What I’ve learned about gender discrimination from being a club promoter
It happens all the time
I dabble in club promoting. Yeah, I’m one of those dickheads. I clog up Facebook page with invitations to some vibesy event in London or Edinburgh. No matter how crap an event inevitably is going to be, I’ll try and make you dish out £20 and queue for two hours in the pouring rain to see your mate’s mediocre DJ set in a sweaty 10×10 ft club.
After the shameless ordeal of promoting events, I actually need to get heads through the door. And to do this it’s undeniably important to become chummy with the power-hungry door staff. “You can get my friends in on a discounted guestlist, right mate?”, I whisper in an ashamedly RP accent.
Normally, there are no problems whatsoever. Your mates hand over their money, convince the bouncer they’ve only had two beers and everything is golden. You are lauded as a hero for saving everyone £2 on the ridiculously over-priced entry. But other times, they can’t do it. “Sorry bruv”, they’ll tell you. “We’re only letting girls in now”.
It turns even the most normal guys into meninist social justice warriors, and though it’s easy to forget the minor inconvenience when you’re drunk and heading to another club, it’s true that gender bias and entry policies in UK clubs are catastrophically messed up.
Cheaper entry to girls or the refusal of entry to boys after a certain time is outright discrimination, but it’s surprisingly common, especially in London. My promoter friends justify it by by basing it on outdated gender stereotypes, arguing too many guys and too few women creates too laddish an environment. The ratio goes tits up and a Mayfair club will instantly transform into a Magaluf piss-up, or so they say. They worry rowdy all-boys groups will smash too many pints, get into fights — but if there are girls with them, it’ll all be calm and sensible. Women, after all, are the gentler sex.
The hypocrisy comes though, in the loophole I’ve learned and exploited in my time promoting, to make sure a group of lads get in. If an all-boy group struggles to source women to join them in the queue, they can normally just offer to buy an expensive table and share out bottles of equally expensive vodka to women in the club.
It’s like having a Coutts card and buying a bottle somehow diminishes “primitive behaviour”, and the boys are allowed in – because they now serve a purpose to women.
What amazes me is how much we’ve moved forward as a society when it comes to our attitude towards gender and sexuality, yet how backwards these ideas are at London clubs. It’s just not just this loophole, clubs will also regularly use the “we have too many girls inside already” excuse if they don’t like the look of the guys queuing outside, even if there’s hardly any girls inside the club.
I witnessed it myself while in the queue for Bodo’s. Myself and a group of guys were refused entry because bouncers said there were already too many boys inside. The group behind us had two girls to five boys, and they were told if they got six or seven more girls they’d be allowed in. Lots of girls we knew had already been allowed in and were waving at us, but the bouncers were set on their bizarre ratio, and their door girls even claimed that it’s official policy after 11.30pm. The entire situation was ridiculous.
When questioned on this, a spokeswoman for Bodo’s Schloss responded that nobody is allowed into the club without valid identification and that they cannot guarantee entry for big groups of guys, or big groups of girls, unless a table reservation has been made. This, they claim, is due to capacity issues.
Another friend got rejected from Boujis with the same excuse, that too many guys were already in. He said that it’s because promoters suppose it’s justified because they know guys are more of a target market than girls, and because there are always disproportionately more men than women in West London clubs. They try to market it at women to make it seem more appealing to men, and men are simply used as a pawn in their strategy. A marketing director at the club stated that as Boujis is a private members club, it would be inappropriate to divulge information about entry policy, and so refused to comment on the matter.
The gender discrimination policies London clubs rely on aren’t just harmful to men: they make assumptions about women which are old-fashioned and unnecessary. According to the Equality Act, charging higher entry to a man at a club or refusing him entry due to his gender is against the law. Just as refusing a disabled person, a black person or a gay person entry would be a flagrant denial of protected characteristics and, consequently, illegal, it should be the same for men. And while in some areas gender equality is improving, clubs are unashamedly stuck in the past.