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Image of a woman: Why the Shannon Gomes matter is no triviality

For the record, yes we can.

We can chew chewing gum and walk. We can calculate the implications of dipping into the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund and compute our chances of surviving three hours on high heels. Yes, we can.

Photo: Shannon Gomes. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Shannon Gomes.
(Courtesy Facebook)

The idea that there are more serious things to address than a club’s action against young Shannon Gomes not only denies our capacity for doing both but underestimates our ability to discern the big in the small and the minor in the major.

We may not all be equally moved, but the Shannon Gomes issue is no trivial infraction to be dismissed with derision.

A club’s controversial definition of the image of a woman represents precisely the kind of issues that prompted T&T to devote time, energy, expertise and money in establishing the Equal Opportunity Commission in order to enforce non-discriminatory behaviour in the supply of goods and services to the public.

A layman’s reading would suggest that the Gomes incident at club Aria qualifies for serious consideration under Section 17, 2(a) of the Equal Opportunity Act, regarding discrimination against persons seeking “access to and use of any place which members of the public or a section of the public are permitted to enter.”

Photo: Shannon Gomes (left) poses with a friend. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Shannon Gomes (left) poses with her mother.
(Courtesy Facebook)

The incident itself, as well as elements of the social media fallout, may also have run afoul of “Offensive Behaviour” as defined by law.

Placard and protest are useful for taking a stand and highlighting issues. But EOC rulings will help define legal boundaries for the engagement between club and customer in an area where management often reserves the right to be arbitrary at the public’s expense.

It is a wonder that the EOC is not overwhelmed with work given the extent of discrimination practised in ways big and small throughout this country.

So prevalent and routine is the discrimination that the mainstream media sees nothing wrong about tapping into the lucrative advertising opportunities derived from bias and discrimination. It’s just business in a matter supply and demand.

Up to yesterday, newspaper classifieds were advertising jobs for “fair Indians”, “attractive Indian females”, “driver over 40”, females for bartending, secretarial support, factory and café work, and males for warehouse work.

Photo: The Aria Lounge on Ariapita Avenue.
Photo: The Aria Lounge on Ariapita Avenue.

Using the same daily newspapers, the escort and massage market is cashing in on our ethnic biases with its smorgasbord of “fair skin East Indian women”, “Spanish girls”, “African girls”, “slim darkies”, “Latinas” and “thick reds.”

For our newspapers, the high risk of being co-opted by human traffickers is clearly outweighed by the opportunity for increased income.

Like almost every other institution designed to serve the public interest, the EOC needs to be far more imaginative and activist in its public outreach. A vibrant connection with the public is key to realising its potential as a champion against discrimination and to becoming the recognised go-to place for redress.

In today’s world, only alert and effective institutions will defend us against descent into the casual destructiveness that which can so quickly escalate into virtual lynchings on social media.

Those who believe that the advocacy in the Gomes issue is out of proportion to public support for other rights involving, in some cases, life and death, are right to worry but not to dismiss.

Photo: The Joint Trade Union Movement protests against Section 34.
Photo: The Joint Trade Union Movement protests against Section 34.

Ours is a very fragile culture of rights, which is not surprising given our history in which the very right to humanity was denied. People are naturally afraid that, in the coalescing around one particular issue, we might end up excluding or de-valuing another.

It could happen. This is why we cannot discriminate between rights, or elevate one above another. Rights are rights are rights.

We cannot speak out about Ms Gomes without appreciating the value of speaking out against the atrocities of the Remand Yard prison and the rights of all prisoners to due process; the right of the disabled to enjoy the rights available to all; the right of workers, including domestic workers, to fairness; the right of women to have power over their own bodies; the right of children to be loved, respected, cared for and protected; the rights of detained migrants; the right of all to love and be loved and to have their love respected in law, regardless of gender.

Equally, we cannot campaign for these rights without respecting those who champion Ms Gomes’ cause if they believe that her right has been trespassed.

Photo: Shannon Gomes. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Shannon Gomes.
(Courtesy Facebook)

In speaking out about gender rights, abolition of the death penalty and rights in general, Justice Frank Seepersad has emerged as one of the most articulate, thoughtful and courageous voices on the bench.

When the way we live and the laws to which we subscribe contradict each other, which one is to be served in the dispensation of justice?

We need help to make sense of the multiple realities of Caribbean existence where one mask often just masks another.

If others are inspired to follow Justice Seepersad’s lead and find the courage to speak their minds, we might yet build the critical mass needed for giving T&T society the confidence needed to raise our heads from the proverbial sand of denial and hypocrisy.

Shannon Gomes’ experience has given us yet another opportunity to rip away one layer of illusion. If we take it all the way this time, and go beyond talk to law, we might not have to pass this way again.

About Sunity Maharaj

Sunity Maharaj
Sunity Maharaj is a journalist with 38 years of experience and the managing director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies. She is a former Trinidad Express editor in chief and TV6 head of news.

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  1. Just state clearly, it’s time we talk about women’s and LGBT’s rights. That would make sense.

  2. There is not in this instance, unless the point of discussion is women’s rights. The only gem I cam across was that it’s discrimination for men to never get in free, only women. Every other thing worth discussing with ladies I brought up in my letter. I read everything else, read Sheila Rampersad’s opinion, read the comments here, listened to the comments from the Aria protesters and even got Aria’s side of events. All I hear about is “women” but the party plainly stated it was “Ladies free before 11”. Shift the goalpost however you like, but there are no other gems to garner from this if people keep talking about women’s rights and say nothing about ladies, which is exactly the mistake that most people have made so far.

    It is good that we are discussing the rights of women. But we can’t pretend to mask that as some kind of discrimination by Aria. That is not logical and it does not follow. It’s a fallacy in and of itself.

  3. What I’m saying is that even though you dislike someone’s starting point, angle or topic for discussion… It doesn’t mean that there might not still be a gem in there.

  4. And if you saw two doors and one said “gentlemen” and the other said “ladies”… What then?

  5. Non sequitur. That’s the name for that logical fallacy, because “ladies free before 11” turning into “women being discriminated” really does not follow.

  6. My point is, the whole thing started on the definition of a lady and a lady’s rights. When did that change to women’s rights? That’s when the arguments all fail. You can’t start off wrong and end right.

