Not our Fantasy: Template Objection Letter

 

Fantasy 'Gentleman's Club' looking a little worse for wear.
Fantasy ‘Gentleman’s Club’ looking a little worse for wear.

Fantasy, 12-14 Bath Road, Cheltenham GL53 7HA has applied for a Sex Establishment Licence for the purpose of lap dancing.

Objections to this application need to be with Cheltenham Borough Council by Friday 5th May. The best way to do this is by email to licensing@cheltenham.gov.uk

Alternatively, send to Licensing, Cheltenham Borough Council, Municipal Offices, Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1PP.   Guidelines for anyone wishing to make a representation are available on the council’s website.

We have drafted a template letter  which you are welcome to use. Please include your name and address but your personal details should be redacted when any objections are passed on to the applicant or published as part of the Licensing Committee records.  If this venue has any impacts on your own particular circumstances, for example if you live, work or worship nearby or have a business in the vicinity, please include details.

Objection to the Sexual Entertainment Venue Licence for Fantasy, 12-14 Bath Road, Cheltenham GL53 7HA.

This is an objection letter to the application for this licence and I call for the council to refuse it.

I believe that the Council should refuse Fantasy’s Sexual Entertainment Licence application under the Discretionary Grounds for Refusal of the current Cheltenham Borough Council’s Sexual Entertainment Venues Licensing Policy on the following grounds:

Location

In Cheltenham Borough Council’s SEV Policy 2014 it states that

Cheltenham is a relatively small urban borough that is predominantly residential in nature. The Council has already resolved that it is inappropriate to licence SEVs in or in the vicinity of, amongst others, residential areas. It is the Council’s policy therefore that there is no locality outside of the adopted Central Shopping Area in which it would be appropriate to license a SEV. Accordingly the appropriate number of SEVs for outside of the adopted Central Shopping Area is nil.

Fantasy is located outside the Central Shopping Area, in a location where the appropriate number of SEVs is nil.

The licensing committee should also have regard to other aspects of Fantasy’s location in line with Cheltenham Borough Council’s SEV policy on sensitive locations:

Properties with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations

  • 4  In considering if the grant, renewal or variation of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard to the character of the relevant locality or to the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put, the Council shall consider, inter alia, whether the grant of the application would be appropriate, having regard to:

a)  The fact that the premises are sited in a residential area;

Vernon Place which is adjacent to Fantasy and reached by the road next to Fantasy’s side entrance is exclusively residential. There are many residential properties nearby on the High Street, Bath Street, Wellington Street, Bath Road, Cambray Place and Bath Parade.  Residential property in and around the town centre makes use of otherwise redundant space above shops and provides much needed affordable housing particularly for young adults.

b)  Whether the premises are sited near shops used by or directed at families or children, or on frontages frequently passed by the same;

Sainsbury’s Local which is on the corner of Bath Road and the High Street is open until 11pm.

c)  Whether the premises are sited near properties which are sensitive for religious purposes e.g. churches, mosques, temples;

Fantasy is near both the Salvation Army Community Church in Bath Road and Cambray Baptist Church.  The club is in the direct sightline of Cambray Baptist Church. Both these places of worship have evening worship and activities, including youth activities.

d)  Whether the premises are sited near premises or areas which are sensitive because they are frequented by children, young persons or families, including but not limited to educational establishments, leisure facilities such as parks, libraries or swimming pools, markets and covered markets.

Fantasy is close to Sandford Park, and directly adjacent to the designated cycle trail through the park.  It is near the Playhouse Theatre which has activities for children and teenagers as well as evening shows aimed at the whole family.  Nearby schools include the Inlingua Language School, Janet Marshall Dance Studios & Hickory Dickory Day Nursery in Cambray Place. It is next to a taxi rank and a bus stop. At some time, in the not too distant future, Cheltenham Borough Council will be relocating to Delta Place, on the opposite side of Bath Road to Fantasy.  The council holds regular evening meetings open to the public.

Although the Licensing Committee has previously approved an SEV licence in this location, each application is an opportunity to look at the case afresh.  The Council is asked to note that in the last few years Leeds City Council successfully defended a refusal to renew two SEV licenses at judicial review:

R (Bean Trading A Ltd) v Leeds City Council (2014)

It was held that a council can “take a fresh look” despite no changes to the character of locality.

The case of Thompson v Oxford City Council (2014) was also supported at court of appeal, and the Council told they could “take a fresh look” at any application for renewal.

