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Women's liberation took a wrong turn somewhere - instead of freedom it discovered hostessing

There has been uproar again this week over the fact hostesses have been employed at a major gambling conference. The general feeling seemed to be that because grid girls and darts girls were abolished last week, other industries would simply follow suit and ban glamour girls working at their own events.

Not so in the case of the ICE Totally Gambling conference where organisers flew in the face of opposition from the Gambling Commission's Chief Executive Sarah Harrison no less, to go ahead and employ girls not only to work as hostesses wearing swimwear but for pole dancers and show-dancing playboy bunnies to be recruited to entertain the predominantly male crowd.

Our society continues to be divided about whether women should be employed under these conditions. What appears to be agreed upon is the now defunct President's Club - which arguably triggered off this whole debate - held particularly sleazy events.

But that's where any sense of agreement ends. Even women are polarised, including the women doing the jobs themselves. Last week darts girls came forward and said they enjoyed their work whilst others have spoken out in defence of the opportunities such jobs give working class girls to work their way up in an industry which could lead to bigger and better things. They site Kelly Brook and Melinda Messenger as examples, as they both started out as grid girls. Interestingly though, Melinda Messenger has said she would not let her own daughter do the job.

Others have said that this has become a class issue. That it is OK for middle class women to do what they want with their bodies as they march for abortion rights and take part in free the nipple campaigns to be able to breastfeed on social media but when it's a working class girl - that's just tacky.

Whilst men are not as concrete on the issue as you would expect. Writer Giles Coren spoke out in his newspaper column about attending the President's Club and being moved to tears at the way certain men were treating the hostesses. His point was that some men attending those events are there under peer pressure from their 'friends'.

There is no quick solution to this issue. Taking jobs from the girls currently doing them, whether at sporting events or at lavish charity fundraisers, appears to be coming at the issue from completely the wrong direction.

These events are a microcosm of the currently conflicted place we find ourselves with feminism, that whilst we are now openly incensed at how some women are treated, there is also the realisation that this behaviour is heavily entrenched. As it stands, we cannot see how men can possibly be entertained of an evening without scantily clad women around and women have fallen into the trap that these kinds of jobs are the only path they can take towards bettering themselves. Further, famous women, such as Kim Kardashian and Beyonce, complicate the issue by saying they find stripping off empowering and it is part of their feminist agenda.

It has not always been like that. These behaviours are representative of the over-riding positions men and women have held in society since time immemorial – men being allowed to openly gaze at women and women being ultimately defined by that male gaze. But what has changed in perhaps the last century – which is interesting considering we marked 100 years of the suffrage movement this week – is the occupation of women parading in little clothing for male titillation has become more and more visible and comes with less shame, from both the men and the women.

Go back further in history and this sort of thing was going on secretly in bawdy houses and brothels, amongst serving wenches in taverns and in Victorian peep shows. It appears the further we believe we have moved as a society towards female liberation, so this over-sexualisation of women has occurred more and more in the open, to the point it is expected from all women.

There was a time when revealing a stocking-clad ankle was sheer devilment – the point being we need to think wisely about the direction we channel our drive towards female liberation over the next 100 years. As we have seen, it doesn't always turn out quite how the trailblazers planned.


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