  7. dude, you can’t fault people for disagreeing with you, you know; even if they used to formerly agree with you, when you rated them as better versions of themselves. : ) i think sunity has been writing exceptionally well in the last couple o’ years and bringing an important and different perspective every week; and i know it has to be personally exhausting; i don’t think she failed this week; her starting point was the opposite of yours: that the event was not a trivial thing, even if it does raise other, perhaps more important issues – like the ones niala outlines. my own starting point was the denial of humanity involved. complex issues tend to have more than one viewpoint; even if you know which one is the only correct one. : ) the only reason i keep coming back is the hope that it might occur to you that you shouldn’t dismiss people doing such work as clowns. you don’t want to be one of those people who make others think that, if you disagree with them, they must be doing something right….

  8. If not then the comments about old and new seem relevant to me since I repeat the old bc would have also taken her to task

  9. If you do bc then I ask if you wrote her editor and more importantly are you going to make any public pronouncements of such

  10. Shit that. Do you think her argument is flawed or incomplete bc?

  11. If only I had more time. Have a good one bc

  12. …as for all them little fake jabs about the old bc being so much better than the current one, i could only say what the editor of punch did when told that ‘punch is not as funny as it used to be’; which is that it never was….

  13. Tim, Niala is seeing the ball, I reckon. I’ve not been defending sunity because she’s my friend. like lasana, i think she’s earned her place on the side, and risen in the batting order after lloyd went back to the pavilion, even – which is what the state of the game requires. it seems to me that people on one side of every debate in the world need to come together, because the people on the other side have all the power to enforce their point of view. the hardest thing to teach a west indian is the difference between freeness and freedom; the first comes with a wristband for the vvvip section, the second with responsibility. dude, i don’t think you’re discharging yours if you attack sunity personally for not writing what you would have written. the right response is to write to her editor and point out what you see as the flaw in her argument. attacking her doesn’t help ‘us’, but ‘them’. to the extent that we have an us at all.

  14. I might not agree with someone’s point. But I will fight for their right to make it.

  15. Bandwagon effect? Some people are trying to win an argument. Some people are trying to make wider points.
    You can look to see where people are coming from as well. There is no shame in that.
    You might agree with part but not all.
    I have no idea what you mean by bandwagon effect in this instance.

  16. Opinions are quite valid if one sticks to the topic at hand.
    Sunity Maharaj talked about women’s rights.
    The protesters at Aria talked on the news about women’s rights and wearing flats and the sort.
    Most of my friends on social media talked about women’s rights.

    I make the distinction that women and ladies are not synonymous, not interchangeable and don’t mean anything close to the same thing (how can they? Woman is based on sex; lady is based on sex and gender), and most people go quiet. Why? Probably because they realized they turned a gender issue into a sexual orientation issue and cried discrimination and were seriously batting out of their crease?

    People have not even been discussing what a lady is, far less for the rights of a lady. That’s why, in my opinion, most of the arguments on women’s rights thus far were total nonsense, because the issue is not about women, but ladies.

    But the world would be boring if the bandwagon effect didn’t exist, won’t it?

  17. The world would be a boring place if we all had the same opinions though.
    Once people can adequately explain their positions, then I’m cool.

  18. Succinctly said. I only wish Sheila Rampersad recognized that.

  19. Irony: Everyone chiming in on this post to say why it’s not worth chiming in on. The only fault I can find with Sunity is her belief that we, as a people, can hold more than one issue in focus. Most people commenting here have disabused me of the notion that T&T is deserving of such optimism.

  20. If you so want to portray the image of a man, take man treatment. But the feminist movement has always tried to belittle the role of a man & underplay the importance of a man yet still they try to identify as a man by the way they dress but being a man is not easy & it comes with responsibility.

  21. Sunity got lost. What she is saying is that she supports gender bias, but only against men.

  22. I think my 2 cents are worth as much as the rest.
    1. EOC cannot get involved because “ladies free” is already discriminatory. They would have to fight that as well.
    2. The phrase “ladies free” will only be seen as an invitation to treat and not an offer binding on acceptance by performance.
    3. The phrase is “ladies free” and not “women free” and is and always was gender specific.
    women =/= ladies. If you wonder what a lady dresses like ask your parents.
    There I have an opinion too.

  23. That’s her mother, RIP, in the photo.

  24. I just sitting back and watching these miscreants try and make this shite into an issue of national importance….Jah help my people get their priorities straight please ????SMH

  25. The bigger hidden issue is that because society no longer have clear definitions of roles, functions, expectations etc the whole society in a tail spin so its a whole set of as my decease father would say intellectual bullsh*t!!!

    • This is not some recent thing. There have always been women who are more masculine than other women. There have always been men who are more effeminate than other men in our society. Even my granny used to talk about that.

      Humans have never been and never will be confined by some identical binary, cookie cutter, gender mold because nature won’t allow it. Everything in nature is about diversity and spectrum with two extremes and a middle ground. So there will be super, masculine Hercules type MANLY MEN and super soft, feminine, Venus WOMNALY women and there will be a spectrum of everything in between. Other cultures recognized this and had MANY female archetypes not just one. So they had the Venus- womanly, motherly, feminine but they also had the Athena- smart, warrior, leader and the Artemis- tomboy, huntress, adventurer. Same with their male archetypes from the very macho and brawny to the willowy and artistic.

      Some cultures deal with the natural diversity of women and men better than others. Some cultures were sophisticated enough to even classify 3rd and 4th genders just to make things easier, these include West African and Indian cultures from whence our ancestors came.

      So it is not like this is some recent thing.

      Herding all men into an identical mold of behavior, expression, tasks and likewise, doing the same to women so they are all identical in behavior, expression, tasks, is a form of social CONTROL. You see it mainly in very oppressive, theocratic, tyrannical societies. All the men look, act, behave alike. All the women look, act, behave alike. It seems like order but beneath it, there is a lot of suffering and suppression.

      That is one extreme we don’t want. We also do not want the other extreme. It is what is beginning to happen now with a mutated version of “identity politics” that does not check itself against reality and common sense the way it should and is all wrapped up in, “Me, Me, Me” and “I am a member of a victim class so I MUST get my way in everything!” It is a runaway train that nobody is steering.

      The key is finding the balance.

    • all u say makes sense but if some one wants to be something that their choice then do not vex when ppl accept that choice!!

    • Gordon Pierre I think that is the essential misunderstanding, that tomboys are trying to be men.

