Devil’s Advocate: should single sex clubs be a thing of the past?



The name you see printed is dubious insofar as the sex is not revealed directly. Am I a Charles or a Charlotte?

Does it matter what gender I am? Well, it shouldn’t. I believe everyone should be taken seriously and be respected for their beliefs and opinions. Gender shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Single-sex clubs need to be abolished so that all gentlemen learn to respect women’s opinions as well as men’s. Many London private clubs only recently opened up their bar areas to women after the gender equality bill was passed in Parliament last December.

If we close off a bar to women, then we are just as equally closing off conversation to women. Why a bar? It could be strongly argued that the best conversations take place in areas where alcohol is available. Why else would Whitehall be reported to have as many as 50 bars?

Women need to be seen as equals. If they are not allowed in certain buildings or certain rooms, then they are not seen at all.

The hardest task comes after the time when all traditional single-sex clubs allow women in. Once in, men and staff of the club have to treat women fairly and apply the rules to everyone.

I was in a club in St James’ Square recently when a male friend took off his suit jacket in the bar. The secretary of the club came over and asked him, in hushed tones, to kindly put his jacket back on as it was against the club rules.

There were no bad feelings about this. My friend was very happy to respect the rules put in place. He had just not read up on them before crossing the threshold. Our conversation was about to resume when I caught a surprising sight out of the corner of my eye. A young lady wearing jeans and a shirt. No one, male or female, is allowed to wear jeans in private clubs. Yet no one was saying anything to her because she was a young woman.

Single sex-clubs should be a thing of the past, but the mindset and an unwillingness to treat everyone equally once inside is still debatable.

Charley Tharnet


It is hard to begin a discussion on this topic without cowering under the fear of being labelled ‘sexist’.

In our incredibly pluralist society, it may seem ridiculous that someone could still believe that there is a genuine precedent for excluding a person from a society based upon their gender.

However, what I am compelled to ask is that while we may desire to banish sexism from our workplaces and universities, does this mean that all single-sex clubs are necessarily an archaic, sexist invention?

Can we concede that there are situations where naturally single-sex clubs are not sexist, and that by implying that they are and forcing them to alter, we actually inhibit their ability to serve their purpose?

Specifically, one could mention Alcoholics Anonymous, a club that has advocated single–sex meetings for years. This is a group that doesn’t refuse to help any gender, but studies have shown that single-sex meetings are more effective for women.

Women who suffer from alcohol abuse are more likely than men to have experienced sexual and physical abuse as children. This doesn’t mean that Alcoholics Anonymous believe that men can’t understand and identify with a woman’s experience because of a default in their gender, it simply means that this is an organisation dedicated to helping people in the best way they can, and part of that is making people comfortable.

I remember a sex education class in Year 9, and the palatable awkwardness in the air. If the school had hoped to elicit discussion between staff and students, maybe they would have benefited from realising that a group of 13 year-old girls would never talk about that kind of thing in front of boys.

Perhaps we as a society need to hold back the accusation of sexism, and accept that sometimes single-sex groups provide people with a unique environment to address their problems, and that sometimes it is what we need.

Are we too afraid of being called ‘sexist’ that we throw away the opportunity to make positive changes?

Emma Hinds


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.