By Emma Deuchars
Rent, bills, food, transport, work supplies, and the ‘occasional’ drink, and university life quickly feels pricey for even the most cost conscientious of students; and the hike in university fees doesn’t help with the impending debt once you come out the other side. If, like many, you’ve picked up an additional job to help loosen your tight budget, there’s half a chance that your part-time wages feel hard-won. So, if someone offered you the chance to earn £150 for one night’s work as a hostess, dishing out food and serving a few drinks, maybe you’d jump at the chance.
I know I would if it was framed that way. But imagine saying yes to such a job, being given a uniform so sheer that it came with a mandate of matching underwear and being told to sign pages worth of non-disclosure agreements, all prior to having even entered the event room. That was the fate of the 130 hostesses, many of whom were students, who worked at 2018 Presidents Club Charity Dinner.
The event, which had been running for 33 years, renowned for its elite all-male guest list, this year comprised of around 360 influential men from the British political, financial and entertainment sectors. Following the findings of undercover reporter, Madison Marriage, women have started to talk about their own experiences at the event, with allegations of groping and requests for sex.
In the wake of such honesty, the PresidentsClub remarked that they were “appalled by the allegations” and would be investigating the issue. We can only assume that the thorough inquiry highlighted to organisers inappropriate behaviour at these events of guests asking women to remove their underwear, dance on tables, or exhibit their genitals over dinner. The Presidents Club subsequently has closed.
Politicians, at least those who weren’t at the event, have been fast to express their disgust, followed by the Prime Minister, who has expressed her outrage at the event; one Downing Street spokesperson added, that this was the sort of event “she wouldn’t be invited to” which is in all fairness, an irrefutable statement given the notoriously all-male guest list.
Perhaps more significant was the resignation of David Meller, a non-executive director for the Department of Education, who helped organise the charity dinner. His work for the department is made even more worrying, by the recent reports it has produced highlighting systemic sexism within our education system, which repeatedly sanctions discrimination against women under the guise of ‘lad culture’.
It’s an unpalatable irony that a man meant to aid the removal from sexism within our schools, helped to organise an event in which hostesses were paraded into the room, in height order, to the overtures of Robin Thicke; it’s a testament to the vulgarity of the event in general that the playing of ‘Blurred Lines’ didn’t even come close to the most misogynistic moment, reported of the evening.
I wish we could presume that the hostesses in question are now removed from this environment of predatory objectification, at least, for those it applies to, within the university communities in which they study, but frankly that’s unlikely to be the case. The systemic sexism that the Department of Education has found rife in schools, has been reported of in many universities. Laura Bates, the creator of the ‘EveryDaySexism’ project, has expressed that an alarming number of entries to her website feature the testimonies of young women at university.
From society initiations that depict female participants as hounds, and the men as foxes and huntsmen, to events with themes like ‘Pimps and Hoes’ and ‘Rappers and Slappers’, ‘banter’ ridden ‘lad culture’ is alive and well, throughout higher education. Whilst these sort of events don’t seem to be a feature of Falmouth’s student scene, we still do find the odd instance where vulgar misogyny rears its ugly head. Examples of such, tend to be slotted between the rousing trolley wars and avocado memes, that clutter the news feed of the infamous ‘Penryn Campus Fitfinder’ Facebook page.
It’s difficult to know exactly which guests at the charity dinner attended university, or what the social scene of their universities would have been, however, in the light of these allegations, it begs the question, were there female university peers experiencing similar ordeals at the hands of the men?