      Nope. They LOVE being women. The misconception comes from the thinking that there is only ONE WAY to be a woman. That all women must be “The Venus”. When in fact there are women who are “The Artemis” and they include Amelia Earheart, Kate Hepburn, the WNBA for that matter. It doesn’t even necessarily mean they are lesbian. My cousin serves in the US Military, jumps out of planes, rides a Harley, never wears dresses or make-up, likes it simple, practical and she LOVES men. Totally man-crazy. Any man who takes her on it would not be because he was attracted to her flaunting her womanly bits. It would have to be her brain, personality, maybe even her smile etc.

      Tomboys are no more trying to be men than Russel Brand is trying to be a woman by wearing tight pants and eyeliner. He is playing the “Dandy”, which is also a male archetype.

      That is not to say there aren’t women who actually want to be men or identify as men. But we call them transgender. They actually go the full way and take male hormones, remove their breasts, etc. and have surgery to turn their pussy into a penis. You definitely would not be able to tell they are women. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdpA0iHsACs

  26. Anyone else realise that making males pay but allowing females in free is more discriminatory than what happened to Shannon Gomes?

  27. Look away, Tonyette………..Resist the urge to comment!………#shutupgirl!

  28. I leave my thoughts on this for the letter I wrote, which should be published above this.

    It was funny though, seeing men refuse to dress as women.
    Gender role socialization much?

  29. Without reading this story I would like to have this question answered because no matter what Sunity says this is not an issue…to me this is a failed exercise of privilege and the desire to vacillate when the mood or situation suits that is the crux of this and nothing else…at least to me….

    If a man who while dressed as a woman was given the “benefit” of free entry before 10:00 wouldn’t these VERY SAME people (not necessarily Sunity but the ones making it a thing) have hailed Aria for its acceptance and tolerance?

  30. Yep! chew gum and talk about how to stretch the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund over a 5 years period as compared to a 6 mths period??? there will always be more Shannons in the future…who want FREENESS!!!

  31. I do agree that women should be free to wear whatever we like and call ourselves women. There is no standard “woman uniform” we all MUST wear. We don’t live in Saudi Arabia or an Amish commune.

    However, this was not the the right situation (a private nightclub which has the right to determine its brand, clientele and ambiance) and the right premise (someone missing out on a gender discriminatory freebie) for protest.

    If Aria wants to specialize in being a heterosexual hook up place for upwardly mobile men to find their trophy wives and mistresses from among Trini’s finest party gals, mas models and beauty queens, that is their right. Yes, it rubs people the wrong way but that is their product and Shannon did not fit into their brand offering any more so than a straight man would fit into an exclusively lesbian club scene that only wanted butch women and lipstick lesbians and their bouncer kicked out an obviously hetero man dying to get in. Would he be right to protest against discrimination? Part of becoming an adult is knowing you may not fit into EVERY scene and being okay with that and moving on.

    I believe in the movement toward gender equality and equal rights for LGBT people. That is why we must not lose focus on every single slight to our feelings especially when it murky like this one. Tenuous civil rights movements in hostile cultures with loads of other social ills and humanitarian violations need to pick their battles wisely.

    I said from the beginning that this was not going to rally the public in mass solidarity but be dismissed as trivial (people keep pointing to far more dire matters than a young woman not being able to party) and a one-sided feminist outrage (men were being discriminated against by being asked to pay more and the woman had no issue with that until she found herself being treated like the underclass males), even from voices that usually support LGBT people. That is exactly what is happening at the general public level.

    There will come a time when a non-gender conforming or LGBT person is discriminated against by a PUBLIC service or court system or open commercial enterprise etc and it smacks of tragic, inhumane, unfairness that makes even straight people’s blood boil. That’s when you call out the full cavalry and troops and protest and keep the outrage going and the voices rising together against injustice. Let us hope this false-start does not make the public weary and wary of more relevant future protest.

    • Great write. But the time for public servants to openly discriminate against anybody due to sexual orientation will never come. Nobody is that stupid and willing to instantly lose their jobs.

    • I mean, we have laws against anal sex and homosexuals entering the country. If there is no mass protest against that, what you’re hoping for is a pipe dream in this country.

    • Shabba De Leon It already happens. LBGT people who to go the police after being attacked or for domestic violence reasons are often treated with further abuse instead of help. There are also many accounts of how the public health system treats LGBT people and their next of kin. There are big issues to protest as we speak.

      And yes, the laws against consensual sodomy (anal and oral sex) between adults are ridiculous. They are one-sided first of all because they apply ONLY if its both men while heterosexuals can take it up the bum and have as much cunnilingus and fellatio as they like. Secondly they are impossible to enforce unless the police catches the two men inflagrante. When it was enforced in Britain back in its backward days, police had to actually entrap gay men to be able to arrest them OR force a man’s lover to rat on him.

      We all know the laws against homosexuals entering the country are for all intents and purposes already defunct as we have allowed KNOWN LGBT people to enter the country on several occasions. Yup that ridiculous, stone-aged nonsense that needs to go and should also be protested vigorously.

    • Where the healthcare system discrimination is concerned, it would be nice if people put that in writing and brought it for me. With enough letters, something can be forced to occur. But people are full of talk and far too shy to write or even allow me to write for them.

    • Jessica Joseph you made an excellent point. The thing about this Aria incident is that it has the potential to make the public look down on LGBT rights issues. Let Vernal an others know that.

    • Joe OnePiece Bourne It’s already doing that if you read the comments on the mainstream news feeds. People are seeing the LGBT community as well as feminists as whiny, superficial, overreactors and hypocritical (because there was no outrage about the club discriminating against men all this time). B.C. Pires and Kevin Baldeosingh both, pointed this out and they usually side with LGBT rights and are against sexism.

      This was just the WRONG incident. We live in a third world, homophobic, sexist society fraught with all kinds of social ills and inhumane incidents. Those of us who enjoy some degree of privilege (as is any woman who educated, employed and can afford to party on Ariapita Avenue at an upscale nightclub) need to be a little bit more thick skinned. Even if she wanted to take this up as an issue, it could have been satirized, mocked and awareness raised in more clever ways on social media. I would have recorded the run-in with the bouncer and subsequently sent a man in drag to test the premise the requirement is presenting oneself as a lady for entry. It could have been a clever viral commentary and expose.

