Clubs, pubs and bars often have restrictions on whom to allow through their doors - under 18s, smokers and those wearing sports shirts are usually off the guest list. Considering that admitting punters who meet these criteria would mean that the establishment would be breaking the law, risking offence or having to mop up more vomit than usual from the toilets, it's quite understandable that these policies are strictly enforced.
Being a few (ahem) years older than 18, a non-smoker and preferring French Connection to sports stores for my attire, I've not been overly concerned by the door policies of the pubs and bars I frequent for a long time. Indeed, I've probably welcomed them; resulting, as they do, in fewer Bieber-ites, reduced risk of lung cancer and less offside rule chat on my evenings out. Imagine my surprise then, to find out that I've just been added to the banned list of a West End bar, along with about 50 other like-minded individuals. And I haven't even been there yet. Honestly, there was no drunkenness involved, no tables were danced on and no innocent barmen were injured in unfortunate licking-tequila-off-torsos incidents.
You may or may not have heard of the up and coming social network Awesome Women of Twitter, of #AWOT hashtag fame. Fellow Huffington Post blogger, Ashley Fryer, set up the group to finally meet some of the great people she's been chatting to on Twitter. (I know - actually meeting Twitter friends. It's enough to put me on a diet.) So she invited a load of us and set about finding a venue for us to "get together. All of us. All at once. With gin. And cake." Sounds good to me.
Ah - gin, I hear you mutter. Alcoholics, huh? Erm, no. Overeaters anonymous? Possibly, but only part time. In fact, the reason for our disbarment was neither our gin nor our baked good intake. It was the fact that the meet up was called the "Awesome Women of Twitter" event. Once the potential venue was found and a deposit paid, our fearless leader was asked if the group would be "just women" and asked what AWOT was (fair question.)
Upon replying in the affirmative regarding the non co-ed nature of the event and clarifying what the acronym stood for we were told that having a feminist or women's lib group in the bar would be "inappropriate". Inappropriate. So feminism and women's liberation are inappropriate. In London. In the West End. In 2011.
Quite what they thought we were going to do is beyond me. Mass bra burning? A sacrificial offering of our forsworn enemy (a Man, obvs)? Or would it be the fact that we'd be gesticulating so wildly in the throes of our feminist ire that our unshaven armpits would be on display, in flagrant contravention of their dress code? Your guess is as good as mine.
Much has been said on the subject of feminism and its stereotypes. Presumably, it was the fact that we think women are awesome that makes us feminists, or perhaps it's the fact that it's Awesome Women of Twitter and not Awesome People of Twitter. I wonder if, as was requested by some of the awesome men we've come into contact with on the micro blogosphere, the event had been a mixed one, would it still have been "inappropriate". The idea of feminism and women's lib groups being banned from an establishment in the UK is almost as antiquated as when men and women were segregated. In those days, it was apparently a flash of dainty, feminine ankle that was deemed too much for the public's sensibilities. But things have moved on. Ankles are fine now - as long as they're shaved.
Follow Jo Rourke on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jo_rourke