Caitlin Gallagher
January 24, 2018 1:36 pm

A charity fundraiser should bring out the best in humanity, but reporters went undercover and proved that’s not always the case. At the secret, annual, “men only” Presidents Club Charity Dinner, two female reporters went undercover as hostesses to investigate how women are treated at the event. Although the Presidents Club raises money for underprivileged children, the members’ behavior toward women is appalling — at least based on what occurred at the dinner.

For over 30 years, the Presidents Club has existed and it boasts many high-profile men as members.

At their annual charity dinner, the male guests can bid on the lavish prizes up for auction — and women can only be a part of the fundraiser if they’re working the event.

Madison Marriage, a reporter for the Financial Times, heard about how disrespectfully men treat women at this British charity event from a friend who once worked there as a hostess. Along with another Financial Times reporter and a recording device in tow, Marriage went undercover as a hostess to capture the behavior at the January 18th event, which was held at the Dorchester hotel in London. According to Marriage, what she experienced and heard from other hostesses working that night confirmed the rumors.

Marriage reported that the women hired as hostesses are required to wear “skimpy” black outfits with matching underwear and “black sexy shoes.” Besides the uniform, Marriage noted that some of the 130 hostesses were given some indication of the nature of the event when they were hired.

The hostesses were required to sign a five-page nondisclosure agreement upon arrival and their phones were locked away during the event. The women were allowed to drink while working.

Some hostesses stated that men held their hands, pulled them into their laps, and propositioned them for sex. According to Marriage, the sexual harassment seemed to increase as the night went on, with many of the hostesses required to work until 2 a.m. Several hostesses reported that men continually put their hands up their skirts, and one woman said a man exposed his penis to her. A 19-year-old hostess was allegedly asked by an older man if she was a prostitute.

Marriage reported that a security guard — who kept time — was placed near the women’s bathroom. Women who took too long were told to return to the men. Marriage also said in an interview with BBC’s Newsnight that while some women knew what to expect, other women had no idea that they would be sexually harassed.

The event raised over £2 million for children’s charities, like the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a London children’s hospital. But Sky News reported that the hospital has now said it will return all previous donations from the Presidents Club. The BBC reported that a man who helped organize the charity dinner has resigned since the Financial Times report.

The Presidents Club released the following statement:

For people who watch The Crown, the event almost sounds like an even more inappropriate version of the Thursday Club that Prince Philip was a member of. And it may seem unbelievable that this is occurring in 2018, especially in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Yet the one promising thing is that the Financial Times report is exposing this type of pervasive, institutionalized objectification of and sexist behavior toward women.

Let’s just say the Presidents Club Charity Dinner should look completely different if it occurs next year.

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