You may have heard it’s race week in Cheltenham, don’t worry if you’re thinking ‘ horse racing isn’t for me’, if anything it’s as much an excuse to drink Guinness at 10am as it is to bet on which four-legged beauty will be first past the post.
If you’ve never been, race week in itself is awesome. I’ve experienced nearly a decades worth since I made Cheltenham my adopted hometown – first as a student working the betting stations and bars dotted around the racecourse (it’s a right of passage for any University of Gloucestershire student) then as an actual punter rubbing shoulders with lords, ladies and Irishmen. You get caught up in the spectacle of it all, the atmosphere, the betting and the desperation to get a selfie with Clare Balding. There’s some things though, that you might not want to experience.
I drove passed the racecourse on my way home from work last night, and amongst the race goers heading to their cars were groups of strategically dressed girls and boys ready with their flyers, banners and flanter (flirty banter, thanks Geordie Shore) to drag unsuspecting race goers into the clubs and bars that are paying them. It’s a well-used practice, often seen in resorts like Magaluf or Las Vegas. So far, so depressingly good.
The group that bothered me was for one of the new lap dancing venues that’s sprung up especially for race week in order to capitalise on horny men filled with extra booze and a wad of betting slips. I’m not a fan of lap dancing clubs – I can hear the snorts of derision now: ‘Not surprised’, ‘Just ’cause no one fancies you’, ‘Ugly Bitch’ etc. please, my self-esteem doesn’t hinge solely on my perceived beauty or lack thereof – but in places where the women are there by choice, they keep the bulk of the money they make, genuinely enjoy the work and are safe whilst doing it then who am I to judge? Strip clubs and lap dancing aren’t really the whole problem and to the women who worked last night by choice, there may have been an element of empowerment for you and that can be awesome. It becomes an issue when you realise the reason they could make that choice is because of simple supply and demand and what should worry you is that the demand still exists in the first place. I don’t see any demand for male versions of strip clubs anywhere, do you?
My problem here is the assumption that when large groups of men are in the vicinity and they’re pumped up on booze and betting what they really need at the end of the day to celebrate is a naked woman to buy. That’s what Cheltenham has decided is okay during race week.
What needs to happen in our society for it not to be assumed that if, as a man, you’ve had a good day, won some money and feel like a King the obvious way to enhance that feeling is to end the evening coming in your pants? That a woman in a state of undress is the ultimate prize? The spoils of a hard day on the booze? And of course, that age-old conundrum – why do we assume a woman is worth only what a man will pay for her?
I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation, but let me shout it out for you one more time – WOMEN ARE NOT COMMODITIES. We are not available to be bought and sold at will. We are worth more to society than our cup size or the way we can erotically place our ass cheeks in a man’s lap. Until such a time that woman aren’t seen as objects, we will forever be on the back foot in every aspect of gender equality. True equality must be embraced from both sides and, as of right now, that’s just not the case.
Angharad is a former radio journalist balancing a career in PR with an insatiable writing habit that spans more topics than she can count on her smaller-than-average hands. She's passionate about the media, women's rights and politics with a love of travel, culture, entertainment and all things lifestyle on the side. Interests include prolific online shopping (bit of a reputation in the office), musicals, dinosaurs (be honest, they're awesome) and tweeting anything and everything from @Welsh_PR