      Sometimes you need a chisel. Sometimes you need a hammer. You don’t bring out the hammer for every single little thing.

    • Jessica – five thumbs up, so eloquently stated, all the facts as dry and ridiculous as they are

  32. Excellent perspectives from Sunity and theres a lot of Majors in our minors ..bespoke of an ill rendition of our life and style.

  33. One question: Shannon Gomes cared enough about partying at Aria that she paid to get in when asked. And she cared so little about the protest that she didn’t bother to show up for that.
    Is that relevant at all and indicative of the gravitas of this particular example of injustice?
    I also believe Aria was wrong. But I always suspected that if the only thing we took from this was the problems for women who dress as men, we would be shortchanging ourselves.

  34. wow. dude, if you’re making the choice between clowns like sunity and ringmasters like yourself, you are likely to be in for some heavy disappointment….

    • BTW the of you calling me a ringmaster is priceless lol

    • BTW the of you calling me a ringmaster is priceless lol

    • was just staying in your family circus analogy, there, tim.

    • And disappointingly getting personal rather than dealing with the point I raised. Really sad where you fallen to.

    • hahahaha, you gratuitously dismiss one of our frontline independent people as a clown and pseudo feminist, then get disappointed that i get ‘personal’? that’s a scream! all i was saying is what old people say: remember, when you point your finger at somebody, three fingers point back at you…. for what it’s worth, your point doesn’t arise; i was responding to what the primary school teachers call, ‘name-calling’. you know that, once children start calling others names, they’re not thinking any more, yes?

    • Lol. Awwww how cute you’re defending your friend over a principle. As I said so not the bc I grew up with. But cest la vie

    • i did not defend friends or principles as a child? another thing old people say, though american ones: when you’re in a hole, stop digging….

    • Oh the irony. People reading this must be wondering what happened to you bro

    • Lol. Timothy, how could you call Sunity a clown? I could understand you disagree with someone’s point of view.
      But that was beneath the level expected of a grown up conversation.
      Sunity can easily dust that off of course. But it was a poor remark.

    • I gave a reason and as you know I use that firetruck in term a lot. She lucky I ain’t call her a dumbass lol

    • hahahaha tim, you have me cracking up with laugh. you remind me of the woman watching her son, the soldier, marching out of time in his battalion and turning to the woman next to her and saying, ‘you see that? every soldier in the battalion is marching out of time except my son’. also, on a pragmatic level, a columnist can’t cover everything other people would like him or her to write about in the same 900 words…. if sunity doesn’t cover something you would, it doesn’t make her a clown, you know, she’s just juggling some other balls….

    • What really happened to you BC. You were so sharp and intellectually honest. To say a columnist can’t cover everything is such a weak argument that not even the bc of now should be making it. For the record the principle I discussed on wired wall is this – ““This is why we cannot discriminate between rights, or elevate one above another. Rights are rights are rights.” – Sunity writes this yet she herself makes no mention of the core issue in the shannon vs aria debacle and that is the discrimination than men face having to pay extra or differently to women all because they are a different gender. This is either irony or hypocrisy and it is very unfortunate that sunity would be caught like this.”

    • You see your comment about not covering everything speaks volumes for the lack of voracity with which you now approach these issues. The bc of old would never have made such a silly argument and would have also taken sunity to task for her OBVIOUS error in saying it’s a wider problem, identifying many other areas of discrimination, yet still leaving out the most important – the discrimination of men – which was at the heart of this young lady’s complaint against aria.

    • Now you said to me a long time ago, the thing that often annoys us in other is the things for which we ourselves struggle with. Let me take it one step further and say to you, maybe the reason you felt the NEED to defend your friend is perhaps because you either feel you are a clown for making a similarly flawed argument like sunity or having someone ‘disrespect’ the great sunity it makes you wonder when your turn might be next. Either way may I suggest to you that you examine why you felt the need to ‘respond’ to me callling sunity a clown…therein lies something for you to do with your time

    • I really dislike Tim’s spurious and inaccurate name-calling, but he does have a rock-solid point in that discrimination is routinely being practiced against men as policy so it is quite bizarre to react to another bit of discrimination without even acknowledging this. And to take up issues of discrimination against rich and social climbing elements of society while pointedly ignoring discrimination against the poor -e.g. the forestry workers- compounds the absurdity. Now, we have this furious spat over an issue that isn’t worth squat while people’s bread and no-butter issues are routinely being ignored. What is the press in Trinidad for, I wonder. To struggle for the rights of the rich? And to ring the wagons when one of their number is called to task? It really looks like a very trivial claque that is totally irrelevant to the majority of the population, most notably those outside Port of Spain and most pointedly those without any access at all to expensive leisure-spots.

    • Niala. My name calling is not spurious and imho it is not inaccurate since this is not the first time i was public about sunity’s ‘bad’ writing. But I won’t let this derail the argument and will concede that I can see how my name calling could be a ‘turn off.’ That said thank you for seeing the point of my argument.

    • Let me add that what really irks me about this article is that it appears that very very bright guys like bc and lassana (two people who I have publicly and privately praised and named called – good names) are letting their personal feelings towards sunity or for sunity impede their assessment of the merit of her article and really doing us all a disservice by not calling bullshit when they see it.

    • It also appears that (and this is something I have observed with many) that sunity is or has become ‘untouchable’ even by and perhaps especially by persons in the media. It is as though sunity’s relationship with lloyd has somehow bestowed unto her all his past credibility and like ‘clowns’ at the circus people are standing cheering anything she does and not QUESTIONING the principles on which she is building her arguments in her articles.

    • The role of satirist and free thinkers as a whole is to poke fun at and respect no boundary, have no hallowed ground because once ‘we’ let friendship and other personal feelings short circuit our normal logical approach to issues then not only do we do ourselves a disservice but we also hurt the many out there who depend on us to be the reasonable rational voices that call bullshit when we see it…no matter who it is.

    • And to me this is much worse than what sunity has done.

    • Okay, I will address the “relationship” part first. Sunity was my former editor at the Trinidad Express and someone I have tremendous respect for because of her honesty, experience, work ethic and intelligence. She earned that all on her own and I have never met or spoken to Lloyd Best.
      As far as me bowing mindlessly to her work goes, I actually took a quite different slant to hers. My stance was actually much closer to yours in that I preferred to look at people who might have been discriminated against in that scenario.
      The difference is that I do not think that someone is a clown simply because we disagree. I think it is quite possible that a very intelligent person can come up with a completely different viewpoint to my own. It happens often I am sure. And I can even appreciate an idea without necessarily being converted by it.
      So I do think it unfortunate that you referred to Sunity as a clown because I believe she deserves a lot more respect than that. But I won’t degrade you for your own forthright and, in my mind, inaccurate opinion.

