By this point, you’ve probably heard of the media sting operation which brought down a charity organization in Britain which had been in operation for decades. On the surface that might sound like a rather ominous story. Who goes after a charity? But in this case, it wasn’t the level of evil or unacceptable behavior on display which doomed them, but the sheer stupidity.
The operation in question is (soon to be “was”) the Presidents Club Charitable Trust. Their big gala this year, held at London’s Dorchester Hotel, was supposed to raise plenty of cash for worthy causes and it may well have done so. But it was also a festival of bad behavior by wealthy men who were drooling over and groping the attractive waitresses hired to serve at the dinner. Unfortunately for the old boys of the club, one of the women was a reporter who was there to expose what was going on, and less than a week later the organization is on its way to closing down. (Washington Post)
When tabloid-style news of this event broke in the usually decorous Financial Times on Wednesday, the recoil was immediate.
The story of well-heeled men acting badly was not exactly Britain’s #MeToo moment. London has been the scene of alleged acts of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, while the government has been roiled by “sex pest” scandals, including the resignation late last year of Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, accused of repeatedly putting his hand on a well-known radio journalist’s knee at a dinner in 2002.
But the newspaper investigation into harassment doled out at a London charity event last Thursday has delivered a fresh jolt. The report alleged that women who served as hostesses, some of them college students, were groped and propositioned. One elderly attendee asked one of the hostesses whether she was a prostitute.
So the organization will be shutting down after 33 years of operation. Shocking, no? I mean, who could have imagined that in 2018, in the midst of an endless parade of stories and criminal cases involving powerful men sexually abusing comparatively powerless women, that a massive, men’s only banquet where they leer at and slap the buttocks of scantily clad female servers would be a bad idea?
This is a worthwhile story to bring to light because it serves as a reminder of a couple different things. First of all, lest anyone think that this event was some one-off collection of miscreants who exist in the shadows outside the norms of society, forget about it. While choosing to conduct such an affair at this particular time was likely one of the most tone-deaf calls of the century, this sort of thing has been going on for all of recorded history. The clothing, jewelry, place settings and cuisine may be 21st century, but powerful men have been hosting these types of shindigs forever.
But at the same time, the fall of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust in less than a fortnight is a clear example of precisely how much the #MeToo movement has changed the world in a remarkably short period of time. Prior to last year, everyone “knew” about these events and news of such an affair would be met with a collective shrug. It’s the old boys’ club and, you know… boys will be boys. It was the standard order of business and nothing would have been made of such a report hitting the headlines, assuming anyone even bothered to report on it.
Not so today. A large collection of some of the more wealthy and powerful men in Britain was brought to heel almost instantly and their esteemed organization was shamed into closing their doors virtually overnight. People have had their eyes opened to what was always known and tolerated and it appears that time is indeed up, as leaders of the movement have been saying.
I tend to be a skeptic about waves of social change. (And not all change is for the better, if we’re being honest.) But in this case, the world does seem to have undergone a massive lurch of societal evolution in a period of months. If that doesn’t give you cause for hope then you’re even more of a pessimist than I am.