The Council is also asked to note the following from Philip Kolvin regarding licence renewal:

‘Given that there is potential for the discretion to be exercised afresh, the renewal should not just be a rubber stamping exercise, but an opportunity, if needed, to review the principle and content of the license.

The Public Sector Equality Duty and Gender Equality

Cheltenham Borough Council has “statutory obligations in relation to disability, race and gender” ensuring that these factors are not used to discriminate against anyone.  I believe that a sexual entertainment venue directly discriminates against women by normalising the sexualisation and objectification of women, and that this contributes to their sexualisation and objectification in other areas of society.  The Council has a fundamental and non-delegable role to give due regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty, including tackling gender inequality.  This applies notwithstanding the fact that Parliament has legislated to allow the possibility for SEVs to be licensed in specific areas – subject to the choices of the local communities.   Many women have voiced their concerns and fears about the presence of Fantasy in previous objections.

When walking around this area, which as a Council you encourage people to do due to the other businesses and services in the area, women feel nervous because of the SEV and have to change their behaviour because of it being there, for example having to look around to see if there are people coming out of the SEV, take a different route walking to the centre of town so that they do not have to go past the SEV. Women should not have to feel like this in their town and this is discriminatory.

As Philip Kolvin (2010) cites the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Gender and Spatial Planning Good Practice Note:

In relation to the 24-hour economy policy, ensure that the views of women are considered.  Evidence shows that in certain locations, lap-dancing and exotic dancing club make women feel threatened or uncomfortable’

Kolvin continues with:

‘If a woman, whether objectively justified or not, fears to use part of the town centre characterised by sex establishments, this may be argued to amount to discrimination, in that her access to the public infrastructure of the town is impaired in comparison to that of men.  Where relevant these considerations ought properly to be taken into account by authorities at the decision-making stage, and possibly at the policy-making stage[2].

This is further corroborated by 2012 research published in Criminal Justice Matters which states that:

‘. . . the women describe feeling frightened, disempowered, violated, embarrassed, unsafe (particularly if men are around) and avoid certain streets at night where they know there is a lap dancing club.’

Cheltenham prides itself on the quality of its night time economy, which is well deserved judging by its Purple Flag award.  This award recognises towns and cities that have a vibrant and diverse mix of dining, entertainment and culture while promoting the safety and wellbeing of visitors and local residents.  This should include all residents, including women and girls.

Has Cheltenham Borough Council carried out an Equality Impact Assessment on its SEV Policy?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Insert name and address

References:

Kolvin, P (2010) Sex Licensing, The Institute of Licensing p.87

Patiniotis, J. & Standing, K. (2012) ‘License to cause harm? Sex entertainment venues and women’s sense of safety in inner city centres’ in Criminal Justice Matters, 88:1, 10-12

 

 

 

A hairy-legged misandrist writes

By Jo Bartosch – first published on Gloucestershire Live

Sometimes I yearn for some more interesting insults, I am genuinely bored of being called ugly, prudish, man-hating and jealous. As a vocal critic of the sex industry, not to mention a woman with the temerity to express an opinion, I have learnt that angry trolls are, like stains in a toilet, as dull as they are persistent.

Being criticised for denying women the choice to make a living by feigning sexual interest in men is a least bit more interesting. What such arguments miss, is that as a feminist my issue is with the sexism in society that informs such ‘choices.’ It has been estimated that 75 per cent of government cuts have come directly from the pockets of women, women still bear the brunt of caring responsibilities and comprise the majority of those in poorly paying part-time jobs. Furthermore, the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­images we consume everyday teach us that our worth as women is based upon our attractiveness to men. This is why rich young men aren’t finding ’empowerment’ through sliding semi-naked round poles while having sweaty notes pushed into their jockstraps by women old enough to be their mothers.

This is the basis from which Chelt Fems will be asking the council to reject the application from the Two Pigs for a licence to allow sexual entertainment from 5pm during race week and at other times throughout the year.

The manager of the Two Pigs said “I personally do not think that it is degrading to women, no-one is being forced to do it.” A growing body of research into the industry itself and the attitudes of those who use lap-dancing clubs belies this. The sex industry gross parody of sexual freedom. Lap dancing clubs are where men go to turn the clock back to a time when women were chattels that did not need to be treated as human. There is nothing progressive or liberal about supporting sexism.

A layer of poignancy is added when you consider the timing of this application; the period from is 25th November until 10th December as been designated by the UN as 16 Days to End Violence Against Women.

