, female-only spaces can be every bit as toxic as their male counterparts when it boils down to it.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
11 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Kilcoyne

…females merely hen pick to establish hierarchy, within which no individual has space. Men, having the capacity for deadly violence, recognize and allow each individual’s space within a hierarchy. Hence females, in seeking an order of compassion for all things create tumult and chaos, and men seeking dominance over all things end up creating a stable order. The wisdom of Eastern yin and yang.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
4 days ago

Agree.
Still in my experience of private members clubs, as a guest, the nicest were the most traditional. As far as I know they all admitted women as guests, which is perfect good by me.
The trendy ones were awful; supposedly aimed at “creatives” they were full of marketing and PR people, not actors and artists. Loud, coke in the loo, pushy etc. vile.