Revolution is brewing in Brisbane’s venerable Tattersalls Club, but it’s not about letting in women. In fact, the revolution is about the failure of the club’s President, Mr Stuart Fraser, to stand up for men.
Curiously, for the President of one of Brisbane’s last remaining men’s clubs, Mr Fraser has been conspicuously absent when it has come to defending the club’s 153-year-old traditions.
There are currently 20 single-sex clubs in Brisbane. Seventeen of these are reserved for women, and only three for men. The advantage runs all one way, and it is in not in favour of men.
Many, like me, think it is only reasonable that women should have the choice of belonging to a mixed club, or a women’s only club. We think men should have the same choices, but that very basic right is now at risk.
The real issue is not about letting women into Tattersalls; it is about letting men have the same rights as women.
Tattersalls plays an important role in giving men the chance to meet and socialise in a civilised way, with people who can sympathise and share their concerns. I assume the same is true of the all-female Moreton Club and Lyceum Club. That’s exactly what any good club should do.
So why is the Moreton Club “good”, and Tattersalls Club “bad”? Nobody knows, for it flies in the face of good reason, and common sense.
The male members of Tattersalls Club don’t try to impinge on women and their organisations, nor do they try to tell them what to do. Is it too much to expect the same common courtesy in return?
The twentieth century’s great defender of individual liberty, Isaiah Berlin, said that the right not to be impinged upon, to be left alone, was a mark of high civilisation, and that its decline “would mark the death of a civilisation, of an entire moral outlook”.
That is exactly what is at stake here.
The most basic of rights is the right to be left alone, and it is owed to men and women equally. It’s time the Tattersalls President recognised this, and stood up for equal rights for men.
Now, there are some men who are perfectly happy to spend their whole lives in mixed company, just as some women are too. However, it doesn’t mean that some men might not want to spend a portion of their time alone with other men. Some women – many women – might cherish exactly the same thing.
Feeling this way, and wanting to be free to choose how to live our lives isn’t discrimination; it’s perfectly natural. Giving one sex a choice as to how they socialise, but denying it to the other sex is the only real discrimination.
Most importantly, allowing equal rights for men is the only way to truly achieve equal rights for men and women.
However, this simple and inescapable proposition is under attack.
Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk has banned the men in her cabinet from joining or attending Tattersalls, but she has not told the women in her cabinet they cannot attend women’s clubs. She clearly believes women should have rights she will not allow to men, and has set about making that so.
When she attacked the club on International Men’s Day, because it remained male only, tragically not a word was heard from the committee in the club’s defence.
Members might at least have expected their President to stand by them, and stand by their rights.
However, Mr Fraser has been long behind the push to smash the very heart and soul of the club. At first, he obfuscated about his agenda, but he has been increasingly vocal, of late, in pushing for change.
In the process, he has publicly attacked not only his own club, but many of the members who might hold a different view. The presidents of five of the club’s sporting and interest sub-clubs have been “stood down” by Mr Fraser for daring to communicate with members to express views contrary to his.
It culminated this week in a farcical YouTube video in which Mr Fraser criticised those who opposed changing the club’s rules, and demanded club members fall into line behind him.
The result was an embarrassing 50 thumbs up, and over 1,000 thumbs down. As for comments there were none. That’s because Mr Fraser, who claims he is listening to members, had disabled the comments section on his own video. The video has since been taken down.
It is Mr Fraser who put Tattersalls Club squarely in the public eye, and many of its members would like to take issue with him over his attacks on the club, and his misleading comments. I am one of them.
Indeed, I would be happy to debate with him at any time whether the members of Tattersalls should have to right to a club of their own, just as women do.
Even if he succeeds in getting his own way, Mr Fraser should recognise he will have done irreparable harm to the club by occasioning such a painful and bitter schism. And of course, he will also have done his bit to deprive men of a choice which should be inalienably theirs.
My only hope is that if the President of Tattersalls can’t find the courage to stand up for the rights of men, the club’s members will do it for him. In so doing, they might just strike a blow for equal rights everywhere.
Illustration: Tattersalls Club.
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