The pictures are grainy, dark and disturbing. Women, dressed up for a night out, fixing their make-up and seemingly looking straight into the camera, while on the other side of the mirror, the men they don’t know are watching leer and grin into the lens.
Yesterday, Glasgow’s Shimmy Club finally capitulated to public pressure and said it would not appeal a decision by the Glasgow licensing board to shut the club for seven days, remove the mirror and put its staff through equality training.
It took long enough. Back in May, when it first emerged that the club had installed a two-way mirror into the premises that allowed groups in its £800 per night private booth to watch women in the wash-up area of the toilets, the club treated the revelation like the big joke it clearly thought it was.
“It’s clear that those who are negatively commenting online may not have been lucky enough to get past the door staff yet,” it remarked on Facebook. “Overall, our customers seem to enjoy this unique idea, loads of you have used the opportunity as it was intended and knowingly had pictures taken acting up to the camera, individually or in a group of friends.” It concluded by saying: “God help us when they find out that we have buried vibrators into sections of the dance floor …”
Hilarious, I’m sure we can all agree. One attendee wrote to complain that “nowhere is it made clear that this is the case, so when visiting the bathroom for the first time, there are women bending over the sink, pouting into the mirror to redo their lipstick, adjusting themselves personally whilst unknowingly being watched by people on the other side”. She was briskly informed by Kirstin Nicol, the G1 Group director of risk and compliance, that the mirror was intended as “a bit of fun” and a “talking point”, which some women customers enjoyed.
In the ensuing weeks, outrage against the Shimmy grew, while the tale of the Glasgow nightclub that encouraged men to spy on women became an international story, garnering headlines as far away as Australia and South Korea.
Again, the club and its owners – the G1 Group, which owns a significant proportion of Glasgow’s bars and nightclubs, as well as a chain of similar establishments across Scotland – seemed to adhere to the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Even as late as Friday, when the club was busy protesting against having its license taken away for a week and asking the licensing board for a two-week stay of execution, G1 Group agent Archie McGiver stated: “London designers had been asked to create a talking point within the premises. And boy, did they achieve that.”
Well, yes. They did. But what G1 appears to have been unable to grasp is that when the world is looking at you with barely concealed disgust, wondering why on earth you help encourage men to leer at women in an environment that could easily lead to stalking or worse, it doesn’t reflect well on the club, on its patrons, or on the city that hosts it.
Part of the licensing board’s decision to suspend the Shimmy Club’s license was based on the fact that it risked “predatory behaviour” from men and “objectified” female patrons. It also suggested the mirror was in breach of licensing conditions to protect children, as the club held under-18s nights and, therefore, “put children at unnecessary risk of inappropriate or predatory behaviour”.
Glasgow City Council is to be applauded for forcing Shimmy’s staff to undergo equality training as part of its license. Because for many Scottish women who have followed this saga with growing disbelief, this is the nub of the matter.
The message the club sent out was that a two- way mirror was a bit of a laugh, and that the media were a bunch of old fuddy-duddies for getting their knickers in a twist about it.
Well guess what, Shimmy Club. Advocating predatory behaviour against women isn’t cool. Ever. That this attitude still exists in Scotland is shocking. That it took having your licence being suspended for you to accept that is downright embarrassing – for all of us.