Golf Protests?
December 18, 2002 9:57 AM   Subscribe is the website of choice for Martha Burk and the NCWO's "Hall of Hipocrisy", where they name the CEOs of companies who are members of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters golf tournament. Burk has protested that Augusta should be banned from holding the Masters because they have not let women into their membership. So far, the Masters will have no corporate sponsorship in its broadcast on CBS. A few execs and pols have exited the ranks of members. Will more happen in the coming months to open the doors to women? On a side note, you can check out where you'll find a collection of links to websites protesting Martha Burk.
posted by djspicerack (37 comments total)
Gosh, it's such a tragedy that Augusta National, the only golf club in the world, the only place in the world women could go to play golf, won't let women become members. It's also a flagrant flouting of the law that a publically run golf course discriminates so visibly!

Oh, wait. There are plenty of other places where women are allowed to play golf. And Augusta is a private club, and therefore not required to have any non-discrimination policies. How hard is this to understand?

I'm all for equal opportunity, but this is the wrong fight.
posted by starvingartist at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2002


She's not claiming a legal right to use the club, so I don't see what you're arguing. The goal of the site, as it states, is to inform consumers. She sure as hell has the right to do that.
posted by skyline at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2002

Excuse me for a second, I have to collect myself. You know, thinking about those poor rich women who are denied the oppourtunity to play golf at Augusta was just too much. Such a tragedy...
posted by Space Coyote at 10:21 AM on December 18, 2002

So the "stop burk" site calls her "the queen of hypocrisy" but there's no link to another page explaining that. The only mention of "hypocrisy" on the page is some way to seed her referrers by sending visitors to her most damning page. This is supposed to help the anti-burk clause in some way? It sure comes across as pathetic.
posted by mathowie at 10:24 AM on December 18, 2002

Right, and it's such a tragedy that those rich Jews and blacks were excluded from other clubs. You know, no one's arguing that Augusta's discrimination should be illegal, just that it should be socially unacceptable. The incredulous response the New York Times is getting over this, that they would dare to cover a women's issue as a civil rights issue, just floors me.
posted by transona5 at 10:42 AM on December 18, 2002

Sorry, I should have listened to myself before I posted that. Yes, "Hootie" is probably a misogynistic idiot. Yes, it isn't fair that Augusta won't let women in. But it's their club. I don't think it's right, but they can do what they want.

Yuck. This foot tastes terrible!
posted by starvingartist at 10:47 AM on December 18, 2002

You know, no one's arguing that Augusta's discrimination should be illegal, just that it should be socially unacceptable.

There’s the heart of the matter. There is an ideological world of difference between passing legislation to force them to stop their discrimination and supporting a campaign to make it hard for them to keep doing it.
posted by Fenriss at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2002


and again
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:50 AM on December 18, 2002

posted by subgenius at 10:58 AM on December 18, 2002

That's odd. I did a whois lookup on the domain, and it doesn't belong to the New York Times.

Isn't this their crusade?
posted by Vidiot at 11:17 AM on December 18, 2002

it doesn't belong to the New York Times

But come on people....

Does Augusta have to let women in?
No it is a private club.

Do Burk &Co have the right to go after Augusta because they disagree with the policy?

Are there bigger women's issues that affect a greater number of population than the society women that want to golf, that Burk & Co. could be tackling?
Most definitely. And this is what I belive most people have taken issue with. If getting women in to a private golf club is the biggest crusade that NCWO and the NYTimes can go after, well then it says that we have come pretty damn far in this country and there really must not be much use left for organizations like NCWO if they can't find some thing more serious than this... I am not a Women's Issue expert, but I would think that there must be some more pressing matters of sexism that these organizations can use their energies to combat...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:30 AM on December 18, 2002

While I disagree with Augusta's membership policies, I don't believe that the NCWO attack against Augusta is anything other than self-promotion. It's pretty clearly outside the NCWO's stated charter, so it's hard to come up with any other reason for the hullabaloo.

That being said, I'd like to thank the NWCO, as their protests will likely allow me to watch the Masters tournament without commercial interruption.
posted by mosch at 11:46 AM on December 18, 2002

Exactly, Steve, you aren't a women's issue expert. Do you know of any women's issues experts that "have taken issue with" the minor nature of this problem?

Because, personally, the idea of people who don't devote their energies to "women's issues" feeling any need, desire, or right to criticize someone else's action on the basis that it: isn't the most useful thing they could be doing is utterly ridiculous.
posted by Wood at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2002

Steve_at_Linnwood, there's always a bigger issue. That doesn't make this one any less valid.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:24 PM on December 18, 2002

Actually, I think it's a pretty irrelevent issue but they're targeting the right people - people in positions of power. As far as I know, the Augusta club has very, very powerful people among its members - prodding them into thinking about the issue is of utmost importance because they are in positions to actually make a difference. So, even if augusta doesn't start admitting women as members, maybe the brouhaha will have made one or more of augusta's current members revaluate their own company's policies/practices toward women.