If, as a result of this piece, you feel inclined to tell me why I’m wrong, you’ll find me combing my ample leg hair before returning to sharpen my nut-crackers.

V & A Make an Exhibition of themselves…

On Friday 26th August, take part in activism…  We all know sexism belongs in a museum, but we think the V & A have missed the point.  The ‘Pleasure and Pain’ exhibition is a collection of 200 shoes currently at the Bowes museum, it’s set to it tour the world later this year.   Instead of using the opportunity to explore gendered exploitation, this tawdry display eroticises women’s suffering.

A particular low point is the write up of the ‘lotus shoes’ worn by Chinese women whose bones were crushed and feet horrifically disfigured by the practice of foot binding. These shoes are displayed under the caption ‘fashionable binding’ with no reference to the pain or the barbarism of the practice.

An excellent article here http://jeanhatchet.blogspot.co.uk/ points out some of the problems. In response, tomorrow feminists across social media will be tweeting the V & A pictures of ‘sensible shoes’ (as per the stereotype). We’ll be using the hashtags #stomponsexism #solesisters and the V & A’s #shoesoftheday #VAMshoes #todayskicks JOIN US! xx

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Girls, Girls, Girls

By Jo Bartosch

About two weeks a drunk man started to follow me and my partner home. He felt it his civic duty to tell us why we didn’t need feminism.  The opening remark of this public spirirted intellectual was ‘the girls at my work get paid the same.’ Setting aside the frustrations of trying to explain structural oppression to someone who is only capable of understanding the world in relation to his direct experience, what immediately struck me was the use of the word ‘girl.’ I have no doubt that this large, hairy cro magnon man would have been insulted or indeed confused if he were called a ‘boy.’ Naturally when I challenged this I was immediately reminded of what a sheltered and deluded middle-class bitch I am. Girls_HBO_Poster

The use of the term ‘man’ by beatniks and then hippies in the US from the 1950s onward was originally an attempt to show solidarity with the Black struggle for civil rights. It was common for adult Black men to be called ‘boy’ by white people in the U.S. Calling one another ‘man’ was a political acknowledgement of common humanity and a rejection of racist hierarchies (at least in principle). Parallels between different forms of oppression are seldom clean, and whilst I’m not suggesting the situation is the same, the historic diminishment of the status of Black men through language and the use of ‘girls’ to describe adult women of all colours is hard to ignore. This isn’t to say the intent is always conscious; oppression often seems normal which makes it all the harder to spot.

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There is nothing inherently rude about the word woman, and yet many people will say anything they can to avoid the word. If you’re reading this and ready to tell me that there are more important issues and that I’m privileged then rest assured, I agree. Nonetheless, language matters and the reluctance of people to change their speech is telling in itself. Psychologists have long understood that the process of learning to speak is intimately connected to the dawning of self awareness. The louder that people shout ‘PC Gone Mad’ the more I’m inclined to think the reasons for reluctance to change speech run deep. The power of language to both reflect and create the world around us should not be underestimated; it gives voice to our thoughts and guides our perceptions.

‘Pigs sweat, men perspire and ladies gently glow.’

To begin with it sounded clunky and a bit rude. Standing at a checkout with my then five year old niece and instructing her to ‘hand the money to the woman’ felt disrespectful. Obviously the person at the till was a ‘lady’ because ‘woman’ just sounds a bit… gynaecological. Had a man been sitting on the checkout I wouldn’t have hesitated or hedged, and I wouldn’t have felt the need to describe him as a ‘gentleman’; ‘man’ you see, is the respectable norm. Both in etymology and society a ‘woman’ is a deviant man.

Why do women, in order to be respectable, have to be called ‘ladies?’

There is a shameful history of working class people being considered as bestial. As ever, BAME women bear the brunt of this embedded cultural prejudice. The connotations of the marked trope ‘working woman’ should provide whatever proof may be needed. ‘Lady’ is polite; the addition of class raises our wayward sex from our natural inclination to be voracious sexual animals. A lady wouldn’t do anything gross or visceral, ladies are chaste and respectable.

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All words are weighted, but ‘woman’ and ‘man’ are not evenly balanced. Whether you’ve noticed or not, the disparity between the way the words ‘woman’ and ‘man’ are used is a direct reflection of the sexual double standard.  Unless you happen to be in the House of Lords please try to refrain from casually referring to women as ‘ladies’ in situations where men are not called ‘gentlemen.’  It’s shit.