    • Timothy Christopher P Nokia I think the issue is much larger than Sunity, Timothy. It’s the media in general and Trini society as well, and the human race. Trines (and others) love to hero-worship people. Naipaul wrote about this in the Mystic Masseur. People hero-worshipped Lloyd, whom I absolutely loved (because he showed me love) and whose writing, humility, honesty and analytical skills I admired, but whose basic socio-economic approach (in my view) would have been disastrous if applied. Sunity may have inherited his mantle, but she also has capacities that equipped her for her leadership role: bravery and a capacity for hard work. The problem is that when Trinis get hold of someone like that, they project onto them a kind of infallibility. Lloyd wrote about this; Sunity echoes what he said. To use their phrase, ‘maximum leadership’. But they were both recipients of the same adulation. It’s bad for them, but that’s their business. Where I see the problem is that their worshippers abandon the process of thinking and adopt a mental lemmingship. And then the problem is broader than Trinidad. People in general want to use leaders to do their thinking for them. Those people who like being leaders adopt the role so it’s symbiotic. People give up their independence for comfort. And in Trinidad this is worse among the media. Media practitioners are in a very weak position vis-a-vis the owners of the media who are involved with the politicians, so they confine themselves to beating the drums for their owners or writing trivia. And on top of that, I understand that there has been a conscious process of dumbing down in the media, so a lot of them simply don’t have the education or intelligence to do otherwise.

    • And to add Niala My history of calling sunity a clown or dumbass (i forget which now) has to do with her ‘principled’ support of cuba, castro, chavez and socialism. To me saying you champion freedom and freedom of expression yet supporting dictators and dictatorships (whether tacitly or overtly) is contradictory at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. Now add this pseudo feminist position that she appears to take in her latest article and maybe you will better understand my labeling.

    • As for your ‘mental ‘lemmingship’ I absolutely love the term and it is one that i hope the other readers and commentators pay very close attention to.

    • Timothy Christopher P Nokia You are too categorical. The issues of Cuba etc. are not suited to this reductionist stance. They are complicated and I wouldn’t call someone names because they take a different approach from me on those.

    • Well this is where we differ. I would and i have and most likely will continue to call people who support dictators and dictatorships clowns…especially when they try to also sell the idea that they are champions for rights

  35. While it is important not to trivialize any form of perceived discrimination, it is just as important not to exaggerate them as well. It is also unrealistic to pretend that all issues of social injustice can be considered even. Some issues remain bigger than others no matter how valiant the attempt to suggest otherwise. On that same note, the value or importance of an issue is really at the discretion of each individual and/or society. Local communities who don’t see the need to protest or voice support in this case, aren’t any less educated than their international counter-parts either..

  36. “This is why we cannot discriminate between rights, or elevate one above another. Rights are rights are rights.” – Sunity writes this yet she herself makes no mention of the core issue in the shannon vs aria debacle and that is the discrimination than men face having to pay extra or differently to women all because they are a different gender. This is either irony or hypocrisy and it is very unfortunate that sunity would be caught like this.

  37. SMH. An article about discrimination that makes no mention of the fact that men are being discriminated against. This is why I have little respect for clowns like sunity and the other pseudo feminists.

    • I agree with your first point, Timothy, but not your last. Sunity is certainly not to be classified as a pseudo feminist. She’s more feminist than the professional feminists who make their living by being feminist. She walked the talk long before she talked the talk.

    • OK. I get that well maybe I was being harsh but she failed badly here

    • A pseudo feminist clown Timmo? ?

    • Which one is it then? “Too kind” or ” maybe I was being harsh “?

    • Do you think I was being too kind and perhaps i should have left out the pseudo?

    • Let me explain some things. The history of the women’s movement and the birth of feminism was all about equal rights – women demanding equal rights to men. So in a round about and some may say perverse way aria not letting the ‘woman’ in because she was looking like a man was in fact women being treated equally to men. Which means that the core issue is not shannon and her inablity to get into a club but the rationale for her not doing so – which MUST lead one to conclude that it is the discriminatory practices against men.

    • The reason I refer to sunity as a clown and I have done so to many many others all over facebook is that you understand discrimination based on gender but REFUSE to even acknowledge that men are facing that every day with the practices of a clubs like aria. One other feminist clown said to me – as a (self described) feminist it is not her duty to seek redress for men and if men felt discriminated against they should protest. As disgusted as i was with that comment I get her. Look i am a feminist and according to my definition i am only defending the rights of women – all you penis owners go fight your own battle. But sunity seems to want to distinguish herself by stating and I suspect inferring that she is for all rights and is against all forms of discrimination.

    • So to me sunity is an even bigger clown for not mentioning that men are discriminated at by these clubs and more importantly saying that whilst the shannon issue was relevant – the more pervasive issue is men being discrinimated on because of their gender. as i said this is either huge huge irony or downright hypocrisy and I didn’t add before – maybe plain and simple intellectual dishonesty

  38. Any mention of this crossdressing female who won’t deal with her gender-identity issues is not worth a read.
    This non-sense should never have been a story in the first place!

  39. If Aria’s sexism was a problem then paying the $120 entry would actually make more sense. Entering the club for free as a female is co-signing the understanding that the females in attendance were to be use as leverage against prospective male patrons. Paying would have said she is not a slab of meat to be dangled in front of hungry wolves.

    BUT NO!

    She was very willing to co-sign “Ladies Night”. Things only went sour when she was told she wasn’t dress “lady” like.

    • Brilliant comment! Feminists are very “convenient” with their views and beliefs.

    • …there is a saying ‘nothing in the World is Free’!!

    • Wrong because she is female and not is dressed as a lady but then she isn’t male so they should have refused entry at the door bottom line!!! Aria’s stance was just trying to be embarassing because she portraying a looking which society is uncomfortable dealing with!! This issue is broader than what we see on the surface!!!

    • Wrong because she is female and not is dressed as a lady but then she isn’t male so they should have refused entry at the door bottom line!!! Aria’s stance was just trying to be embarassing because she portraying a looking which society is uncomfortable dealing with!! This issue is broader than what we see on the surface!!!

