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Men-Only Clubs Are Dated and Embarrassing

It's hard to believe that clubs that exclude women from membership still exist, but they do. Maybe a little gender mixing would be helpful at a time when the news is full of terrifying sexual assault allegations.

by Merrill Markoe
Dec 1 2014, 5:43pm

​I accurately predicted that Bill Cosby would get a standing ovation at his first sold-out comedy gig after the recent rape disclosures. I said as much at dinner the night before. Yet I still found it disheartening when I read, in ​a review in the Los Angeles Times the very next day, that many in the audience "saw the comedian as the victim of a coterie of hustlers, or worse." Because, you know, those awful gals and their vicious stories.

When I graduated college in the 70s, I would have bet any amount of money that every one of the many tentacles of the discussion we still seem to be having about all aspects of women's rights would by now have gone the way of arguments in favor of slavery or cigarettes being good for your health.

But here we are, almost in 2015, finally on the cusp of driverless cars, and we're still flooded with crazy news about a frightening rape culture full of asshole frat boys on  ​college campuses like the ​University of Virginia. We're also assimilating the notion that the man we picked to be "America's Dad" is an alleged serial rapist.

That pretty much pares the cherished-old-man list down to Gandhi, Einstein, and Santa Claus. And we better not be about to learn that the Santa Claus myth was originally based on the true story of a fat guy in the gift business who was caught moving elves across state lines for purposes of sex trafficking.

This brings me to November 5, the day the  ​Los Angeles Adventurers' Club failed to strike down its 93-year-old no-girls-allowed membership policy. The vote was suggested by Marc Weitz, one of the club's former presidents, who also took pains to reassure the existing members that "We're not changing the qualifications" for membership. Any female candidates would still "have to meet the same standards that men have."

But to his surprise, "People stood up and argued against me quite vehemently," said Weitz. And of course, by "people" he meant "men."

Unfortunately, once the dust settled, none of the naysayers came forward to explain their reasoning. I could get no confirmation that the word "cooties" was repeatedly cited as a factor. This forced me to speculate about what the problem between the Adventurers and their potential counterpart Adventurer women might be.

Founded in 1908, the Adventurers' Club describes itself on its website as a "gathering place for those who leave the beaten path to explore the globe and return to share their adventures." Their  ​membership page features a list of 28 qualified areas of mutual adventurous enjoyment, starting with "Racing, Climbing, Mountaineering, Travel to Remote Areas of the World" and ending with "Extreme Skiing and Snowboarding." Also listed are fields of endeavor as diverse as "Environmental Testing," "Space Exploration," and "Zoologists." Interestingly, every activity mentioned is one both sexes pursue.

At a time when it appears that men and women understand one another more poorly than ever, it seems important to discover the reasoning behind the rejection. I am well aware that there are good things to be said about single-gender gatherings. For example, some classroom studies show the lack of distraction from the opposite sex results in more learning (though other studies claim there are no measurable benefits at all).

But let's face it: We're all drowning in studies. The same day one study recommends a glass of red wine with dinner as a protection against heart attack, another one cautions that the same thing causes cancer.

So I did a bit of Google searching to try to get to the real root of the problem that men's clubs have with the idea of admitting women. What I discovered was a variety of interesting lines of reason. Let's begin with a quote from a 40-year member of London's oldest and most exclusive men's club,  ​White's, who describes the club as "a refuge."

"You can be completely unselfconscious" he explains in a  ​BBC news article. "It's not snobbish. It just allows you to relax. You can break wind and nobody minds."

Assuming he joined the club in his 20s, this guy and his friends would now be in their 60s. Thus we are presented with the image of a group of older men who relish the opportunity to get dressed up and sit in handsomely appointed rooms where they can fart freely while they exchange the appropriate stories.

I must admit that this picture is not an appealing one to me, no matter how many trips to the Arctic each of them have made. But just because I am turned off by the idea of a room full of farting old men is no reason to reject women members, per se. If casual farting is an integral part of being a member of a men's club, then the club literature should simply come right out and say it. There are probably plenty of women with poor digestion who indulge in skydiving and whitewater rafting. I bet the Venn diagram for people of either sex who enjoy both journeys to remote areas and public displays of flatulence is fairly narrow. This could turn out to be an excellent device for screening new candidates.

Looking further, I discovered other men's-club members who believed that having women in the clubhouse would prevent them from being able to speak freely. These are men who said they didn't feel comfortable swearing in the presence of women. How they made it to 2014 unaware of the astronomical number of foul-mouthed women around them—adventurous and otherwise—is in itself a remarkable phenomenon.

Once again, if the club would simply go public with this information, all they'd need to do is add one simple sentence to the membership page: "All members must be at ease speaking the following vile epithets." If this were followed by a comprehensive list of carefully crafted disgusting verbal invective, it would help attract only the female applicants who are as coarse and degenerate as the men.

After all, the name " the Adventurers' Club" is a fairly misleading one because the word "Adventurer" is decidedly gender-neutral. It's defined as:

  1. A person who has, enjoys, or seeks exciting unusual experiences.
  2. A seeker of fortune in daring enterprises.

That is why a smarter idea might be to consider changing the name of the club to include these important specifications. Everyone knows it's all about niche marketing these days. By simply re-naming the group "The Foul Mouthed Adventurers," or even "The Gassy Adventurers," they could be sure that only the right kind of swearing, farting mountaineers and space explorers applied.

Isn't it time we knocked off pretending that personal inclinations and tastes are defined by gender? It's simply not true that all women are one thing and all men are another. Our culture should have assimilated something this simple by now.

Example: I am a woman who hates shopping.

I know.

I will give you time to take that in before I continue.

Yes, I will concede that we gals are by definition penis-less. But believe it or not, we have even more DNA in common with male humans than we do with fruit flies! We are a gender composed of a group of vastly different individuals. Angela Merkel and Kim Kardashian are both women. I swear this is true. So are Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Condoleezza Rice, and Nicki Minaj.

Maybe in the future, if the members of both genders who share lots of common interests—whatever they happen to be—were encouraged to socialize together in arenas besides nightclubs and frat parties, they might learn to see each other as human beings.

We live on a planet adrift in one of billions and billions of galaxies, yet for every foul-mouthed Adventurer man, there is a foul-mouthed Adventurer woman who might like to be his friend. Imagine a world where they might fart peacefully together while telling their respective hang-gliding stories. May 2015 be the year they discover their mutual humanity.

And may it also be the year I successfully avoid contact with them both.

Merrill Markoe is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and New York Times best-selling author. Her latest book, ​Cool, Calm and Contentious, is available now on Amazon. Follow her on ​Twitter.