Weather Girls and Weathering Women

Every advert reminds us that we are valued on the basis of our youth and attractiveness to men. Even the coverage of women Olympians too frequently focuses on appearance over achievements. Defining adults as ‘girls’ lessens our sexual threat; language is never incidental, it echoes and voices deeply buried prejudice. Reluctance to use the word woman is a reflection of the fear we all hold of women. Whether apparently knowingly ‘reclaimed’ or carelessly dropped into conversation, describing adult women as ‘girls’ infantilises women and it matters. If it didn’t, our offices would be filled with boys who would enjoy boys’ nights out buying drinks from barboys.

Making a conscious choice to say ‘woman’ will not push the patriarchy to crisis, and it might sound clunky and seem rude, but by proudly using the word ‘woman’ we can take a tiny but important stand against sexism inside and outside our own minds.

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 ‘A man’s sentence is unsuited to woman’s use’ Virginia Woolf

Breaking the Silence: Bosnia and Beyond

Notes by Jo Bartosch

This summary of the event may not be accurate as it was drawn from my hastily scrawled notes and undoubtedly flawed memory.  I thought I’d publish these for those who were unable to attend.

It was hoped that there would be time to watch this lecture by Dr Janine N Clark about the long term consquences of sexual violence. Regrettably we weren’t able to on the night though I urge people to watch it. Obviously please be aware that the subject matter is upsetting.

Alex Chalk MP gave an eloquent and heartfelt introduction – A reminder that the men who killed and were killed in 1995 were his contemporaries.  He then drew our attention to the ideological; the horrifying speed at which what began as the coarsening of public debate degenerated into depravity.  He warned that respect and understanding are fragile, and that apparently good people can commit heinous crimes.

Police & Crime Commissioner Martin Surl gave an account of the trip he took to Srebrenica last year. He explained that reconciliation had not been achieved.

Waqar Azmi, Chair of Remembering Srebrenica, concluded the first section of the event with a sobering reminder of how genocide happened in all of our lifetimes only a two hour plane trip away from the UK. He made the salient point that those who committed atrocities in Srebrenica are no different from us in the UK today.  He ended with a powerful call to challenge intolerance and to pledge ourselves to create a better, stronger and more cohesive society in the UK.

The second section of the event focussed on violence against women and girls.

  1. Today’s event is called ‘Breaking the Silence’, referring to the fact that there is still a taboo around discussing sexual and domestic violence in our communities. How does this silence play out in your work? How important do you think it is to break the silence around violence against women and girls?

Heather Cole, who has extensive experience of supporting victims of sexual violence in conflict, explained that ‘wars are fought on the bodies of women.’  She gave powerful examples of how men’s violence is obscured in the mainstream media, where headlines and reports make gender invisible in discussions of violence.  Heather explained that rape is what men do when they have control over women.  Whilst this has been her experience from working in areas as geographically diverse as Sierra Leone to the refugee camps in Greece, each time agencies expect her to produce evidence to demonstrate that resources are needed to support victims.  Support for women who have survived sexual violence is an ever present and fundamental need, though male violence is so universally hidden the consistent refrain from funding bodies is ‘where is the data.’  Each time she arrives in a new country to support women victims, Heather has to gather testimonies from traumatised women to secure resources that should be there.  In the institutions that oversee aid as with those that facilitate justice, systems are stacked against women.

Louise Williams gave an overview of the services and support offered by GRASAC.  She talked about the part that silence plays in sexual violence and abuse. Survivors often feel silenced by shame and fear, and it’s common for a survivor to call the helpline several times or attend several support sessions before they feel able to talk about what happened to them.  Louise concluded by demanding that all help to create an environment where we can talk openly about sexual violence without stigma.

Michael Conroy-Harris asserted that young men have been indoctrinated by culture that hates women.  Part of his work with A Call to Men is to draw attention to the portrayal of women in the media; to challenge the pornification of popular culture and the deeply embedded victim-blaming in the press.  As seeking approval from one’s peers can act as ‘a motor to violence against women and girls’ Michael seeks to empower boys to speak up and stand up to peer pressure. With reference to genocide and the consequences of hatred left unchecked, Michael suggested that ‘the seeds are evident in young teenage boys’; If we’re teaching them to police each other then they’re learning to fear breaking ranks. That’s how you end up with ‘foot soldiers’ in the war against women.

  1. Three early steps to genocide identified were stereotyping, discrimination and dehumanisation; from your professional experience do you recognise these as contributing factors to violence against women?

