I am still thinking about golf. Sorry I know it's baseball season, that the NBA and NHL playoffs are on and NFL training camp has started. But, I'm thinking about golf — and not just because it's nice outside (here anyway; sorry Iceland).
I know I ruffled some feathers with my commentary about the Master's last week asking why it's not a bigger deal that women still aren't allowed to join that club, Augusta National in Augusta, Georgia. A lot of people think what's the big deal? It's not like women are being barred from something truly essential like medical school, which is certainly true. But to me it is the principle of the thing. It's about equal opportunity; and while I know it's a private club, it is a club that hosts one of the premier sporting events in this country.
The other issue about Augusta — which not many people many know — is that among major golf clubs it is actually among the most affordable. The dues, as I understand it, are "only" in the $10,000-a-year range compared with $35,000 to $50,000 for comparable venues. Why? The millions in revenue from the televised Master's tournament, that's why. So it is another example of where entrenched traditional advantage perpetuates itself.
Now I know golf is easy to ridicule. I do it myself if for no other reason than to annoy my husband. It is inherently elitist in that it requires: a lot of land, expensive equipment, lessons and most of all time. In a society like ours that kind of leisure is indeed a luxury. So I get that piece.
But I want to loop it back to another commentary I wrote about some time ago, which is President Obama's golf playing and the mini uproar over why no women had been observed playing golf with him (subsequently one of his advisers, Melanie Barnes, was invited to play). I wrote that I found it hard to care about that, and what I care most about is that the way we live life today makes it extremely difficult for young women in their prime working years — which are also prime child-bearing years — to actually participate in these kinds of activities, and that focusing on Obama's golfing partners just advantages another kind of elite: a sports playing jock-ocracy.
Contradiction? Could be, but I don't think so, and here's why:
Elite institutions create a trickle down effect. Like designer clothes, or expensive sports cars or fancy electronics, that which elites do and covet often set the model for what others do and want and try to be. That's not to say that elites are the ones who change the world, often it is quite the other way — change trickles up from the grass roots (anybody who heard former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell say, "Don't go there" in a public hearing knows what I'm talking about)! Augusta's barring membership to women sends a signal. And in a world like this, it's hard to understand why they <em>want</em> to continue to send that signal. CEO's have daughters too, don't they? It puzzles me.
I also think it's interesting because people who advocate for social change are often told, “you cannot legislate people's hearts.” That is true. “You can't pick people's friends.” That is true. “And you can't pick their golf buddies.” It is also going to be true that if and when women are admitted to full membership at Augusta (because women are allowed to play there now as guests), there will be some who will not wish to play with them. But the opportunity will exist.
I think it would be appropriate for the president to invite women to play golf with him. But it's more important that women who want the opportunity to play with whomever they want to play with have the chance to do so.
I invite your thoughts about this — not that you don't have better things to do!