What's more is that while there are much more important women's issues (equal work for equal pay, the glass ceiling, etc.) this is one that they actually have a chance to affect. It's difficult, if not impossible, to fire up a bunch of people when there is no specific goal to be accomplished.
posted by chris0495 at 12:53 PM on December 18, 2002

There's a link explaining why Burk is a hypocrite on the It's right on top, all the way to the right. (right above the "buy tshirt" box)

It's a popup.

posted by Witold at 1:30 PM on December 18, 2002

There are two competing societal values driving this issue debacle. The first is the value society places on nondiscrimination. It is generally regarded as a bad thing when people are treated differently solely because of their gender. The other is the value of freedom of association. From its inception America has protected the notion that individuals are free to associate and congregate with whomever they like.

So who wins this battle? For what it's worth, here's my thought process: If Augusta "prevails," it doesn't really damage the cause of nondiscrimination. Martha Burk and the NCWO have received far more free publicity than they could ever have hoped for. And even if they lose, they can find comfort in the fact that almost everyone who defends ANGC does so by saying: "I don't agree with their policy, but..." So the worst-case scenario for the value of nondiscrimination is that the members of Augusta end up looking like bigger pigs than they did before this started.

On the other hand, if Burk "wins" -- which I would define as succeeding in pressuring ANGC to admit a woman against its will -- I would argue that damage has been done to the value of freedom of association. I dislike the notion that one group should have the ability to force another group to do something that the first group wants, simply through threats of bad publicity and boycotts.

Another thing to consider: the principle on which Augusta relies is the same principle that underlies the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the NCOW itself (although it's *wink, wink* open to men), your mom's card club with the ladies, your dad's fishing trip with the guys, and any other time that people get together to do what they want to do. Sure it's on a grander scale and a more public stage, but it's the same argument.

Finally, what I think everyone is missing is that the real discrimination at Augusta isn't against women. It's against those without money and connections. That's the discrimination that keeps me, you, and even Bill Gates from becoming members, and it keeps exponentially more people out than does the prohibition against women members.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:56 PM on December 18, 2002

If I had a husband, brother, or other male friend/relative join a golf course that didn't allow women, I'd sure as hell raise a stink about it. Golf courses with nationally televised tournaments open themselves up to this kind of scrutiny and backlash. But I'm sure the Masters will find sponsors who don't have women consumers as a demographic.

Note that this does relate to the glass ceiling. Golf is a very common way for employees, clients and suppliers to get to know each other in a social setting, and if women are barred from these events, they've been shut out of that ability to make contacts. And that used to be a very common problem.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:57 PM on December 18, 2002

Salmonberry - that's a good point, *except* women are allowed to play the course as guests, and many do (the Times has even referenced this at some points). It's only that they can't *join* the club as full time members. Not that I agree or disagree with the whole thing, it's just that it isn't like men are the only people on the course.

though I'm guessing they've had a lot fewer women guests hitting the links since this debacle (good choice of words pardonyou?) started....
posted by djspicerack at 2:07 PM on December 18, 2002

Well, women can (and do) play golf at Augusta -- they just can't be full members. Moreover, I believe that if a woman were able to otherwise qualify for the Masters (i.e., by achieving one of the qualifying requirements -- winning the U.S. Amateur or finishing in the top X of the U.S. open, which are not technically limited to men), she'd be eligible to play in the Masters.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:08 PM on December 18, 2002

ah, I was too slow for djspicerack.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:09 PM on December 18, 2002

pardonyou? that's a great summation of the issues at hand. Do you see an intermediate option, one which I think a lot of people more prefer as a way to respect the rights of association while also protesting discriminatory clubs:

Stop using Augusta for the Masters Tournament

That's the biggest problem I see here. I don't care if you have a smoking club, a whites-only club, or a hop-on-one-leg club, you should have every right to do that, but it looks hideously bad when you get to host a national event. I wouldn't think holding NBA finals in 1980's South Africa would be the best idea, and I don't think Augusta is the best place to showcase golf's biggest event.

Let the club continue as is, let the members do what they do, let the advertisers feel embarrased by the publicity, but move the tournament to another prestigious course and we can be done with this issue altogether.
posted by mathowie at 2:10 PM on December 18, 2002

Mathowie, the Masters belongs to Augusta National; it is the club's own invitational tournament. Golfers can refuse the invitation, of course, and CBS can refuse to broadcast it, but there's no one who can move the Masters, period.

Also, I am waiting for the moment that one woman qualified for membership at Augusta National (that is to say, a CEO or megamillionaire with a low handicap golf game) publicly complains that she is not allowed to join. It seems odd to have a civil rights movement in which non of those discriminated against participate.
posted by MattD at 2:20 PM on December 18, 2002

Assuming that the club "owns" the Masters, then they can certainly do what they wish. But I would add further that the appropriate response to Augusta's doing so is to tell them where they can shove their stupid tournament and let the professional golfing community start their own co-ed tourney. It's really not Augusta's obligation to do anything (it's only the *right* thing to do, not the legal thing), and if the issue were truly creating an environment that allowed men and women to compete as equals, then Augusta National is a terrible place to start anyway.

