Sisters, are you better than this?

By January 27, 2018February 18th, 2021No Comments

Madness of this war against men: the hysteria over the Presidents Club reflects a growing hatred of men and betrays common sense – and the REAL victims of sexual abuse

By Sarah Vine

27 January 2018

We’re not even at the end of January and 2018 is beginning to grate. It’s not the crisis in the NHS, or the flu epidemic, or even that Marks & Spencer have been selling cauliflower steaks at £2 a pop or Sainsbury’s wrapping individual coconuts in plastic.

It’s that somewhere between the inauguration of Donald Trump and the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, the entire Western world seems to have lost the plot.

We now live in a world where a convicted sexual predator — taxi driver John Worboys, who police estimate may have drugged and raped up to 200 women — gets parole after serving just nine years in jail, while an organisation that has raised upwards of £20million for charity is forced to close down because a few of its members got drunk at a party and misbehaved.

I speak, of course, of The Presidents Club, the latest #MeToo-inspired scandal.

You know the story. A group of young women agree (for a £150 fee) to be hostesses for the night at a male-only bash at The Dorchester hotel in London attended by the very wealthy.

There, some of the women — who included prostitutes — were groped, fondled and propositioned. This was exposed by an outraged female undercover reporter for the Financial Times, triggering widespread condemnation in the media and Parliament, with high-profile resignations of some who attended and the Attorney General suggesting there could be criminal prosecutions.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of male-only clubs — personally I’m always delighted to be excluded, since the last thing I want to spend my evenings doing is listening to blokes comparing their bonus packages — what mystifies me is why the women concerned didn’t get the measure of what was on the cards. Put it this way: when the job description includes sexy knickers, see-through dresses and high heels, it’s safe to assume you’re not being hired to hand out fondant fancies at a vicar’s tea party.

And when someone offers to pay you cash to entertain 360 middle-aged men on a boozy night off from their wives and families, you would either have to be very naive or very stupid not to expect a certain amount of boorish behaviour.

What happened between some guests and these young women at The Dorchester is not acceptable. But then nor is the behaviour of women with male strippers at hen nights very edifying, yet it provokes guffaws rather than outrage.

The point is neither men nor women behaving in this way constitutes the crime of the century. And unless an actual crime is reported, it is not a matter for the police or a parliamentary emergency, despite Labour’s Jess Phillips’s melodramatic tabling of an urgent question in the Commons.

Nor is it a reason to review the laws on men-only clubs and organisations by re-visiting the Equality Act, as the chair of the Commons equality committee Maria Miller and former Labour minister Yvette Cooper have suggested. Men have been trying it on with women — and vice versa — since the beginning of time and I doubt you’ll ever devise a satisfactory law to prevent it.

But wait. Can’t you? Because this is what it’s starting to feel like, all this #MeToo hysteria.

It feels less like legitimate concern on behalf of the strong for the weak, and more like a vendetta against men in general. Less a positive affirmation of the rights of women and more an attempt to eradicate one sex completely.

I may be the last of a dying breed, but I like men.

So few of those who ought to be making the case for sanity — politicians, commentators, influencers — seem to possess a scintilla of the courage and common sense required to push back against this snowballing madness. The madness of a system which seems to care more about the Prime Minister criticising The Presidents Club than the early release of John Worboys.

And where Great Ormond Street Hospital — one of the beneficiaries of the £20million the club has raised in three decades — would rather return £530,000 of donations than risk being hanged, drawn and quartered on Twitter.

Whoever the governors of GOSH are, do they think that depriving children in desperate need of medical help of additional funding and therefore making them suffer is more important than not offending the commissars of political ‘correctness’?

Can someone please explain: how did it come to pass that virtue-signalling — parading one’s PC credentials — has become more important than life-saving? Were I a parent whose child was being treated at GOSH I would be incandescent at the thought my child’s treatment might be undermined because someone’s ‘liberal’ sensibility was more important than saving lives.

But the biggest tragedy in all this is what has happened to the founder of The Presidents Club, the businessman philanthropist David Meller, who resigned on Monday from his seat on the board of the Department of Education.

