Lai See

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PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 12:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 12:25am

The Hong Kong Cricket Club is commemorating International Women's Day on Saturday with a Ladies Night Dinner. The original plan was for the ladies to be offered free drinks for the duration of the event. However, one member objected to the idea on the grounds of sexual discrimination. The objector was no less than the eagle-eyed David Webb who champions various kinds of rights, including those of shareholders, consumers, and in this case, men. He pointed out to the club that offering free drinks to women only discriminated against men and was illegal under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance.

Having perused the ordinance the club agreed and while the event will go ahead, there will be no free drinks for women. "Maybe this seems like party-pooping, but it's the law," Webb told Lai See. "I can imagine a certain amount of uproar if, say, Cathay Pacific announced discounted flights for men only, or for white people only." There is a considerable body of law on this elsewhere in the world.

The California Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that ladies' days at car wash outlets and ladies' nights at nightclubs violated the state's Unruh Civil Rights Act which says that: "All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex ... are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever."

In a telling passage the judge in the case quoted Leo Kanowitz's Women and the Law, where he says that as long as legal systems "continue to differentiate sharply, in treatment or in words, between men and women on the basis of irrelevant and artificially created distinctions, the likelihood of men and women coming to regard one another primarily as fellow human beings and only secondarily as representatives of another sex will continue to be remote. When men and women are prevented from recognising one another's essential humanity by sexual prejudices … society as a whole remains less than it could otherwise become".

So what to do about the proliferation of ladies' nights within the Hong Kong bar scene which under the ordinance are clearly illegal? Should they offer men's nights on a different evening? One wag suggested giving free drinks to everyone wearing a skirt. But we feel this misses the point which is, to again quote the judge, "differential pricing based on sex may be generally detrimental to both men and women, because it reinforces harmful stereotypes".


Artistic licence

Hong Kong is being offered a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to see "one of the most famous paintings in the world, by one of the greatest and most pioneering artists". The artist in question is Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, and the painting is Supper at Emmaus. It will be the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Asia Society Hong Kong from March 12 to April 13.

A particular feature of Caravaggio was the vividness and dramatic light of his paintings. Supper at Emmaus is renowned for its sense of movement and remarkable 3-D effect. However there are two paintings by Caravaggio entitled Supper at Emmaus. The more famous exemplar of his dramatic light and movement technique is the earlier one painted in 1601 which is in the National Gallery in London. The painting coming to Hong Kong is housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, painted in 1606 when Caravaggio was on the run after killing a man in a brawl.

One art historian observes that this was a period of intense fear and personal trauma for Caravaggio. His works were "grim, sombre and unsettling". It would be unkind to characterise this exhibition as "bait and switch", but possibly there has been some artistic licence.


Singapore structuralist

Not to be outdone by Hong Kong's financial secretary belabouring the prospect of a structural budget deficit, Singapore has voiced similar worries. Singapore's Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told parliament yesterday that the country may run into structural budget deficits in the next decade if it does not raise revenue to meet increases in spending on infrastructure and health care. Sounds familiar.


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