Wouldn't the ideal revenge be for the place to become a forgotten relic of a bygone age?
posted by vraxoin at 3:20 PM on December 18, 2002

That's the discrimination that keeps me, you, and even Bill Gates from becoming members

Actually, it was mentioned in this article that Bill Gates just became a new member in October.
posted by gyc at 4:21 PM on December 18, 2002

Right, and it's such a tragedy that those rich Jews and blacks were excluded from other clubs.

This is maybe the most irking thing about this for me. If the issue were that the club had a no-black policy, no one would be defending it with the "freedom of association" stuff. Discrimination is discrimination.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:57 PM on December 18, 2002

Women play golf?
posted by Veritron at 6:09 PM on December 18, 2002

To me, discrimination is being confused with membership policies, goals, or choices. It's likely that a person (a male in this case) must also be a certain age to be a member of the club. Is this age discrimination against the youth? If I don't make enough money to be able to afford to be a member, is this monetarial discrimination? (I made that word up)

I keep reading about "women's issues" this and "women's issues" that. My question is, what is the woman's issue here? That they can't be a member? So what? Is this somehow holding women back, keeping them down? What is there to gain from this?

Where does it end? Start your own damn club ladies.

Discrimination is discrimination.

No it's not.

on preview (again): I like what pardonyou? has to say.
posted by Witty at 6:03 AM on December 19, 2002

Witty -- then all-white clubs are okay by you?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:30 AM on December 19, 2002

All what white clubs?

I think it's perfectly reasonable for white people to want to hang out and socialize and whatever with other white people only... even if it was just a couple hours a week at some meeting or whatever. Yea, it's ok with me. I'm fine with an all black club too. Whatever people want to do.

Every ethnic group in the world feels the same way. That's why we have Chinatown, black neighborhoods, white neighborhoods, Little Italy, etc. People find comfort in being with their own.

And sometimes, men like to get together and just hang out with other men... god forbid.
posted by Witty at 6:47 AM on December 19, 2002

Do you see an intermediate option

Matt, I certainly don't see moving The Masters as an intermediate option. As several people have indicated, The Masters is Augusta National's own tournament -- they began it and they run it (which is precisely how Burk argues that ANGC is not truly "private" because it's so connected to the "public" Masters). Simply put, it's not an option, intermediate or otherwise. Augusta National will never agree to have the Masters held elsewhere. Rest assured there will always be a "Masters" at Augusta -- even if the only competitors are club pros from Idaho.

From the beginning, I thought the only way out of this mess was for some serious behind the scenes negotiation. I think ANGC would agree to accept a woman member as long as it could save face in doing so -- as long as it didn't appear like it only admitted a woman "at the point of a bayonet" (as Augusta Chairman Hootie Johnson decleared when this mess began). As long as the possibility exists that Martha Burk could crow that she "forced" these bigoted old men to change, it'll never happen. If, however, she's truly interested in having a member, I have no doubt that ANGC would privately agree to admit one quietly , say in two years when the heat dies down.

But the last thing Burk's interested in doing is working behind the scenes (in fact, I would argue that deep down she really doesn't care whether this particular golf club has a woman member). She's stated that she's loving the publicity, and it continues to fuel her mission.

My prediction: The Masters will go on. There will be extensive protests, which may very well tarnish the reputation of the tournament. But eventually everyone will realize it's a stalemate, and people will move on. In three years some reporter will discover that Augusta accepted a woman member six or eight months before -- without sending out a press release or otherwise calling attention. That way, they can say they did it on their own terms -- because they thought it was the right thing to do, not because someone else decided that's what they should do.

There's lots of stubborn to go around in this thing.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:43 AM on December 19, 2002

What exactly is the problem with female members? Yeah, yeah; one can associate with whomever they please blah, blah, blah. Are the male members afraid to play in front of women? What are they hiding? It's easy to imagine why we might have Boy Scouts v. Girls Scouts (although this is likely to fall someday), why men and women each run their own hundred yard dashes et al, but I can not, for the life of me, understand the problem. Ah, tradition! (Queue music.)
posted by Dick Paris at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2002

Dick: What's wrong with tradition? The reverse of your concern is equally valid - Why do they HAVE to have female members?
posted by Witty at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2002

Maybe nothing is wrong with tradition. I love traditions. My question, not meant to be a concern although I can see how one might read it as such, is not why they might chose to have female members -- I really just want to know why not? Not even that. I want to understand why such a restriction (or tradition) exists.
posted by Dick Paris at 9:27 AM on December 19, 2002

Must be nice to be white and male, Witty.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:26 PM on December 19, 2002

What does that have to do with anything?

Oh, and I'm straight too... might want to add that in there.
posted by Witty at 12:34 AM on December 20, 2002

Guess no one is able to answer my question. :(
posted by Dick Paris at 12:59 AM on December 20, 2002

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