I have met Meller and can say with certainty that few people have done more, via the chain of academies he helped set up and his work in education, to transform the life chances of disadvantaged children. And yet he has had to suffer the ignominy and agony of seeing his reputation besmirched by people who, quite frankly, could not achieve one tenth of the good he has in his long career.

Of course, in the eyes of the so-called feminists driving this latest moral outrage, none of this counts. The facts are not as important as their dogma. And anyway, what does it matter? After all, the condemned are only men.

And in today’s culture of dystopian moral panic, as with the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, anyone who disagrees with the sentence passed should expect to lose their head too. Which, of course, is why the #MeToo way of thinking is gaining such traction: it’s a very brave (or foolish) person who can stand up to the screeching.

Take Catherine Deneuve: a few weeks ago she lent her name to a letter to the French newspaper Le Monde, criticising what she and other female artists called the puritanism sparked by the Weinstein allegations, and asserting the right of men to pursue the opposite sex. ‘Rape is a crime,’ said the letter, ‘but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or clumsily, is not — and nor is men being gentlemanly a chauvinist attack.’

It added: ‘As women we do not recognise ourselves in this feminism, which beyond denouncing the abuse of power, takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality.’

Such was the backlash that just a few days later Deneuve felt obliged to qualify her statement, expressing regret for any victims of sexual harassment who might have been upset by what she said.

But even if Deneuve cannot, I stand by her original statement. I do not recognise myself in this twisted form of man-hating feminism. The only difference between me and her (apart from the obvious) is that I am lucky enough to work for an organisation that allows me to express myself freely and believes steadfastly in free speech. If someone like Deneuve, the grande dame of French cinema, succumbs to the pressure, imagine how hard it is for lesser beings.

The unspoken truth behind this hysterical condemnation of men — which with every ridiculous accusation only belittles genuine victims of abuse — is that too many women today refuse to admit their own questionable behaviour towards men, either in terms of sexual gratification or social and career advancement.

Yes, Harvey Weinstein was a sleazeball and a sexual predator. But how many of those now flaunting their #MeToo badges were perfectly happy to tip him the wink — in the full knowledge of his appetites — to get a part in another of his films?

Likewise, how many women now crying foul in the House of Commons — where ministers such as Damian Green and Michael Fallon have had their careers destroyed for the sake of a passing caress and a few misread signals — have happily flirted with powerful men in the bars of Westminster for their own advancement?

Meanwhile, far more perniciously, on university campuses we have those tragic cases of young men whose lives have been ruined after being accused of rape by women who feel guilty after consensual sex.

Too many women are refusing to take responsibility for their own behaviour, painting what happened to them as ‘abuse’ in order to expunge their own sense of shame.

But is women taking the easy way out by blaming men feminism? It is not empowerment.

It is moral cowardice. And we are better than that.

None of this would matter were it not for the divisive and deeply debilitating effect this outcry is having on society and our institutions.

In the Army, our soldiers are now apparently being trained to take on the might of the Russian Army with hugs and multicultural awareness seminars.

In the BBC, concerns about excessive pay have become a battle over the pay gap between men and women. Girl Guides are accepting boys, and unisex toilets are being placed in our schools. And in universities such as Oxford, exam times are being lengthened to boost women’s chances.

The tragic irony of all this is that there are vitally important and worthwhile battles still to be fought in the real war against inequality and the abuse of women. Compare the hysteria and air-time prompted by The Presidents Club to other all-too-real sexual scandals such as the nightmare of the girls in grooming and gang rape cases such as Rotherham, as they struggle to obtain justice.

If today’s self-indulgent feminists could devote even half their energy to these genuine outrages, I would be the first to champion them. Instead they pass by with scarcely any comment while admittedly offensive but ultimately fairly harmless behaviour generates national, nay international, apoplexy.

Real feminism is not a badge or a pink hat or a black dress or, for that matter, a handy hashtag.

It is proving that, as women, we are not defined by the actions of some weak, boorish and misguided men but instead united in creating a fairer future.

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