A toast to ladies' night

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 1996, 12:00am

If the Equal Opportunities Commission was looking for an issue of profound social importance to tackle first, it could hardly have chosen a more suitable target than ladies' night.

Women, the guardians of our non-sexism insist, should no longer be allowed to enter clubs and drink for free on Wednesdays. (Unless, that is, men get similar privileges on Tuesdays. A proposal to which the clubs say: 'Phooey'.) We cannot ignore the commission's courage in tackling this holy cow of the territory's night-scene.

As a sexist social institution, ladies' night is so much more degrading to women than low pay, glass ceilings and gender non-neutral dress-codes in the work-place. Commission chairperson Fanny Cheung Mui-ching and her team would have been neglecting their duty to have left ladies' nights on the back-burner while they tackled such minor inequities.

Let's face it, men in Hong Kong don't give up their seats to women in trains or perform any of those other odious macho rituals which make women's lives so unbearable in the West. Free drinks for the ladies once a week, though? Now there's an insult which would have any right-thinking woman demanding compensation almost as quickly as you can say 'cattle market'.

OK, let's stop mocking. Time to cadge a free drink off the woman on the next barstool and get an argument going.

Why pick on ladies' night? It is not even a peculiarly Hong Kong phenomenon. It wasn't the innovative barmen of Lockhart Road who thought of it first. Ladies' nights have been the stock in trade of half-empty bars worldwide since long before anyone thought of the happy hour.

And there's much more to it than selling beer, too. Just think of the opportunities a girl can have for turning the tables on the guys for an evening. Instead of waiting primly for some man to prime himself with sufficient Dutch courage to ask if she'd like a drink, she can do a bit of free drinking herself and then handbag anyone with the temerity to totter over with a leer and chat-up line.

Alternatively she can get herself into the right frame of mind to approach that handsome fellow in the corner who has been sitting over his first beer for the last hour.

But ladies' nights are only the tip of the iceberg. What about Leap Year? Come February 29, women can ask men to marry them. (Now there's an institution that could do with Dr Cheung's attention. At least she could see to it that men also have only one opportunity in four years to pop the question).

Still, you can't knock Dr Cheung for political correctness. In the West PC has been around at least as long as ladies' nights. It's just that now it's gradually coming to Asia.

You can deny a man his cattle, but pink elephants are here to stay, and a woman should be entitled to get hers free.

Barman! It's her round.