The War on Women and Augusta National

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The seemingly placid world of golf continues to invite criticism and commentary over the Masters Tournament—in particular, the fact that no woman has been offered membership into Georgia's Augusta National, where the Masters is held. This debate has particular impact this year for two reasons: One, because the IBM CEO, who has typically been offered membership into the club because IBM is a sponsor, is a woman—and she's not, apparently, been offered membership. And two, because this is happening against the backdrop of the so-called "war on women"—a phrase that Republicans and Democrats have been letting fly in the lead-up to the election, and a battle which the Democrats appear to be winning. 

Because "war on women" has become such a buzz word for politicians, they've been weighing in with what they think about the Augusta National situation—even as Augusta National's chairman Billy Payne has said, in so many words, that it's nobody's business aside from the club's who they choose to let in, or not. In contrast to that, female membership in the club seems to be one of the few nonpartisan issues of politics. According to the Associated Press, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama believed personally that "women should be admitted" and "We're kind of long past the time when women should be excluded from anything." Meawhile, Mitt Romney says "of course," if he ran Augusta, he'd allow women to be members:

"Of course. I am not a member of Augusta. I don't know if I would qualify. My golf game is not that good," Romney said at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. "If I could run Augusta, which isn't likely to happen, of course I'd have women."

Even John McCain has tweeted, "Don't you think it's time Augusta National joined the 21st century - or the 20th - and allowed women members?" But the old boys' golf sentiment persists. What's especially strange about this is that it's even a debate in the year 2012. You'd think we'd be further along than engaging in passionate discussions about why women should or should not be kept out of golf clubs. And yet, as the "war on women" has shown us, we're not. Also disturbing: how so many people are defending the club. Sure, it has the right to do whatever it wants. So why not do the right thing? Would it really be so awful to offer IBM CEO Virginia Rometty membership? What might happen?

Perhaps the most disturbing element to this story, aside from the fact that this kind of blatant sexism persists, is that when New York Times golf writer Karen Crouse, who's written an article on the subject in The Times, expressed her feelings to—"If it were left to me, which it seldom is in the power structure of writer versus editor, I'd probably not come cover this event again until there is a woman member"—she was quickly "spoken to" for her inappropriate comments by New York Times sports editor Joe Sexton. How...patriarchal. 


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.