    • Hamilton Suze
      1. She WAS NOT refused at the door!
      2. It’s Ladies free not Females free… see the dictionary for the difference.
      3. I don’t know about you but if I get told that at a PRIVATE club (as they have the right to set their own rules and reserve the right to refuse entry n all) I’d simply go else where, why beg them to take my money?

      But she just VEX she wasn’t getting in for free!
      All that discriminatory talk is female double standards at its finest.

      If it’s unfair she’s judged like that she should find it unfair men have to pay and women don’t.

      She didn’t even go to that “Protest” real committed of her.
      Not to mention most if not ALL d ppl protesting that night were admittedly not patrons of Aria ever! ?

  40. Shannon, I don’t care about you or your silly issue !!!! We have too many serious issues out there.

  41. Niala Maharaj you are right – but both situations have the same source

  42. #butchtea ?
    I am indeed surprised and saddened that you would seek to lower the importance of another human being, especially one of your own gender.
    Everybody has rights and we must recognize those rights.
    No one human being should be made to feel that they are not good enough.
    We treat people with mental disorders like bipolar, and like Shannon, they are contributing members of our society.
    People have their own style and sometimes tend to wear their clothes and hair in a non traditional way.
    Why discriminate against a woman who chooses not to dress in “normal” female wear?
    Why discriminate against a black woman who chooses to dye her hair blonde?
    To each his own and we weren’t put on this earth to judge anyone. That is God’s job, not ours.

    • Who is seeking to lower the importance of anyone? Im simply saying that this isnt a cause I can support because it ignores other relevant forms of discrimination that are clearly at play.
      And feel free to discriminate against black women with blonde hair. You wouldn’t be the first.

    • I don’t discriminate against anyone.
      Would you like someone to say #stupidblackwomanwithblondehair
      I am simply making an analogy.
      Everyone is entitled to dress how they want without other people trying to insult and embarass them.

    • Melina Hutchinson if someone said that it really wouldnt faze me out. And no where near as thin skinned. This isnt my cause celebre. Punto finale.

    • K. My two cents. I remember once lining up to get into Zen. That night I was wearing a pair of pretty flat sandals, the dressy type. I wore it because I was told that heals would make my varicose veins worse. The woman at the door looked at me and said that I could not come in. I explained to her why I was wearing my flats. She was not having it. Then she looked at my friends who were BTW prepared to leave and asked, ‘Is she with you?’. They replied in the affirmative. I felt bad but we were let in. While inside, I saw a few other females who wore slippers, yes slippers which were worse than mine- but they were white. Needless to say, I never wore flats to Zen again. I was dressed as a female and it was ladies free before ten, and I still could not enter. Lately, I’ve seen women wear skirts etc and pair them with flat tennis type sneakers. This, along with sandals, is the norm on boat rides. A woman who dresses like this will most likely not be allowed entrance to a club, indeed, she’d most likely wear heals as most do. What made Shannon so special? If she was dressed as a woman but wearing inappropriate shoes, she would not be allowed entry. I am 99% certain of that. Because she was dressed like a man, she was asked to pay the MALE price. I have no issue with that.

    • Rhoda, Shannon and all lost interest. Did she show up to the protest? Or was her facebook post akin to Rosa saying no to sitting at the back of the bus? Perhaps it is in these times. What is interesting to me are the reactions.

  43. She is a female people, nothing you say is going to change that fact!

    • Yea but she masculine. Sex gender distinction.

    • If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, walks like a duck…..

    • Therein lies the irony Melina…in one breath protesters say her orientation has nothing to do with the issue…then they invite protesters to come all “butched out”. Contradictory much?

    • Wearing a shirt and pants is not exclusive to men!
      If I go to Aria dressed that way, they would never say I am a man.
      Shannon was judged because of her sexual orientation and that is wrong!
      In other words, if you are a woman who likes another woman, and you are dressed in a shirt and pants, even though your id says you are a female, Aria is saying that you are a man.
      That is wrong on every level.

    • Melina Hutchinson are you being deliberately obtuse?

    • Melina Hutchinson, you are being ridiculous now. Shannon is actually extremely pretty. If you think Aria would have turned her down in a short skirt, you are just looking for a debate yes.

    • You are the one who is being ridiculous Lasana Liburd!
      Did you hear me speak about beauty??
      When I say that I wouldn’t be turned away in a shirt and pants, I mean it is because I would not be be viewed as a lesbian!
      Shannon was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation.
      Someone decided that if she likes women and playing man, then she is a man!
      I am saying that is wrong because she is a woman!!

    • This debate has always been based upon her sexual orientation, so how can you accuse me of introducing beauty into it?….steupsss!!

    • You said she still would not have gotten in if her dress code was different. Can you explain Melina? Because, apart from Womantra, I haven’t seen anyone really talk about her sexual orientation at all.
      I have no idea what her sexual orientation is. I could only speculate. And I chose not to do that.

    • Let me be clear, I took your statement that Aria blocked her because of her orientation to mean that if Shannon were dressed differently she would not have gotten in.
      If that is what you meant, then I think you are wrong and would love to hear you defend that position.
      If that isn’t what you meant, then I apologise for misreading your comment. And I will leave it there.

    • Who put her orientation on the table?

    • But I just explained myself to you Lasana!
      Did you see me saying anything about Shannon wearing a skirt and still not being allowed in?
      You have misunderstood me and I accept your apology.

    • You did Rhoda Bharath, by calling her a butch!

    • I didnt call her butch… which just shows that you’re an ass.
      My reference to butch tea has nothing to do with Shannon and everything to do with the call out to protest in butch clothing. What is butch clothing?

    • Don’t call her ass though Rhoda. It is possible that Melina didn’t get the reference to Womantra’s call to arms. So I would give her the benefit of the doubt there.

    • Assumer, then? If she didnt get the reference then ask for it to be explained instead of making stupid assumptions and conclusions. In nothing that I have said in any thread have I discussed Gomes’ orientation.

    • Melina, you might have missed Womantra’s defence of Shannon. But it is the feminine group that introduced the word Butch to this case.

