Fedora Abu calls out the ‘Girls-Go-Free’ Policies for what they really are
Far away from the sticky floors of ULU stand the elusive nightclubs of London’s most expensive postcode. For female students with a taste for the good life, it’s hard not to be enticed by opulent interiors, fancy drinks and celebrity appearances, especially when its all offered free-of-charge. However, the glitz and glamour often conceal darker truths. In this case, your free girls’ night out in Mayfair will probably come served with a healthy dose of sexism.
On the surface, Mayfair’s girls-go-free-before-two policy seems to favour women, but you quickly learn this isn’t the case. For starters, entry is always ‘at the discretion of the door staff’, meaning women will pretty much be judged solely on appearance. Image-obsessed and intentionally exclusive, these clubs are looking for a certain type of girl. A glamorous outfit, makeup and high heels are a given but being particularly skinny, longhaired and pretty-faced is as good as a fast-track ticket to the front of queue. Men too are expected to be well turned-out and adhere to a dress code but the benchmarks are rarely as high – are they ever?
The whole process can be nerve-wracking for anyone but is especially humiliating for those told they “aren’t quite right”
Still, the sexist standards are in place long before you even arrive. Getting on the all-important guest list requires contacts, usually in the form of slick promoters whose job it is to fill the club out with girls. Not just any girls of course – these promoters want ‘quality’. Throughout the day, they’ll be glued to their iPhones, courting their approved regulars and seeking out new talent to take advantage of later that evening.
If a girl texts saying she wants to bring a friend along to a particularly exclusive club, she shouldn’t be surprised when he requests her photo to see if she’s up-to-scratch. Obviously, this is never done for male guests. Yet, as easy as it is to despise their lack of discretion, they’re working to the demands of the clubs who have to maintain a certain image. And even if you do get a spot on a promoter’s guest list, you can still expect to be visually scrutinised by the club’s own door girl at the front of the queue. The whole process can be nerve-wracking for anyone but is especially humiliating for those told they “aren’t quite right”, and refused entry on their looks alone.
Being a pawn night after night can leave a bad taste in your mouth that even the Dom Pérignon won’t get rid of
Actually getting into these clubs feels like a mark of approval that even the most stoic of us desires and the ‘chosen women’ inside know they have been deemed good-looking enough to party there for free. Nevertheless, past the velvet rope, men call the shots and women are merely eye-candy used to keep the big-spenders happy. It’s not rare for groups of girls to be put on a table with one or two strangers who agree to provide drinks in return for female company. Sadly, a sizeable number of these (often much older and richer) men think that allowing their hands to wander is simply one of the perks. Many of these clubs will also offer entertainment which, more often than not, involves attractive lingerie-clad women on podiums performing acts better suited to a strip club. Of course, these raunchy faux-lesbian displays are tailored to male guests while women are expected not to bat an eyelid.
So where does all this leave female students who are hedonists and feminists in equal measure? Admittedly, it does seem pretty hypocritical to criticize the patriarchy yet play a willing part in such an unapologetically sexist system just for a free night out. Yes, it must be said that there are incredible nights to be had in London’s most glamorous settings. But, being a pawn night after night can leave a bad taste in your mouth that even the Dom Pérignon won’t get rid of.
Featured image credit: Pod talk