The Other Club
“Imagined 1913. Established 2013”
The Other Club was founded on an urge to celebrate “women that do”. Founders, Katie Glass (The Sunday Times) and Joy Di Loco (Evening Standard), wanted to provide a female centered space, focused on discussion and debate, but also serving as a testimony to the belief that more and more women are acting upon their ability to speak, write and do.
When I visited The Other Club to find out more preparations were taking place for one of their many events, and as I spoke to Katie (always slightly in the way of a furniture alteration), I began to wonder how the girls had managed to find time to speak to me; the club has hosted a multitude of successful, sell-out events, with talks from the likes of the Vagenda, Mary Beard, and even some Playboy Bunnies thrown into the mix.
The name, much like the initial idea for the club itself, comes from the desire to create something different, alternative, something other. Katie explained to me how the aim was originally to have these dinners for successful, professional women. Their idea grew, and The Other Club became a space in which a diverse selection of women could speculate upon what it was to act upon and embrace the opportunities women have today, the opportunities that they didn’t have a century ago. However, when discussing the history of female equality and rights, it becomes inevitable to explore the present, and what is to come. At the beginning of my meeting with Katie she picks up a flyer for a literary festival and points out the endless names and pictures of featured men. It was observations like these that encouraged her and Joy to place so much emphasis on the club being primarily a space for women. Men are welcome to the events, but they are encouraged to come with women.
One of the first things I wanted to ask Katie was how closely the club identified with Feminism. Jenny Diski of the LRB picked up on their use of the term on the website, where they described how they were “hacked off with feminism telling us what we can’t do”. Diski then commented on this on her blog:
Feminism has never told women what they can’t do. Some individuals have. To make feminisim the enemy is to denigrate the movement that has for a very long time done battle against real forces that have always sought to tell women what they can’t do.
When Katie and I discussed this she mentioned how she had never expected there to be a dispute over the remark. Yet, it seems as though the girls are apprehensive about their identification with the term. “We avoided it because it seems to mean so many different things to different people”, Katie tells me. Thus the club didn’t want to become restricted in those who it attracted, whether they were talking, leading events or attending as guests.
“This weird thing happened where we were like ‘lets start this club’, and 70,000 people have looked at our website in the last week, we realised that this is a place where we have to let others decides what it means”.
The Other Club places emphasis on its celebration of “professional women”, they have held dinners for women who have been successful in professions such as Law and Architecture. I could not help but query how this affects women without access to education and the means to become ‘professional’. I was not the first to challenge the girls on this: “We’re appealing to professional women because not enough people are. People have called us elitist, but that’s not the case. We charge a fiver to be a member, anyone can join. We wanted this to be inclusive. We’ve gone as cheap as we can go and still we only just manage to break even.”
It seems as though this emphasis on professional women didn’t come from elitism or exclusivity, but rather appraisal, “London is full of these amazing women doing these great things … Maybe we’ve come to this tipping point with feminism where we can celebrate that”.
Yet, any of us with an awareness of the state of gender norms and equality in 2013 know that there is a drive for feminists to do more than celebrate. Katie and Joy are no exception. With the eclectic mix of speakers and voices involved in The Other Club they have not only managed to incorporate such a diverse selection of voices, but encouraged women to compare and interrogate these voices.
“Women can interrogate things for themselves, one of the Playboy Bunnies has a PhD in Sociology, she’s studying something that she is taking part in … If a woman is a model she can interrogate what it means to be a model”. The Other Club was not born to attack the choices of individual women, more to force women to consider the choices they make. The diversity of the club encourages women to interrogate their position in society, regardless of whether they are professional or not, and this seems to be where the club has managed to justify their use of the term “other”.
As my discussion with katie drew to a close, I didn’t expect to turn around and see the club entirely different to how it was when I had walked in 40 minutes earlier. It seems as though Katie and Joy had a similar shock with the success of The Other Club:
“We can’t believe how many people are into this, its so exciting. It all started pretty lo-fi, just me and Joy, and our own money, really hoping that at the end of it we broke even”. Safe to say The Other Club is exceeding the girls’ initial expectations, just as the women of 1913 never expected the women of today to be celebrating so much.
Find out more about The Other Club at http://www.theotherclub.co.uk
Words by Rachel Rigby