What is a right-minded person supposed to think in the contretemps over women and Augusta National Golf Club?
What an argument. All nuance has been lost since this national war of words commenced last summer. Throughout it all, we’ve been dealing with extremes in American character: argumentative feminist Martha Burk, on the one hand, who has used her one-person Washington office to catapult herself into a national offensive against one of the most elite, male bastions of power and money in this country. On the other side is Hootie Johnson, a character seemingly evolved from Central Casting/South Bureau, who every so often utters a drawling rejoinder that his club will not admit women under the threat of Burk’s sword.
Who’s the sympathetic character in this drama?
Well, Johnson, actually. He’s quite right that it’s up to the Augusta members to decide with whom they will associate. If Augusta wants to accept a woman, so be it. If it chooses to stay the same, that’s fine too. We’re relatively agnostic on the issuewe defend whichever course the private club chooses. We approach our argument from the perspectives of morality, culture, the law and the all-important fact that what we’re talking about is a bunch of people choosing to hang out with their peers while chasing a little white ball around with a stick. For chrissakes, is there any place in the world where boys can just be boys?
As we’ve labored to figure out what should happen at Augusta, we’ve tried to drown out the ambient noise and cut to the heart of the matter. We have asked ourselves these questions: Don’t we all have the right to associate with whomever we choose? And what is it that Burk is trying to accomplish? What is her moral objection to Augusta? And how will the condition of womenand these United States, in factbe measurably improved if the club accepts a breasted being?
Burk’s organization has statedwe’ve gone to her Web site to answer these interrogativesthat “the club has a moral obligation to open its doors to women.” Her group says that the golf course has become a “de facto public facility” because its tournament is such a public event. (The August National Golf Club is the host of the Master’s golf tournament, which is perhaps the greatest such contest in the world.) Ergo, the club “has a moral obligation to abide by the standards of the public at large. And the public standards of America as a nation, and of its people, are clearly opposed to discrimination.”
Come on, Martha. You’re being flimsy. When people watch sporting events, they judge the athletic competence of the participants. They don’t judge their moral character. When the Titans take the field, we don’t ask ourselves whether they’re good people. We speculate whether they’ll knock someone senseless. You can say the same thing about artists. Take Picasso. He could really paint. He was also a misogynist. So would Burk choose not to look at Picasso’s work? What Burk would have us do is deconstruct the men who belong to Augusta National. In fact, this isn’t commonly done.
Now, let us reverse field a moment, because if we believe Augusta has no moral obligation, because of its public stature, to accept women, why do we feel that it had a moral obligation to accept black members? Is this not a gaping hole in our logic?
Not too long ago, Augusta was one of several all-white golf clubs that decided, amid a fairly large public outcry, to accept African American members. Unfortunately, there was a racist element to these clubs’ exclusionary policies. The hue and cry against those policies was great. But the distinction between excluding a race and excluding a sex is this: America has long recognized the acceptability of single-sex organizations. There are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. There are female sororities and male fraternities. There are boys’ schools and girls’ schools. There’s no moral outrage about those groups. But there is a basis of moral outrage, because of four centuries of discrimination in America, about racial exclusion from private clubs. There’s also a legal basis for outlawing that discrimination.
Now, we respect the fact that Burk has made the fight. It’s her constitutional right. But here’s how it’s likely to go:
Burk and her colleagues will attempt to sway more and more people to sever their relationship with the Master’s and the Augusta club. They’ll apply pressure to individual members, especially those who head publicly traded corporations, to resign. (Three members, incidentally, are from Nashville, according to a recent list published in USA Today.) Burk has thus far successfully intimidated the advertisers who in past years bought time during the televised broadcast of the tournament. As it watched the advertisers cower, the club’s response was to say, “Fine, we’ll just run the tournament without the commercials. We’ll eat the difference.” The result was that this year’s tournament ran commercial-free. It was an astonishing spectacle from a viewer’s perspective.
Burk’s success or failure will depend on whether people apply enough economic pressure on the club. Indications are she will lose. The club is vastly wealthy and can continue on into the indefinite future without its sponsorship arrangements. Its income stream from other sources is considerable.
A Washington Post writer recently criticized American progressives for their relentless assaults on “injustice” and “inequality,” when what they’re really doing is applying a sameness, a banal homogeneousness, to everything. One senses this same great liberal leveler now has its sights set on Augusta. Southern, quirky, autocratic and very rich, the club plays to its own tune. It has more idiosyncrasies, customs and traditions than the British royal family. And this cultural authenticity, from the green jackets worn by members to the famed winner’s dinner held before the tournament opens, is something we shouldn’t abandon.
The fact that its members are rich men, however, has brought it under the target of the egalitarians who appear poised to strip it of whatever uniqueness it possesses. A brief decade from now, Martha Burk will have receded from the limelight, utterly forgotten, with her moral outrage still half articulated. One century from now, however, one of the great golf tournaments of the world will still be played at Augusta.
Brad Paisley says he grew up wanting to be in Nashville
"The best thing for a child's future is for it to learn respect for its…
I think mothers should be able to go out with their children no matter their…
Yeah, I guess we should expect all mothers — or fathers — who are out…
R Stephen Traywick Shows that he has NO argument against Tea Party ideas by his…