September 27, 2002

Erosion

The National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO) wants to deny me the right to watch the Master's golf tournament on TV.

It is their way of protesting the membership policy at the golf club that hosts the tournament, Augusta National in Georgia.

Georgia, the United States.
(Just thought I'd clarify.)

Augusta National is a men-only club.
From what I gather from watching and reading about professional golf, until recently (ten years?) it was a white-men only club, and that's what makes the issue a little more difficult to sort out.

Furthermore, it is a private institution. This is not about any kind of discrimination in a public venue.

This golf club has hosted the Master's Tournament, one of the four major golf championships, for many years. It is a permanent, even legendary fixture on the tour.

I don't know what prompted the NCWO to object now (as opposed to some other time) but object they do.

There are two issues here in my mind. One is the relative merit of the complaint, and the other is the means of expressing it.

Weeks ago when this all began, I saw a TV interviewer asking Tiger Woods what he thought of it all. Tiger declined to share any moral outrage, saying that the club had a right to choose who their members might be.
Coming from someone who, a couple of decades ago, would probably have himself been refused membership on the basis of his racial heritage, that looked a little strange.

In response to the NCWO, Master's Tournament organizers stripped the event of all sponsorship. That includes commercials on the television broadcast.
The NCWO then contacted CBS to request that they not televise the tournament.
They refused.

I am glad they refused, on several counts. First of all I really do want to watch the tournament; second, I don't see how a "rights" issue can be resolved by the denial of MORE rights.
It makes me uncomfortable to see a woman's organization behaving in a way that implies that their values must be correct and everyone must subscribe to them.
Even if the values ARE correct, which I'm not entirely convinced of, anyway.

I'm afraid that I can't really get very worked up about women being excluded from this PRIVATE country club. After all, even if I were male I'd be excluded on the basis that I can't afford the membership fee! Should I complain that they're discriminating on the basis of wealth and ask for a government subsidy in order to be able to join?

Furthermore, what is so wrong about men (or women) wanting a place where they can relax with only those of their own gender? I belong to an all-women bowling league which is part of an all-women bowling association, the WIBC. Nobody is protesting against the WIBC.

But what if the rules were, for instance, "no Blacks, no Jews"?
No question, that would be unacceptable, not to mention offensive to me.
So why is it okay according to me to exclude women?

I don't have an answer to that.

Which brings me to the second issue, the means of expressing the complaint.

It seems to me that the best, indeed ONLY way to solve such a problem would be to change public attitudes. Including, obviously, mine.

In fact, even this bit of soul-searching hasn't completely convinced me that Augusta National is wrong.. but I AM convinced that calling for a boycott of the telecast itself is not only useless, but counterproductive.

The objective of the NCWO seems to be to force change by using... force.

If Augusta National were to open up their membership to women because of the tantrums of the NCWO, what does that say?
It doesn't say they were wrong to exclude women in the first place. It's merely bowing to public pressure.

If Augusta is to be open to women it should be for the same reason that it's open to Blacks and Jews and every other variety of male - that to do otherwise is socially unacceptable, and to change public perceptions to make it so should be the focus of the women's groups.

You don't change public perception by inconveniencing the public.
You change it by education.
Not only education as in schooling, but education that creeps into every aspect of culture.
And, on the way, the issue becomes refined and if it is valid it will emerge into the collective cultural consciousness.

I'm only (only?) fifty, yet the culture of my childhood is very different from the culture of the present.
I grew up watching "Father Knows Best".
If I had lived in the U.S. south I would have been accustomed to seeing "whites only" signs.
When I was in high school in the mid-sixties, strapping was still used and was generally regarded as an acceptable means of discipline.

As a teenager I hummed along to lyrics like "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man."
The Beatles, no less, John Lennon in particular. Yes, THAT John Lennon.
To make things worse, he BORROWED that line from an Elvis Presley song written in 1954 by Arthur Gunter.
It was so good, he had to borrow it.

Back to the point, which is that change is possible but it doesn't happen in a moment. It results from a process similar to erosion. One letter to the editor, one column, one painting, one song, one movie at a time.

One mind at a time.


Linque Du Jour:   Pop History Now!
This site appeared in my bookmark list courtesy of my son Rob.

It's a "this week in history" concept covering not only post-WWII history but pop culture.
Searchable by topic or date, too.

I love it when these things fit in so nicely with the main theme of my entries!



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