    • Your reference to me as an “ass” doesn’t bother me at all Rhoda Bharath because I don’t answer to that name.
      What I have noticed with bloggers like you though is that when they are losing an argument and have run out of intelligenr comments, they begin to get verbally abusive.
      It just shows how childish you are and bereft of broughtupcy.
      What a pity and a political analyst at that!

    • I am quite aware that they used the word “butch” Lasana, but in this forum Rhoda was the one who used it as well….#butchtea?

    • It is true that many people will see that hashtag and might not think of Womantra at all Rhoda. Then you might walk into another storm.
      I think we understand the point she is making here as a counter-protest against the Shannon Gomes support by the feminist group in question.

    • Melina Hutchinson the argument isnt lost. It went straight over your head. And instead of asking for clarification you took it upon yourself to make perjorative comments about blackness and blondeness…which pretty much proves my point.
      In the absence of Shannon saying a word about her orientation, I’d be an ass to make assumptions…but there are many among us who are happy to make assumptions and then run with it as am argument. There are also many among us who are happy to use orientation to galvanize a protest. Many assumers in the mix.

    • Lasana Liburd interestingly enough the upon use of the hashtag yesterday someone screen grabbed it and post it directly to Womantra’s wall. I’m guessing the person is sharper than Melina, because they got the reference and the allusion.

    • My reference to blackness and blondeness was to make the point that people who live in glass houses mustn’t throw stones.
      Seeing that you are not an ass and that other person is sharper than me, I am sure you will understand what I mean.

    • I fail to see how referring to blondeness, blackness and linking it to stupidity and ignorance is aligned with me alluding to Womantra’s call and an old saying. Im sure you understand your logic and initial decision to name call better than I do. And I’m happy to leave it there. The difference between you and I is that I will ask first before assuming and leaping to conclusions.

    • Blondeness and blackness is linked to a woman dressing in a shirt and pants instead of a dress.
      People should be free to style their hair and wear their clothes in the way that they like without someone judging or insulting them for their choice.
      I did not name call anyone, you are the one who referred to Shannon as a butch and called me an ass.

    • Melina, I thought we already agreed, repeatedly, that the Butch reference was aimed at Womantra. We are going in circles over that point.

    • Well, Rhoda said so and explained. So I thought you accepted that. Fine.

    • Melina Hutchinson…please indicate where I called Shannon butch? Quote the post where I said Shannon Gomes is butch…I’ll wait for it here.

    • I never said you called Shannon a butch.
      I said you referred to her as a butch and called me an ass.
      Your comment together with #butchtea was in reference to her.

    • So I want to throw a spanner into the mix. I come to your house or your club in a rubber slipper, a wife beater a buss up jeans and it sagging and I am asking you would you let me in ?

  44. Thanks Rhoda Bharath for putting it in the correct perspective loud and clear.. and my two cents – if there is a (lets say a dinner function) and the organisers decide they would give all ladies a free gift, and she looking like a male was by-passed, what these ppl saying is that it’s appropriate for her to make a scene and pull out her id card just to get a gift that’s based solely on the organisers’ discretion.. intelligent ppl always amaze me!

    • Welcome to Philistia, feel free to worship at the Temple of Baal!

    • We all worship where our hearts are…

    • Bakes

      The difference is that there is no law that says women are entitled to free gifts, but there is a law about equality in public accommodation. In this case they discriminated against her on the basis of her perceived sexual identity. She was not equal to all other women in their eyes. Imagine if a club employee (or hotel, movie theater, restaurant employee etc.) said to someone, “we allow black people to come in, but not black people who look like you, you too dark,” would that be worthy of protesting… or not really?

  45. Honestly I don’t even know how poor Sunity continues, I didn’t even bother finishing the article because I believe in the end it just falls on unreceptive ears. This issue and the arguments put forward against Shannon just reinforced to me the inherent backwardness, unenlightenment and country bookie bookie nature of our society. Right here people will tell me “Verns you only shitting up Trinidad” when self reflection is clearly needed, pardnas will say “boy you only beating up, Trini sweet.” Apparently the key to paradise is not giving a shit. Imagine a gross injustice befell a fellow citizen and people’s arguments are “ent she want tuh play man?”.
    I am at a complete loss, how does a people so dedicated to darkness be brought into the light?

    • Vernal Damion Cadogan…Sunity raised the issue of a bunch of other violations. Daily violations. You see if Womantra and Caiso and IGDS launching projects to focus on the common ways we continue to be violated by colonisation I will throw my voice behind it. But unfortunately I don’t hear about those projects. I hear about a girl being asked to pay to enter a club. And the arguments being put forward for me to jump on that bandwagon has to make sense. So, my country ass gonna sit this one out. Shannon is not my cause célèbre.

    • When fetes want to get on exclusive I simply do not go.
      When public places want to impose stupid dress codes I simply don’t go.
      If I don’t want a club telling me how to be feminine and sexy…I don’t go. Aria practising discrimination AND business. Doh get tied up. It knows its clientele well. Ppl who thrive on exclusivity until it stops serving them.

    • Rhodes there is no cause because the Philistines aren’t sincerely offended by injustice, inequality, discrimination, corruption, crime, iniquity.

      Now hush and feel free to enjoy the baths at the Temple of Baal …. and do try not to trample upon the child sacrifices!

    • And don’t get me wrong eh, I understand the reason for exclusivity, it aims to discourage a particular type of crass behavior common to particular demographics, but what Aria did crossed the line.

    • Excuse me, did you say a “gross injustice”? You really think we should reflect on this and throw our support behind this issue man? I agree that as Trinis we don’t worry enough or show much concern for pertinent issues but that thing that happened at Aria is not worth our time bro. You calling us backward country bookie (by the way country people are not necessarily backward) and strangely enough if you read the article Sunity admits that it is an issue that is difficult to see as anything but trivial yet she sought to connect it with deeper social issues. So when you call us backwards Vern you are letting your own passion leak out a bit.

    • Vernal Damion Cadogan weak reasoning…to stand for something that is illogically defined is silly. And you speak as if all members of Womantra were on the same page and they were not. In fact many members of the LGBTI community were not on board with this protest and had valid reasons.
      And there are numerous local causes ppl rallied behind in the last 5 yrs and 6 months. Doh get my ass riled up here today.

    • I didn’t mean to rile you up Rhodes ….. you is my doodoo!
      Muah ……

    • Pardna show me one cause in the recent past that was worth Trinidadians’ time.

