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Tuesday December 18, 2012

Will women-only clubs catch on in macho Spain?

In London a friend was waxing lyrical about the new spate of women-only clubs and restaurants that seem to have taken the Capital by storm. There’s Grace Belgravia, a new spa cum social club, The Sorority club in Holborn, STK, a female friendly American steak chain, Dea Latis, a beer tasting club and soon actress Eva Longoria will be launching the London branch of her She steak restaurant group. Miu Miu created a pop-up club exclusively for women at the Café Royal last month and PR guru Lynne Franks is the face of B.Hive which offers meeting rooms and business lounges for female members.

What of course many of these chic new joints might not know is that a long standing, rather fusty yet endearing enterprise known as the University Women’s Club was established in London as far back as 1886 by a female scholar from Girton College, Cambridge. It continues to occupy a modest corner of Audley Square in central London and is home to a rather eclectic, intelligent and independently-minded group of members. It’s easy to imagine that the concept of women-only clubs might sit uneasily in macho Spain but the recently launched and hugely popular Solo Para Mujeres (SPM) club in Majorca seems to contradict that. All the same, the majority of its members are drawn from the island’s international expat community even though some Majorcan women are beginning to enroll.

Local female friends here in rural Soller seemed bemused by the concept of women-only anything. Most of them enjoy the occasional ‘girls’ night out’ but part of the fun it seems is the lively banter shared between them and males on neighbouring tables in the valley’s bars and restaurants. Without exception they found the idea of women-only culinary emporiums rather boring and pointless. They did though give the thumbs up to spas such as Grace Belgravia where there would be no potential male voyeur lurking in the sauna or steam room and where they could waltz about in bikinis without the need to cover up self-consciously, as they would in male company.

Some female lawyers in Palma shrugged off the idea of women’s clubs and restaurants. They felt that it created better harmony in the workplace to socialise with male colleagues and didn’t like the idea of unnecessary barriers between the sexes. Much as they conceded that the macho spirit was alive and well in Spain, none believed that creating such haunts would do much to diminish it. If anything, they commented wryly, women-only zones might indeed help to fan the macho flames.

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