I’m going to write a lot more sometime about the need for male-only spaces where men can relax with other men without the pressure of female company. But for now, I wanted to share this bit I ran across in Thief of Time, one of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, which describes one type of men’s club that doesn’t exist much anymore. [The background for those who don’t know: the Discworld books are fantasy/comedy about a magical world where many mythical characters are real. One of these is Death, who is an “anthropomorphic personification” in the standard Grim Reaper form, going around with his scythe and collecting souls when people die; but he’s constantly trying to understand humans and emulate them, usually unsuccessfully. Susan is his adopted granddaughter, who is mostly human but grew up around Death and has “inherited” some of his traits. In this scene she’s going to Death’s club to talk to him.]
Some distance away from Madam Frout’s Academy, in Esoteric Street, were a number of gentlemen’s clubs. It would be far too cynical to say that here the term “gentlemen” was simply defined as “someone who can afford five hundred dollars a year”; they also had to be approved of by a great many other gentlemen who could afford the same fee.
And they didn’t much like the company of ladies. This was not to say that they were that kind of gentlemen, who had their own, rather better decorated clubs in another part of town, where there was generally a lot more going on. These gentlemen were gentlemen of a class who were, on the whole, bullied by ladies from an early age. Their lives were steered by nurses, governesses, matrons, mothers, and wives, and after four or five decades of that the average mild-mannered gentleman gave up and escaped as politely as possible to one of these clubs, where he could snooze the afternoon away in a leather armchair with the top button of his trousers undone.
(One reason for this was the club food. At his club, a gentleman could find the kind of food he’d got used to at school, like Spotted Dick, Jam Roly-Poly, and that perennial favorite, Stodge and Custard. Vitamins are eaten by wives.)
The most select of these clubs was Fidgett’s, and it operated like this: Susan didn’t need to make herself invisible, because she knew that the members of Fidgett’s would simply not see her, or believe that she really existed even if they did. Women weren’t allowed in the club at all except under Rule Thirty-four B, which grudgingly allowed for female members of the family or respectable married ladies over thirty to be entertained to tea in the Green Drawing Room between 3:15 and 4:30 P.M., provided at last one member of staff was present at all times. This had been the case for so long that many members now interpreted it as being the only seventy-five minutes in the day when women were actually allowed to exist and, therefore, any women seen in the club at any other time were a figment of their imagination.