Recently Augusta National, a golf club that is member’s invite only, finally invited two women to join the club after more 79 years of being “men only”.
Former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Darla Moore, a partner of the private investment firm, Rainwater, received invitations from Augusta to join its exclusive club.
For years, Augusta National has received criticism in the past for its exclusive membership policies. It did not admit an African American until 1990 and had a former policy requiring all caddies to be black. The golf club defended its policies stating it was a private institution and could do as it pleased.
And, for the last several years, Augusta has done as it pleased and has refused, despite pressure from many women’s organizations, to include female members. All of that changed last week though when they decided that perhaps having women as members wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
They didn’t just invite any ol’ ladies, either. They invited women who are well respected within their respective fields and have made a name for themselves without a membership to Augusta.
I had the privilege in 2010 to hear Condoleezza Rice speak at my PAC-10 banquet at Stanford University while playing golf at the University of Washington. Rice has a love for the game of golf. She stated the many reasons as to why she loved the game, and one of the reasons being that anyone can play. After her inclusion into Augusta, her statement holds a different meaning.
Yes, anyone can play the game of golf. It doesn’t know your gender, race, or sexual orientation. It doesn’t care what brand of golf clubs you play or if you’re wearing Ralph Lauren or a polo from Wal-Mart.
But people within the golf world have been discriminatory. Augusta National over the years has made a very conscious choice of who they allow in their club. They’ve ignored critics, and have stated that women are allowed to play Augusta, but to just not expect a woman to become a member any time soon.
Their recent change in their tone of voice, however, has opened the door to discussion about the importance of this decision to invite women into their exclusive club. I thought about the impact this had on me as a professional female golfer. My favorite tournament is the Masters, held at Augusta every year. I’ve had dreams of playing there and if I did get the chance to play, there’s a possibility I would cry tears of joy like a little girl meeting Justin Bieber for the first time.
However, I personally, have never had strong feelings about whether or not Augusta would invite women to become members at the club. Does it truly make a difference? More importantly, what message did it send to young women who love the game of golf and would love to have the honor of playing Augusta as a member?
Augusta National is right to state that because they are a private club they can do as they wish. It doesn’t mean their practices are fair and right; but, their private status gives them the ability to decide who they let in their club.
The message Augusta sent to successful women who love golf did not foster social progress. No matter how hard a woman worked, no matter if she was the CEO of the largest corporation in the world, and worked her way up in a man’s world, she would never get the honor or privilege to wear the sought after green jacket the comes with being a member at Augusta.
This is not the message that needs to be sent to women who still make less on average than men. But, there is a double standard that women need to address when it comes to this issue. There are private women’s only social and political clubs all over the nation. No one is pressuring them to invite men into the clubs or to become members. So what gives? Women cannot expect to have it one way for themselves, and for men to follow a different set of rules.
If we are striving to fight for equality then we must expect that if we want men to follow certain guidelines then we must be willing to follow the same guidelines. I do believe it’s a step in the right direction to invite women to become members. But, if women still have exclusive clubs then we should expect that men will have their exclusive clubs, as well.
It does not serve well to pressure a club to change its policies. While Augusta members were past due in admitting women to join their club, it is far better that they changed policy on their own accord rather than others forcing them to. Voluntary inclusion is better served over time than forced inclusion. I have a feeling, sooner than later we will see more female members in the future teeing it up at Augusta National.
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