      We are a Bandwagonist people who would rally behind foreign causes that have nothing to do with us, but let it be something local ……. it’s too trivial, it doesn’t concern me, dem is nuh my people.

      Shannon’s case may not have been the most pressing, but at least Womantra stood for something.

    • Bakes

      Well said Vernal. I’m really surprised by some of the comments being made.

  46. Joe onePeace Bourne and Rhoda Bharath you guys done a better take on this article than Sunity’s version

  47. Read it and found it to be NONSENSE. Not because Sunity Maharaj said it means that I should give a damn. She said and I quote “We cannot speak out about Ms Gomes without appreciating the value of speaking out against the atrocities of the Remand Yard prison and the rights of all prisoners to due process; the right of the disabled to enjoy the rights available to all; the right of workers, including domestic workers, to fairness; the right of women to have power over their own bodies; the right of children to be loved, respected, cared for and protected; the rights of detained migrants; the right of all to love and be loved and to have their love respected in law, regardless of gender.” Yes I can speak about all those things and not give a damn about Aria and Mrs Gomes. Seriously, cannot reconcile with putting these things on the same scale. Nonetheless to address this problem maybe they should just say men pay, ladies free and transgender pay. If this stupid issue was to be taken on a basis principle then they all pay or they all don’t pay. It is stupid and has little basis on more serious issues.

  48. The EOA law cited does not apply because Shannon was not denied entry. She was told you can enter but have to pay.
    Discrimination is an important issue. Selecting which type of discrimination is more worthy of protest is discrimination in itself.
    And no…I am not going to protest entry into a club. I would object to Aria telling her what her gender is…but most public spaces here police ppl via dress codes. Every Ministry bldg has a dress code.
    I’m fed up of the lopsided arguments.
    Further, how do you in one instance say this isnt about orientation then use a gender orientation term to rally support? Contradictory much?

    • #butchtea?
      I am indeed surprised and saddened that you would seek to lower the importance of another human being, especially one of your own gender.
      Everybody has rights and we must recognize those rights.
      No one human being should be made to feel that they are not good enough.
      We treat people with mental disorders like bipolar, and like Shannon, they are contributing members of our society.
      People have their own style and sometimes tend to wear their clothes and hair in a non traditional way.
      Why discriminate against a woman who chooses not to dress in “normal” female wear?
      Why discriminate against a black woman who chooses to dye her hair blonde?
      To each his own and we weren’t put on this earth to judge anyone. That is God’s job, not ours.

    • “I would object to Aria telling her what her gender is”

    • Melina Hutchinson because Shannon’s sexual orientation was never part of the discussion and Womantra’s call for being “all butched up” made this about Shannon’s orientation. Plain talk and bad manners you cannot in one breath say this ISN’T about orientation and then use a Orientation term to galvanise your protest?
      Are we fools?

    • I will still argue that the club should have denied her entry because of her attire over charging her a male price because she dressed like a male. They have a dress code and they reserve the right to refuse admission. Bigger question for me is who are her friends that went to the club? First ppl to rally around her would have been her friends to not want to be part of the club after the debacle but there was nothing of the sort. If I or any other person seeking entry to a club do not adhere to their dress policy, how could I seek the attention of the public to change policy of the club that would deny me? Then the club which appeals to some will no longer have that appeal to the ppl who agree to their dress code and abide by it.

    • Rhoda, the group called for women to be dressed in non traditional female wear to make the point that because a person is wearing a shirt and pants, doesn’t make them a male!!

    • No Melina. The group specifically used the term “Butch.” I agree with what their aim probably was. But don’t you think it unfortunate that Womantra used the word “Butch?”

    • Womantra said butch. Butch is a regerence to a female who likes females who performs male. Who brought Gomes’ orientation to the table?
      Who decided butch was the word to be used?
      Who decided that non-traditional female means butch?
      What is traditional female?
      What is non-traditional female.
      Is it not contradictory to leaver her orientation out of the protest but include the word butch?

      See how assumptions does get problematic?

    • Lasana, I think it is unfortunate that Rhoda used the word butch in her comments.

    • I don’t think that butch is the right term to describe anyone. But I think Rhoda is using the term as a criticism against Womantra who used it in their defence of Shannon.
      It would be wrong to aim the term at Shannon.

    • 1. Butch there is being aimed at Womantra as well as playing on the word bush and alluding to a local saying.
      If Melina wants to continue to drink bush tea for Womantra’s fever she is welcomed.

    • So it is not unfortunate that Womantra introduced the term? Oh please….

  49. Depends on your perspective. It’s not trivial to the (sometimes just aspiring) middle class Greek chorus that habituate social media. And, given the amount of newsprint it has consumed, it’s not trivial to the hacks in newsrooms who don’t know where to focus now that bashing the government is out of style. But it’s (even less than) trivial to the forestry workers who knelt down on the ground to beg the PM to pay them for the work they had done for the past 2 months. They will never go to clubs on Ariapita. Most people can’t afford to go to clubs on Ariapita. That’s where the elite goes to see and be seen. And those who wish to be in the elite, or counted as the elite. Can someone remind the TT press corps that their primary role in democratic society is to act as a check on the elected government (not on the government that failed to be elected, the one that was elected). Quarrels amongst the elite should be settled internally.

    • In T&T bashing the government is never out of style. Remember former PM Manning? We were inundated with stories of corruption on a massive scale not to mention the murder count that was posted on the front pages of the dailies. It is only a matter of time before PM Rowley starts getting heat from the press. Let him enjoy his press honeymoon. In an untrivial way this story too is a reflection of the type of leadership coming from our governments past and present. And it is not confined to matters of sexual or gender identification. Our differently abled have huge hurdles to negotiate every day and our leaders are generally nowhere to be found on these types of issues. The fact that discrimination exists is not the issue! It’s what are we doing about it. Some people still have very antiquated notions about the LBGT community. Some of us even suggest that lesbians just need a good “cock” to set them straight. In South Africa there are men who go around seeking to “correct” lesbians by gang raping them. Others in our society think that our T&T LBGT community is just copying the worst of “first world” cultural decadence. For many of us it’s just “slackness” or “sin” and nothing to do with human rights. As someone who watches our TV commercials devoid of dark-skinned models of either South Asian or African origin with dismay, I’d say human rights have a long way to go in T&T!

  50. Sooo….from next year aria should charge both men and women to enter clubs if this is the kind of bs that happening…