Membership no major win for women

Membership no major win for women

Published Aug. 20, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Augusta National finally admitted a pair of female members after 80 years, and for this we girls were told to be excited.

“This is a joyous occasion,” chairman Billy Payne said.

And while I wish many happy rounds for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for whom I have much personal respect, and financier Darla Moore, what is the proper amount of joy for winning a battle you were never really fighting and not at all invested in? And is it un-joyful to ask: What exactly did we win?

Because, to me, celebrating golf memberships is just another reminder of our tendency to fight for all the wrong things. It is proof that we celebrate the wrong victories. I mean how does Condi getting to play golf really help further gender equality? Instead of fighting for green jackets, maybe, just maybe, we need to channel our collective outrage to fight people who make a distinction between “legitimate rape” and whatever the other kind is.


This really happened. This weekend, talk of “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” by a congressman running for a Senate seat who has an actual chance of being elected and was chosen by a plurality of Missouri Republicans as best representing them.

Hearing this took me back to my freshman year at college, as news trickled down my dorm hall at the University of Missouri that a girl had been raped.

As we took shifts sitting with her in her room, there was no doubt it was “legitimate” — and awful, life-altering and scarring. She made us promise not to tell, and despite many protestations she never reported it. She was gone by the end of the semester. The word was she had flunked out. I had not thought about her in a long time. She popped into my mind Sunday when I heard Todd Akin’s remarks about legitimate rape. And now I cannot stop wondering, “What happened to her?”

What does this have to do with sports, or about Augusta letting in women?

Nothing. And everything.

We let ourselves get distracted by superficial victories, by gestures, by demanding our way into places that do not matter instead of lending our voices to causes that do.

This is the lie of girl power I was speaking to in a column during the Olympics. I tried to articulate this dangerous phenomenon of confusing the right to compete with power, girl or otherwise.

My point was that women are winning medals and losing battles, participating in record numbers and being judged by different standards, given trails to blaze and then called whores for doing so.

To this I would now add: Being allowed to play games at Augusta and in danger of being denied the ability to make decisions about how to handle the aftermath of rape.

Full disclosure: I was never one of those with Martha Burk in spirit, mostly because (a) female membership or lack thereof has zero chance of impacting my life and (b) I am not opposed to men having places or clubs or groups that are exclusionary.

If there was hypocrisy in this, it came from the PGA Tour, which went all scorched earth on any golf clubs that did not have black members while basically ignoring the one club with the “no girls allowed” sign. It was the Masters and, well, that is just how Augusta does things.

The other gigantic hypocrites were my people — the media, always fighting “injustice” everywhere yet every year traipsing to Augusta and penning narratives about the greatness of a place for daring to be 1950s backwards. They all went something like “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if we went back to Betty Draper days with cocktails and bare feet and none of you pesky chicks in my boardroom or Amen Corner” without having to say that exactly.

They were thank-you notes to Augusta for refusing to change. Yet change it did. And this, if not a joyous occasion or a victory against anything substantial, is a nice gesture.

And gestures matter. Doing the right thing matters.

And I am happy that Condoleezza Rice is one of the women representing us all. Somebody has to be first, to put a crack in the glass ceiling, to wear a green jacket for all of us. She actually is the best one for the job, used to being in a room with all guys, used to breaking barriers, used to being painted unfairly and carrying on anyway.

Whatever your political leanings, you have to admire Condi. Her time as Secretary of State was a reminder that anything is possible, no matter where you come from or what gender or race you are.

That was powerful. That was a victory.

All that was accomplished Monday was that Condi added "plays golf at a really cool place" to her resume. I guess that is cool if you are into the golf thing.

What it is not is a victory. Instead it is a reminder we need to roll up the sleeves on our green jackets and fight the battles that matter to all women, not just a few.