Heather gave a powerful indictment of our culture that hates women. She argued that the systematic ridicule and humiliation that women are subjected to in the media fuels violence.  That women are routinely stereotyped and dehumanised in women’s magazines, broadsheets and pornography is evidence of the ‘banality of evil.’   Heather made the compelling and persuasive argument that the depictions of women across our media are inseparable from ‘mass acts of violence.’

Further, she critiqued the cultural norm whereby women’s bodies are offered as a reward to men.  She noted this as a factor in the sexual abuse of women by soldiers and peacekeepers, to the common practice of male business people procuring prostituted women to seal deals.

Michael concurred with Heather’s observations.  He added that there are incremental stages in the dehumanisation, and that the common depictions of women in advertising as merely a collection of body parts is evidence of this process.  He concluded by saying “Once you’ve made someone ‘less than’ it’s open season.”

  1. Questions for Superintendent Antill of Nottinghamshire Police. Nottinghamshire Police recently opted to categorise VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls )as hate crimes. Can you please tell us a bit about why you decided to do this, and the consultation process that you went through to make this decision? How will this work in practice? What do you hope that the outcomes of this will be? Do you think there needs to be a corresponding culture change in the police force more generally around vawg?

Nottingham police have had a focus on hate crime for a long time, not least since the murder of Sophie Lancaster; an aggravating factor in her being targeted was that she was a member of a subculture.  It is up to individual forces whether they categorise an offence as a hate crime.  At present in Nottingham, only a small number of crimes are categorised as gender hate crimes.

It is estimated that one in five hate crimes are reported.  With regard to VAWG, a woman will typically experience thirty acts of violence before reporting domestic violence to the police.

Supt. Antill admitted that he was unsure about adding gender to the protected characteristics that are considered hate crimes.  The move towards including misogyny as a hate crime was prompted by the work of Nottinghamshire Women’s Centre.  He also consulted with the campaign group Hollaback. Supt. Antill explained that it was thinking about women’s experience of street harassment that convinced him of the necessity of considering gender as hate crime.  Explaining women’s responses to cat calls he noted that women can’t win: they either smile to avoid conflict (which is then deemed to be encouragement), shout back at the aggressor (which often results in an immediate escalation) or ignore it (which can then lead to being followed).

He re-iterated that contrary to media reports, no new legislation has been brought in and wolf-whistling/ cat calls cannot and will not be criminalised as a result of them now being recorded as hate crimes.  The change is more an exercise in communication and a move to increase women’s confidence in having their concerns taken seriously by the police.  He described gendered hate crime in public places as comparable to other bullying behaviour.

  1. Remembering Srebrenica’s theme for the year is ‘21 Coming of Age’; the hope is that future generations will grow to understand the devastating consequences of hatred unchecked. Genocide survivor Nedzad Avdic, who was 17 years old at the time of the genocide, says thst ‘All children have the right to learn about what happened and not to being up new generations of hatred.’   What should we be teaching our children to build respectful relations between individuals and communities?

Heather proposed that in a culture saturated with eroticised depictions of violence against women, conversations around consent are ineffectual.  She powerfully argued that the hormonal reward system triggered by pornography effectively conditions men to be aroused by hurting women.  Heather suggested that as sexual behaviour is socially learnt, sexual violence in conflict is a public manifestation of this.

Louise explained about the work GRASAC do with regard to PHSE locally and the input they have had in Gloucestershire’s PINK curriculum.  She added that ‘we are not born to hate, we learn it’ and it is our responsibility as a collective to tackle the attitudes that lead to violence. She suggested that a joined-up and focused approach to tackle male violence is essential.

Michael made the point that ‘hate might not feel like hate to perpetrators.’ As boys are ‘coasting along on a settled landscape, shaped deep down by what amounts to hatred towards women,’ and individual feelings of hatred are hard to recognise as such, even when behaviour suggests otherwise.  Michael argued that the social construction of gender is the first step in dehumanisation.  Further, that the logical outcome of limiting and confining humans into gendered roles is hate.

Supt Antill suggested PHSE (Personal, social, health and economic education) has a vital role to play in combating gendered violence.

South West Regional Chair of Remembering Srebrenica Anousheh Haghdadi closed the evening with a powerful warning that violence against women and girls is a serious problem, and that hatred and intolerance in all their forms should not be left unchecked.  She concluded with a rousing call to action; for people to make a pledge – hold a memorial event, educate in schools, universities and workplaces, or get involved in some of the fantastic work already going on in Glos.

If you feel inspired to get involved and take a stand against hate, please visit the Remembering Srebrenica website

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