“ENOUGH is enough”. This line, which was the headline of an advert taken out by Freemasons in UK newspapers last week, came across as more than a touch shrill, even panicked. The United Grand Lodge of England, that poor secret society of mostly white, privileged men, had seen fit to protest that they had been “discriminated” against and “stigmatised”. The trigger for this reaction? Guardian newspaper reports that there were lodges operating at Westminster, whose members included politicians and journalists.

“Discriminated?” was the immediate reaction of many on Twitter. How could members of a secret society possibly be discriminated against, when no-one knows who they are?

Except, the “discrimination” the United Grand Lodge were talking about wasn’t about targeting individuals, but the “gross misrepresentation of its 200,000 plus members”.

And on one level they are probably right. Freemasons are, no doubt, being stigmatised. We like to laugh at them and their funny handshakes and trouser-leg lifting rituals, while also shaking our heads about their in-secret dealings with each other. They may also feel that they’re more discriminated against than other elite gentlemen’s clubs that we don’t know so much about.

For, the trouble with freemasonry is that it seems like a formalised, if waning, version of a problem that besets our whole culture – groups of people giving each other a leg-up, and keeping a grip on power and wealth. They are a reminder that proper transparency and accountability in the corridors of power is a long way off. “Why us?” the beleaguered, snowflake brethren are probably thinking, as they watch public school alumni, and other power-hoarding networks, further their grip.

One answer is that we have all heard quite a bit about this supposedly secret society thanks to conspiracy theorists, Dan Brown novels and the lodge's own archives published a few years ago.

And quite a lot of what’s out there makes the organisation look either sinister or ridiculous. The not-so-secret Freemasons are sitting ducks.

But there’s a difference between being laughed at or treated with suspicion, and actually being discriminated against. And when white middle-class men characterise their own situation using a word that more commonly describes the prejudicial treatment of people because of their race, sex or religion, then they expose themselves as out-of-touch.

They show that what they actually fear is loss of power. Lodges have been closing at the rate of 100 a year. According to a 2016 Vice magazine article there are five times as many members aged 80-plus than those aged 21-30.

Freemasonry, which nurtured enlightenment thinking, was born at a time when, in the UK, religious and state repression was far greater, and secrecy seemed necessary and was valued. But with the growth of democracy and transparency, the organisation's opacity has seemed increasingly suspect.

The United Grand Lodge of England are, of course on a PR drive. They want to show the world how open and fun they are. Back in 2016, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, reportedly told a meeting in the Grand Temple: “I am not for one minute suggesting we try to turn our meetings into a pantomime, but most certainly I am saying there is no harm in being seen to enjoy ourselves.”

But pantomime is what they are delivering. "Enough is enough" is a cry of desperation; the yowl of the privileged white man who sees that his power is under threat.


A BIT of me thinks I ought to be celebrating the fact that 50-year-old Pamela Anderson, still a pin-up and with a 30-year-old boyfriend, has opened up about her menopause. In a recent interview, she talked about her hormones, hot flushes, empty nest syndrome and “moods”. "I knew something was changing,” she said. “I definitely feel a change, I think I am peri-menopausal, or whatever it is called. I felt very emotional, very poetic, very dark and dreamy."

As someone who has a few changes going on, I ought to be punching the air reading that. But instead, I've come over all dark and irritable. I’m all for taboo-busting and for endless Woman’s Hour discussions on the subject. But, please, please save us from the tsunami of celebrity outpourings. We already have a good idea of their thoughts on childbirth, body image, diet, and most of it seems entirely irrelevant to our lives.

Anderson’s interview also showed there’s a danger that when celebrities start defining the menopause, it too becomes all about defying age. Her young boyfriend, she said, recently told her she must be “30 not 50” years old, given the way she looks. Well, good for her. But if we must have a menopausal role model, let's have one who talks about the fat around her middle, the achey joints, the dry skin and all the other less sexy symptoms – not a woman who looks like she's still in her reproductive prime.