The President’s Club

January 25, 2018

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

The CountryWives have asked me to write a regular piece on news that is being discussed among women. I was only too happy to agree as I love the CW website as it is such a positive place to seek out fun fashion finds, recipes to feed the family and friends for the upcoming weekend, or a new service or product that is going to make our lives easier. So this time the news that is being discussed at many ladies lunches or coffee mornings is what went on at The President’s Club annual fundraising dinner at The Dorchester.

I am going to raise my head above the parapet and ask is everyone really surprised that this sort of behaviour goes on at these ‘Men Only Dinners’? The fact that The President’s Club annual dinner has been outed by two undercover journalists is no surprise in this continuing age of investigative journalism. The surprise to me is that in these post-Weinstein times I find it extraordinary that some of these supposedly intelligent, high-ranking men would behave so badly and not expect to get found out. Women are empowered and they can and will report bad behaviour and not be mocked.

I have heard in the past that a group of 300+ men only at a black tie dinner (posh clothes does not dictate good manners), who are all rich and successful in their business, combined with good food and copious quantities of alcohol will often result in lewd behaviour. Charity dinners are wonderful fundraisers however, I believe if you want to give money to a charity then write out a cheque and send it in and only expect that you will receive, in return – a good feeling that someone less well-off than you has in some small way been helped by your donation. Your name will not go up in lights and you will not receive cheers of recognition from your colleagues and friends as is the way at these charitable dinners. Save the money that is spent on the food and wine, the chauffeur-driven cars and taxis and donate it all to charity. Then you won’t need hostesses to entertain you if you really needed them at all. Can men only have fun if they have women to leer at, grope or humiliate? Of course not, most men enjoy a night out with the boys and do not behave like this – as most ladies also enjoy a girls’ night out and behave well. I am sure most of the 300 men at the Presidents Club dinner did behave but it is always the minority that let the team down.

However and this is where my head pops up above the parapet…….what did the 120 hostesses at The President’s Club dinner think when they were asked to wear black sexy shoes, short, tight black dresses with matching underwear and told they could drink, even being given a glass of wine before the evening began? Sorry girls but last time my daughter was a waitress at a dinner she was told to wear a black shirt and skirt with black comfortable shoes as she was going to be on her feet (no not her back) for a long time, and she was certainly not allowed to drink. One of the hostesses at this Dorchester event admits she was knocking back Tequila shots and was quite drunk by late in the evening.

Before you all start trolling me saying that I am insensitive because women should be able to wear what they want and drink what they want without expecting to be groped, I do not condone any sexual harassment. Not even an unwanted arm around the waist. However I do not want to put this in the same category as rape or attempted rape where a woman (or a man) is unable to defend themselves. What I do think is that we, as women, have to meet men halfway – they have to stop keeping their brains in their underpants but we have to stop wearing provocative clothes, learn to answer back (nothing so humiliating to a man if he is belittled in front of friends) i.e. don’t look as if we women are asking to have a good time and show we have some character instead.

What have I said to my daughter in the past when she has come downstairs wearing very revealing clothes before going out? I have told her she cannot go out dressed like that and I have also warned her that alcohol will dim her senses and can make monsters out of men. I would hope that once these girls, who agreed to be hostesses, heard the terms they should have said ‘No’ and turned the job down. If every one of them said no then the committee who booked them and the agency who supplied them would have had to re-think their policy.

I am led to believe however, that many of these girls were students and were looking to establish contacts in the business world when they eventually came to look for jobs. Really girls? I think there are more appropriate ways of networking, use your brains and your CV and not your bodies is what I say. And let’s ALL help this world become more appropriate.

Finally I would hope that the money that has been returned by the charities, as they feel they cannot accept it now, will go back to the original donors. There will be no tea with Boris Johnson or plastic surgery ‘to spice up your wife’ but that those same donors will quietly make a larger donation to these same children’s charities as it should not be the children that are the losers in this debacle. Maybe all men-only dinners planned for this year could do the same and just get their invitees to make donations with no rewards other than peace of mind.


Thanks to Poppy Patmore for contributing this post.

Grace and Annabel’s latest vlog asks the question “Is it appropriate to sell beauty products that have names with sexual connotations?”: Click here to view


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