Imagine, for a moment, an elite, black tie, men's only event for captains of industry in a major world city.
More than 300 men, from the top of business, politics and entertainment eagerly attend.
Among the many entertainments are 130 "hostesses": young promotional models hired for the night. They are told to bring "sexy" high-heeled black shoes and matching black underwear. They are given extremely tight and short dresses to wear. The hiring criteria means all the girls selected for the evening are "tall, thin and attractive."
The girls are encouraged to drink before the function, and at the tables with guests – highly unusual for a promotional gig.
Step back in time
Sounds like something from the 1960s, perhaps? Maybe a Hugh Hefner thing? Was it a bash put on by Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack?
Er, no. The event, called the President's Club Charity Dinner, took place just over a week ago in the ballroom of London's Dorchester Hotel. And we only know the detail of what went on in the room because female reporters infiltrated the room undercover.
Who was there? It was hosted well-known Little Britain comic, David Walliams. On the seating plan were men from Barclays Bank and leading English hedge funds. There was Dragons' Den star Peter Jones. The newly appointed English undersecretary of state for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, and Labor party peer and fundraiser, Jonathan Mendelsohn, were there.
Former attendees include a vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs, a Finnish billionaire and Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone.
'Spice up your wife'
Guests bid on, among other things, lunch with cricket hero Sir Ian Botham and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson. You could also win a night at a Soho strip club or some hilarious plastic surgery "to add some spice to your wife." You could win afternoon tea with the governor of the Bank of England.
It was sponsored by WWP, an international marketing group, CMC Markets, a massive betting company and Frogmore, a London real estate investment business.
So it's hardly some sort of underground secret society. It was hosted by TV personality Jonny Gould. "Welcome to the most un-PC event of the year," was his accurate opening line.
For the 33 years it has been running, the President's Club has raised more than $34m and the recent event alone raised more than $3m. There's no doubt these guys have money.
Tone deaf crash
What's incredible about this actually happening in 2018 is that no-one, at any time, anywhere in the organisation, with the whole "men only" thing, the booze and the smorgasbord of promo girls, thought to say "I say, Nigel, do you think this could go badly in the current environment?"
It's just not tone deafness, it's willful complete deafness, and blindness. And this organisation represents some of the world's keenest business minds.
What else is incredible is the number of smart, senior men who attended. Did any of them stop to think about the message this was sending the world, their wives, their daughters, their employees … and other men?
Because the message is "Yeah, I know there's a seismic world-wide shift in sexual politics with the whole #metoo #timesup thing, but actually nothing's changed, because this is what I really like …"
I guess they didn't expect any reporters shining a light into the can of worms. (Why on earth not? They should have).
This silly party is simply a clear illustration that no group, ever, anywhere in the history of humanity, has given up their grasp on power voluntarily.
It shows powerful men will cling to that power, and wield it how they want, until it is taken from them.
Brick by brick, women are tearing down bastions, just like they did with the 2018 President's Club. Next year's bash will be different. Maybe wealthy and powerful women will be invited.
Time is most definitely up.
With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is a consultant creative director and communications specialist, currently writing a book on "man stuff" for publisher New Holland. He is a regular commentator on the lives and style of Australian men.
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